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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why does the U.S. Department of the Treasury require all-electronic benefit payments?
  2. What are electronic payments? What is direct deposit?
  3. Can federal benefit recipients still switch to electronic payments even though the deadline has passed?
  4. Is there an option for federal benefit check recipients who don't have a bank account?
  5. Are there exceptions to Treasury's requirement?
  6. Will the Treasury Department stop mailing federal benefit payment by paper check and send beneficiaries the Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card if they have not switched to electronic payments?
  7. Does this rule apply to representative payees or to people who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities?
  8. Who should an organization contact if their question is not addressed on this website?
  9. How do I make changes to my existing direct deposit?
  10. I just completed my enrollment online using my current check number. What do I do with my current check?
  11. I signed up for direct deposit last month, but I received my federal benefit check in the mail this month. What do I do?

1. Why does the U.S. Department of the Treasury require all-electronic benefit payments?

Treasury has delivered federal benefit payments electronically for over 35 years and now requires that all beneficiaries choose an electronic payment option to receive their benefits. Electronic payments have become almost universally accepted and are standard across all sectors of the economy. In addition, electronic payments have become the norm rather than the exception of how people expect to receive their payments.

 The Treasury Department published a final rule  in December 2010 to gradually phase out paper checks for federal benefit payments. Treasury has worked to become more efficient and trim its budget, and the switch to all-electronic payments will save Treasury and American taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years.As of March 1, 2013, if you receive or are applying for these federal benefits, you are required by law to receive payments through direct deposit to your bank or credit union account or to a Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Railroad Retirement Board
  • Office of Personnel Management
  • Department of Labor (Black Lung)

If you are currently receiving your payments by paper check, you are out of compliance and must switch to an electronic payment option. If you are receiving a payment on behalf of someone else (Representative Payee), please see Does this rule apply to representative payees or to people who live in nursing homes?

In addition, there are many advantages to switching to electronic payments.

  • Safer, Easier
    Electronic payments provide a safer, more convenient and cost-effective way for people to get their federal benefits than paper checks. In fact, beneficiaries are 125 times more likely to have a problem with a paper check than with an electronic payment.
  • More Convenient
    When people get payments electronically, they don't need to visit a financial institution to cash or deposit a check to gain access to their money. This is particularly important to people who are elderly or disabled, or who lack access to transportation.

    No bank account or credit check is required for the Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card. There are no fees to sign up for the card, no monthly fees or overdraft fees.Simply use the card to pay for everyday purchases and avoid the need to cash a check or carry large amounts of cash. Or, if you simply prefer a prepaid debit card, the Direct Express® card is a safe, no or low-cost electronic payment option.
  • Taxpayer Savings
    This measure also provides significant savings to American taxpayers who will no longer incur the $120 million price tag associated with paper checks - a number that would have ballooned as tens of millions of baby boomers begin to retire.

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2. What are electronic payments? What is direct deposit?

Electronic payments, which allow for the exchange of funds through paperless methods, are safer, easier and more reliable than paper checks.

Direct deposit is the electronic transfer of a payment from a company or organization into an individual's checking or savings account. When you get your federal benefit payment electronically, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sends an electronic message to your bank or credit union or Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card account crediting your account with the exact amount of your benefit. The difference is, your check isn't printed or mailed. The government and businesses use direct deposit to transfer millions of dollars every day. Your money is safe with direct deposit. To learn more about direct deposit, you can talk to your local bank or credit union. With direct deposit, your money goes straight into your account at the same time each month, thus giving you more control over your money. It eliminates the risk of stolen checks and forged signatures and helps protect you from identity theft. Direct deposit also provides immediate access to your money from virtually anywhere.

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3. Can federal benefit recipients still switch to electronic payments even though the deadline has passed?

Yes. Although the Treasury Department's deadline to comply with the all-electronic payment requirement has passed, people who receive paper federal benefit checks can still comply with the law and switch to an electronic payment option.

