Social Security is in the process of shifting away from paper checks in favor of electronic benefits. This means that with a few narrow exceptions, individuals receiving SSDI and SSI benefits will be required to get their benefits via direct deposit or on a prepaid debit card. Many of our clients already receive their SSDI or SSI checks electronically deposited into their bank accounts. But for others who still receive paper checks, this might be a big change.
What are the options to go paperless?
Recipients without a bank account will have the option to receive their benefits on the Direct Express card. The Direct Express card has the MasterCard logo and operates like any other prepaid debit card. Current recipients getting paper checks can sign for the Direct Express card at any time, by phone, in any SSA office, or online.
The Direct Express card offers significant advantages to beneficiaries over other prepaid debit cards:
- It can be used without incurring fees;
- Costs nothing upfront; and
- Has no overdraft charges.
Many CLS clients have received marketing information about prepaid debit cards from companies such as NetSpend, Metabank, and others. We advise CLS clients to enroll in Direct Express over these costly alternatives.
When will this change happen?
People who start getting SSDI or SSI after May 1, 2011 will be required to choose direct deposit or Direct Express. Current recipients still getting a paper check will be required to switch by March 1, 2013. Recipients currently receiving benefits via paper check can switch at any time.
Does this apply to all recipients of SSA benefits?
No. Some people will not be required to give up their paper checks:
- Recipients aged 90 years old or over;
- Recipients with mental impairments who seek a hardship waiver; or
- Recipients who live in remote areas (not applicable to Philadelphia).