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Social Security deadline: how recipients can switch over from checks

With rare exceptions, the Social Security Administration is requiring people who still get their benefits by check to switch to some kind of electronic transfer by March 1.

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The Social Security check will no longer be in the mail.

Not after March 1, that is.

With rare exceptions, the Social Security Administration is requiring people who still get their benefits by check to switch to some kind of electronic transfer.

What does that mean in 10 days for people who don’t have bank accounts? Or for people who, for some other reason, aren’t ready for direct deposit?

Say hello to the Direct Express card, which looks and acts much like a bank debit card. It bears the MasterCard logo and is issued by the banking firm
Comerica, which was enlisted by the Treasury as a financial agent.

The Treasury is recommending that people either set up direct deposit for Social Security payments or sign up to have their payments transferred monthly to a Direct Express card, which can then be used to pay bills and obtain cash.

“People who do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013, will be out of compliance with the law,” the Treasury warns on the Go Direct website it sponsors, which promotes the paperless processing effort.

Already, as of last fall, about 94 percent of America’s 60 million Social Security recipients were receiving benefits electronically in some way. But that still left more than 3 million people getting payments by mailed checks.

The Treasury's Go Direct campaign recommends that people who now get checks take the following steps:

• Decide if you want to do direct deposit to a financial institution or get a Direct Express card. You can call the Treasury's Electronic Payment Solution Center at 800-333-1795 for more information. Either way, it can be helpful to have a copy of your most recent Social Security check in hand.

• To sign up for direct deposit, the account number and routing number for your financial institution will be needed. You can call the phone number above, or visit the Go Direct website (godirect.org) to sign up.

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