People can sign up for direct deposit or the Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card by contacting the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795. You may also sign up for direct deposit online or at your local bank or credit union.

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4. Is there an option for federal benefit check recipients who don't have a bank account?

Yes. The Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card is a safe, no or low-cost electronic alternative. No bank or credit union account or credit check is required to enroll. The Treasury-recommended Direct Express® card is a prepaid debit card payment option for federal benefit recipients who don't have a bank or credit union account.

Cardholders can make purchases at stores that accept Direct Express®, pay bills, purchase money orders from the U.S. Post Office and get cash from an ATM or financial institution that displays the Mastercard logo. No bank account or credit check is required to enroll. There are no sign-up fees or monthly account fees. Many other card services are free. Additional information about the Direct Express® card is available at www.USDirectExpress.com.

When you sign up to receive your Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, VA or other federal benefits via the Direct Express card, your money will be automatically deposited to your Direct Express card account on payment date.

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5. Are there exceptions to Treasury's requirement?

The Treasury Department will grant exceptions to the rule only in rare circumstances.

Check recipients living in remote areas without sufficient banking infrastructure may apply for a waiver, as well as check recipients for whom electronic payments would impose a hardship due to a mental impairment. Automatic waivers are granted to people born on or before May 1, 1921, and people who qualify for this waiver do not need to submit an application.

For more information or to request a waiver, call 855-290-1545. You may also print and fill out a waiver form and return it to the address on the form.Waiver Form

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6. Will the Treasury Department stop mailing federal benefit payment by paper check and send beneficiaries the Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card if they have not switched to electronic payments?

The Treasury Department has no plans to interrupt the payment of federal benefits and at this time, check payments will continue after the March 1, 2013, deadline. However, people who have not signed up by March 1, 2013, are out of compliance with the law. The Treasury will continue to contact check recipients who are not in compliance with the law and may send beneficiaries a Direct Express® card.

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7. Does this rule apply to representative payees or to people who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities?

If you care for someone who gets federal benefit payments by paper check or if you receive a check on behalf of someone else, the U.S. Department of the Treasury requires that these payments be switched to an electronic option.

Representative payees can sign up for direct deposit or the Direct Express® Debit Mastercard® card by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. For direct deposit, recipients can also switch online at www.GoDirect.gov or at their bank or credit union. Representative payees should also be aware of the following:

  • A representative payee for a person born before May 1, 1921, must convert the paper check payment to an electronic payment option. The rule exception granted for those born before May 1, 1921, does not apply to people with a representative payee.
  • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities that serve as the representative payee for residents also must switch check payments to electronic payments. Find additional information on the Nursing Facilities page.
  • For more information about representative payee responsibilities, consult the appropriate federal benefit agency.

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8. Who should an organization contact if their question is not addressed on this website?

An organization can submit its question to EFTmail@fiscal.treasury.gov.

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9. How do I make changes to my existing direct deposit?

You can use  Go Direct® only if you currently receive your Federal benefit payments by check and you want to begin receiving your benefits by Direct Deposit instead.

If you are already receiving your Federal benefit payment by Direct Deposit, and would like to have your payments sent to a new or different account, you should call the Federal agency that pays your benefits.

Visit our page about changing your existing direct deposit.

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10. I just completed my enrollment online using my current check number. What do I do with my current check?

Please deposit or cash your federal benefit check as you normally would. Direct deposit can take 1 to 2 payment cycles to take effect. You may receive one or more paper checks before the direct deposit takes effect.

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11. I signed up for direct deposit last month, but I received my federal benefit check in the mail this month. What do I do?

Direct deposit can take 1 to 2 payment cycles to take effect. Please deposit or cash your federal benefit check as you always have. If however, you receive your federal benefit check by mail next month, please call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center Mon - Fri 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET(excluding federal holidays):(877) 874-6347.

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Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Bank Account Number”. Required field.
Bank Account Number

See the example image.

