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Sign up for electronic benefits by March 1
DALLAS (1/29/13)--The clock is ticking for receiving Social Security or other federal benefits by paper check. If you signed up for federal benefits before May 1, 2011, and didn't pick electronic delivery, you have until March 1 to make the switch (The Dallas Morning News Jan. 20).

To save money and make the receipt of benefits safer, the Treasury Department is saying goodbye to paper. Now you can join the 93% of Americans who receive their payments electronically.  Here are some tips:

  • If you have a bank or credit union account, learn about and sign up for direct deposit online at GoDirect.org, or call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at 800-333-1795. Be prepared to supply information about the account type (checking or savings), the account number, and your financial institution's routing number.
  • If you don't have a bank or credit union account, sign up for the government's Direct Express card by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at 800-333-1795.
  • If you prefer to use a non-government (privately issued) prepaid debit card, ask the issuer if it's eligible for direct deposit.
  • If you don't have an account at a financial institution and don't have a prepaid debit card, for a small fee you may open an Electronic Transfer Account (ETA). This is a federally insured account that lets you enjoy the safety, security, and convenience of automatic payments. To learn more about this program, visit ETA-find.gov, call 888-382-3311, or visit a financial institution near you that offers ETAs.
  • If you're age 92 or older, unless you have a representative payee you are automatically exempt from the electronic transfer requirement. Exemptions also may be issued to people who apply for and receive waivers due to mental or geographical impairment.
  • If you or someone you know might have trouble with the transfer to electronic payments, consider applying for a waiver. Since the waiver application requires notarization and might be challenging, keep in mind that there's no penalty for not complying with the switch to electronic payments.
You don't have to pay a fee to sign up for or to receive benefits electronically, and the government won't penalize you for missing the deadline. That's because the government doesn't have the authority to change your payment method without your permission. If you fail to sign up, you'll still receive paper checks. Just expect a lot of public notices and mail from the U.S. government urging you to go electronic.
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