The new debit card program, “Direct Express”
, is scheduled to debut this spring. In the next few months, applications will go to beneficiaries in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana and ultimately, the Treasury department hopes a large percentage of Social Security’s 49.3 million beneficiaries and 7.4 million Supplement Security Income recipients will sign on.
The debit card is Treasury's latest attempt to convince recipients to get away from paper checks. A few years ago, the department started direct deposit
. The feds say not only will going electronic save money...since each check costs about 89 cents to print, compared with 9 cents to load a payment onto a debit card...it also protects seniors from fraud and check theft.
Currently, four million beneficiaries do not have bank accounts and Treasury predicts that if each of them signed up for the debit card, the government would save $44 million a year. But of course, there is a flipside to this convenience. Depending on how and where beneficiaries use their cards they could be charged usage fees.
Cardholders who use one of 56,000 designated ATMs, including those at 7-11’s and PNC banks wouldn’t be charged a fee for their first withdrawal from each government payment. However, additional ATM withdrawals will cost 90 cents. Like other debit-card holders, users may also face surcharges at many ATMs.
Let’s hope the potential savings for the government won’t increase the financial drain on beneficiaries.