The bank account number can be found in the lower left-hand section, to the right of the bank routing number.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Bank Account Number”. Required field.
Bank Account Number

See the example image.

The bank account number can be found in the lower left-hand section, to the right of the bank routing number.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Bank Routing Number”. Required field.
Bank Routing Number

See the example image.

The routing number can be found in the lower left-hand section.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Bank Account Number”. Required field.
Bank Account Number

See the example image.

The bank account number can be found in the lower left-hand section, to the right of the bank routing number.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Bank Account Number”. Required field.
Bank Account Number

See the example image.

The bank account number can be found in the lower left-hand section, to the right of the bank routing number.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Bank Routing Number”. Required field.
Bank Routing Number

See the example image.

The routing number can be found in the lower left-hand section.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Check Number”. Required field.
Check Number

See the example image.

The check number can be found in the upper right-hand section.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Claim Number”. Required field.
Claim Number

See the example image.

The claim number can be found on a Medicare card or 1099 form.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Payment Amount”. Required field.
Payment Amount

See the example image.

The amount can be found directly below the check number.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Benefit Recipient First Name”. Required field.
Benefit Recipient First Name

See the example image.

The first name can be found in the “Pay To The Order” section.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Benefit Recipient Middle Name”. Only required if present on check.
Checking Account Number

See the example image.

The middle name immediately follows the first name.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Benefit Recipient Last Name”. Required field.
Checking Account Number

See the example image.

The last name immediately follows the first name or middle name when present.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Benefit Recipient Suffix”. Only required if present on check.
Checking Account Number

See the example image.

The suffix immediately follows the last name.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Representative Payee”. Only required if present on check.
Representative Payee

See the example image.

The Representative Payee is the proceeding name before the Benefit Recipient's name.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Benefit Recipient Address”. Required field.
Benefit Recipient Address

See the example image.

The address can be found directly under the Benefit Recipient's name.
Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “International Addresses”. Optional field.
International Addresses

Is this an international address?

SSA recipients check here to denote this is an international address if you live outside of the U.S., Puerto Rico, or a U.S. Territory.

NOTICE: Go Direct can only enroll payments with International addresses for recipients of Social Security benefits. If you receive any other benefit payment type and reside internationally, or do not have an account with a U.S. bank or credit union, you may not enroll online through Go Direct. For more information on how to complete your international enrollment please click here. More information...

Social Security recipients:

If you live outside the United States but do not have an account with a U.S. bank or credit union you may write the Social Security Administration at: Social Security Administration Office of International Operations P.O. Box 17775 Baltimore, Maryland 21235-7775 for more information on international payment options. Or visit them online at:

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10137.html or
http://www.socialsecurity.gov/foreign/

Veterans Compensation and Pension recipients:

If you live outside the United States and want to sign up for direct deposit please contact the VA at: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/foreign/forfaq.htm

Office of Personnel Management (Civil Service) benefit recipients:

Retirees, annuitants, and survivor annuitants already receiving benefits, but living outside the United States that want to sign up for direct deposit please contact the Office of Personnel Management (Civil Service) by calling1 (888) 767-6738.

Railroad Retirement Board:

Recipients already receiving Railroad Retirement (RRB) benefits, but living outside the United States that want to sign up for direct deposit please contact the nearest Railroad Retirement Board office or call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772. For instructions on International Direct Deposits visit RRB online at:

http://www.rrb.gov/PandS/IDD.asp or download the International Direct Deposit Form
http://www.rrb.gov/pdf/PandS/OF_1199I.pdf

Department of Labor benefit recipients:

A toll-free number has been designated for each of the nine Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation district offices. Visit the Department of Labor web site. For a list of district offices and their phone numbers.

Beginning of help description tool-tip. It begins with a heading 5 called “Corporation Acting As Representative Payee”. Only required if acting as representative payee.
Corporation Acting As Representative Payee

Check this option if you represent a corporation which is acting as a representative payee.

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