WASHINGTON (6/12/08)—Some recipients of federal benefits now have a choice between receiving a standard paper check or a new prepaid debit card, an innovation that might prove particularly valuable to those with no banking relationship. The U.S. Treasury Department announced this week it is introducing the prepaid card option in 10 states now and that the option will become available nationally this summer through Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS). The “Direct Express” card is intended to provide unbanked federal beneficiaries a no-cost or low-cost alternative to using check cashing facilities and carrying large amounts of cash. Unlike other prepaid debit cards, the Direct Express card offers cardholders free access to their money. There is no sign-up fee, and no bank account or credit check is required to enroll, according to Treasury. Cardholders can make purchases, pay bills and get cash at thousands of ATMs and retail locations. In a “frequently asked question” section of the Direct Express website, Treasury notes that, with the card, a recipient’s money is federally insured up to the maximum legal limit. It adds that consumer protections of Regulatoion E (12 CFR 205) and MasterCard Zero Liability—with some exceptions—apply to unauthorized use of the card. Lost or stolen cards will be replaced.