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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 10, 2013 at 10:48 am

Hello, I like to see my cash, people don't know the problems down the road on doing everything with electronics.
Too much "BULL S---" going on in our world today and too many shady people!!
Just something to really think about!!

Jerry Gray
January 10, 2013 at 10:37 am

There must be a few English teachers rolling over in their graves as they read the comments to this article.

January 10, 2013 at 9:34 am

Greg - any time you opt to have something direct deposited, you either HAVE to provide the account number and routing number or you have to provide a voided check from your account - which has the same information on it. This is definitely not a scam.

anna lono
January 10, 2013 at 9:19 am

hi,peoples why do we alls need reminding to get ours check to the bank stop beening so foolish in do it ok

Cecelia Brown
January 10, 2013 at 6:23 am

I think the Direct Express Card is a good choose to make to put your SSI and SS payments on. This card is good on paying bills and getting cash when you need it. So don't wait until March 1, go out and get direct deposit on this Direct Express Card as soon as you can or when you have time before the deadline.

Alan H
January 10, 2013 at 5:00 am

Come on, folk, its just like ANY debit card. You either use the card, & keep up with your spending, or you let it sit there and grow each month, or you do the one time free withdrawal and put the money into an investment or other. What's so hard about that??

January 10, 2013 at 12:28 am

do people not see how much of a scam this sit is social security well not ask you to give your numbers out like that nor would your bank ask you to give your routing number or account number hope you all dont fall for this.

January 10, 2013 at 12:19 am

Yes, it is here already...we have been hearing that the paper checks being sent via postal were going away...are going bye bye...So for all of u that have not opened up and account better do it tomorrow...time is now of an essence for you...i think we were given enough warning and time to get it together...i feel for all of you out there that have not begun to open up an account or other wise....we do not have a choice my friends. Just go out and do have until March the 1st...please do it...i did, did not want too, but i want my check,my money that I Have Earned through out my life..i have too live on that..Good Luck and God Bless

January 09, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Direct Express lacks big time because you cannot deposit anything to it other than SS and you cannot go to your account and pay bills directly, they have no bill pay feature, well it says something like coming soon (I'm still waiting).

Karola Mangione
January 09, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I totally agree with Linda Skaggs. She could have not said it better plus it is the truth.