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TheStreet Open House

Social Security Debit Cards on the Money

As the Department of the Treasury continues a public push for its new Direct Express Debit MasterCard (MA - Get Report) as an optional way to receive monthly benefits for programs such as Social Security, it's a good time to decide whether the card could be right for you.

The new payment card will be far safer and easier -- especially for those who do not have bank accounts. It will be "re-loaded" monthly with the benefit amount. Then, the card can be used with a secure PIN to get cash at any ATM where debit MasterCard is accepted.

It can be used for purchases at any outlet that accepts MasterCard -- as well as to get additional cash back at no cost when the card is used for purchases. The Direct Express card can also be used to pay bills over the phone and on the Internet.

The Treasury Department sends out more than 10.3 million paper checks every month to Social Security and SSI recipients -- in spite of the fact that 80% of beneficiaries have their benefits deposited directly to their bank accounts.

This new debit card program is being directed at the estimated 3.9 million recipients who do not have bank accounts. Most of them simply cash their checks, paying huge fees to get their money.

There will be no annual or monthly fee for the Direct Express card, or for the first cash withdrawal each month at one of the 50,000 participating ATM locations. After the first ATM withdrawal each month, there is a 90 cent fee for additional cash withdrawals.

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