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Social Security Benefits Go Paperless March 1

NEW YORK ( -- Anyone getting Social Security or other federal benefits has until March 1 to switch to electronic payments or prepaid debit cards.

In a cost-saving measure, the government started a program in May 2011 to eventually eliminate the paper checks distributed for Social Security, Veteran Affairs, Supplemental Security Income and other government programs. According to Treasury officials, a mailed check costs the government 92 cents more than a payment made by electronic transfer.

Eligible recipients were required to move to direct deposits or the prepaid debit cards called "Direct Express." They have until March 1 to make this switch.

More than 90% of these payments are being made electronically. The government is still mailing more than 5 million checks each month, though, costing an estimated $4.6 million. These consumers now have less than two months to make the change.

"We won't interrupt their payment, but we will be communicating with them in a more personal direct way," Walt Henderson, a Treasury official, told CNN.

Recipients who need help switching to electronic payments can visit a special website or call the Go Direct call center at 800-333-1795.
Bill Hardekopf is chief executive of, which compares and rates more than 1,000 credit cards. He is the co-author of "The Credit Card Guidebook."

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