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Social Security ends paper checks

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Posted: 3 pm ET

If you're still getting your Social Security payment via paper, you have less than two months to switch to electronic delivery.

The deadline is March 1 to switch to either direct deposit or the government's MasterCard debit card. The switch isn't  optional. Since 2011, all new recipients have been required to get Social Security electronically. By March 1, remaining Social Security recipients must choose one of the two options.

If you are one of the 5 million holdouts, here's how to sign up:

  • Go to the website (It's not a .gov site because it's owned jointly by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.)
  • Call toll-free: (800) 333-1795. To prove who you are, be prepared to tell the person answering the phone the check number of your latest check and its amount.

In either case, if you are choosing direct deposit, you'll need to know your bank's routing number and your account number. Generally, both are across the bottom of your checks with the routing number on the left and the check number on the right.

Direct deposit is free and Social Security funds are clearly marked so banks know that these funds can't be garnished under most circumstances (child support and student loan payments are exceptions).

If you aren't a customer of a bank, you can choose the  debit card option. The card gives you one free withdrawal per month from a network of ATMs. The list is on the website --  search by ZIP code. Subsequent monthly withdrawals cost 90 cents, but you can use the card for purchases and get cash with those transactions for no additional charge.

If you lose the Direct Express card, the government will replace it for free -- once each year.  If you lose more than one card a year, replacements cost $4 with additional charges for overnight mailing if you need that convenience. These debit cards have slightly better protection than other kinds of debit cards. You'll be protected from losing money if you report the loss of the card within 90 days as opposed to 60 days for most cards.

If you don't make a choice by March 1, you'll be issued a debit card.

There are a couple of potential ways around this.

  • Automatic waivers are granted to people born on or before May 1, 1921.
  • Check recipients living in remote areas without sufficient banking infrastructure may apply for a waiver.
  • Check recipients for whom electronic payments would impose a hardship because they are mentally impaired can ask for a waiver.

For your retirement planning convenience, here is the time table for getting paid:

Long-time recipients: They still get paid on the third day of every month. More recent recipients are paid based on the Wednesday closest to their birthdays. For instance, if your birthday is the 25th of the month, you get your Social Security on the last Wednesday of the month.

Veterans Administration, railroad retirees, retired federal employees and recipients of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI: All are paid a minute after midnight on the first day of every month.

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January 09, 2013 at 9:57 pm

You're not by yourself. I'm plenty upset about them (the government) dipping into our (yours and mine) money. That money isn't theirs to spend, and never has been. That's money that every "working stiff" has paid in there every working day of their lives, a savings account of sorts for retirement. There's no "entitlement" to it. What the government is doing with S.S. funds is no different than me going broke, and then simply taking money out of someone else's savings account as if it were my own.
I do however know why they can't pay it back....Let's say we have a president that takes a vacation to Hawaii (approx. 5,000 mi. each way from and to Washington,D.C.), and takes not one, but two jet aircraft (one for him/family and a cargo plane for his limos). Each plane burns five gallons of jet fuel per mile, (according to Boeings web site) at an average cost of $6.00 per gallon. So, we're now at 25,000 gal. of jet fuel (each way/per plane), or approx. $150,000.00 per plane, each way. Then let's say in the middle of his vacation, he decides to swoop back to D.C. for a couple of days to help figure out how to (get this) "reduce spending"???. So now double that expense! By the end of the trip (both planes) we're $900,000.00 in fuel only for "his" jets. I shutter to even venture a guess at what it costs "US" for the flight crew, secret service, staff, hotel/motel, meals, what's her name's wardrobe, entertainment....well you get the idea! Our system is so broken, I don't believe there is a fix. God have mercy on future generations.

Ben Aragon
January 09, 2013 at 9:38 pm

why don't we (citizens) make our so called leaders accountable...they have the nevre to extort money they say we owe them (taxes) and then spend it anyway they want......i have worked my whole life and not relied on the govt for a hand out....and they have the audacity to tell me i have to be older to collect because they embezelled money i paid in......i think they have given themselves too much power over us without taking responsibility for it......more power TO THE PEOPLE.........we need to learn to say NO and NO MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Michael Simon
January 09, 2013 at 9:29 pm

There is an error in the article.
If a recipint was born on the 25th of the month, payment is made on the fourth Wednesday of the month, which is not the last Wednesday of the month in a month that has five Wednesdays.

January 09, 2013 at 9:13 pm

If you choose direct deposit and it does not work out for you can you switch to the debit card later on?

January 09, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Why is no one upset about the government using social security funds for other things and not paying it back. Now they tell us they want to raise the retirement age. How about they pay the funds back and stop dipping into it. I say we reduce the salary of congress who will be working 32 out of 52 weeks this year. Who do you know that has a 20 week vacation!!!

Linda Skaggs
January 09, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I am so sick of hearing those idiots in the GOV. refere to SS and medicare as ENTITILMENTS. I'll have the jerks know this my HUSBAND worked ever since he was 12 to earn that money, so they can JUST SHUT THT STUFF UP! Any one who worked for paid into the SS and medicare and it IS NOT ENTITLEMENT!!!!!! Damint we worked for it. STOP trying to take it from us, what little we get. The big s---s should have to live on that little crumbs!

January 09, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I agree with you! A lot of times my bills are late because I only get my check on the 4th Wed. of the month. And sometimes that is very late in the month. So then I get late fees. I wish I got mine in the beginning of the month and then I'd have my money when my bills start coming in. Oh well thats the gov. for ya! I guess we are just lucky we still have SS with all the money they keep robbing out of our hard earned money!

January 09, 2013 at 6:07 pm

The only people that are receiving social security benefits on the 1st of the month is the people that are receiving Supplemental Security Insurance(SSI). People that are receiving Social Security Retirement or Disability receive their payments on the 3rd of the month or the 2nd, 3rd and 4th wednesday of the month. There are some exceptions. You can call 1-800-772-1213 for more information. I hope this will clear up any confusion.

Dave Watson
January 09, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Join a credit union for the five dollar fee, one time.

Gregg Roane
January 09, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I recently began receiving social security. I was born in the middle of the month after the 15th, and had to wait nearly 2 months after my Birthday for my first check. And that resulted in receiving my checks on the 3rd Wednesday of each month opposed to someone born in the first part of the month who would receive their check on the 1st of the month.Receiving checks on the 3rd Wednesday of each month causes us to not get paid some months until the Month is nearly over Feb.March we receive checks very late in the month. Seems like

My question is why are some folks paid on the 1st. while many of us are waiting until the middle of the month (ie like the 3rd. Wednesday of each month). I agree with an earlier comment I read stating it would be so much better if we were paid twice a month, this would help people on fixed incomes.