Social Security Direct Express Debit Card

In this article...
  • The federal government can pay your Social Security benefits directly to your Direct Express debit card account. Read our guide to find out more about this safe and convenient way to access your benefits.

If you are a Social Security recipient, you may have heard about the new Direct Express Card. The card is free, and it allows beneficiaries to access their benefits by using an ATM or debit card at any time of day or night. One of the great benefits of the card is that you don't need a bank account to access your funds.

In this review, we outline how the Direct Express Social Security debit card can make your life easier.

What Is the Social Security Debit Card?

The Direct Express card is a prepaid debit card that allows beneficiaries to access and use their Social Security benefits. You can use the card at any ATM or point of sale terminals, so you don't need a bank account to receive your payment from the government or access your funds.

Using the Direct Express card also means you don't have to pay expensive fees to cash checks. Instead, you can use your card anywhere that accepts MasterCard debit cards.

Who Qualifies for the Social Security Debit Card?

The Social Security debit card is available to people receiving benefits from various federal programs, including:

  • Social Security retirement or disability benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
  • Social Security child’s or parent’s benefits
  • Social Security spouse’s or divorced spouse’s benefits
  • Social Security widow or widower’s benefits
  • Railroad retirement or disability benefits
  • Veterans Affairs benefits
  • U.S. Department of the Treasury benefits
  • Department of Labor benefits

How Does the Direct Express Social Security Debit Card Work?

When you sign up for Direct Express, you'll receive a debit card in the mail. It looks like any other debit or ATM card and has an electronic chip. The government will begin to deposit your monthly Social Security or other eligible benefits onto the card.

You'll be issued with a personal identification number or PIN. You can use your card and PIN to withdraw cash at ATMs or to buy goods or services from retailers.

You can use your Direct Express Social Security debit card, providing you have money available. However, once you've spent your balance, you’ll be unable to use the card until the government pays your next federal benefit payment into the account.

Are There Any Fees to Use the Card?

Yes, you may need to pay fees for some transactions.

You're allowed one free ATM cash withdrawal for each benefit payment. If you need further withdrawals, you'll pay a fee of 85 cents per withdrawal.

For an 85 cent fee, you can withdraw cash over the counter at Walmart.

You can also transfer funds from your Direct Express card into another bank account. You'll pay a $1.50 fee for each transfer to a U.S. bank account.

Online purchases and bill payments are typically free. You can also buy money orders from the U.S. Post Office to pay bills and pay only the post office fee.

Checking your account balance costs nothing, but if you prefer monthly paper statements, you'll pay 75 cents each month.

Does the Card Have Any Restrictions?

You can use the Direct Express Social Security debit card for most purchases, providing the retailer accepts MasterCard debit payments.

However, if you need to purchase gas, you can't pay at the pump and must pay inside the gas station.

Another limitation is that if you use the card to rent a car, the rental agency places a hold on up to $500 of your balance. Although the funds are released when you return the vehicle, your money might not be available for up to two weeks.

What Happens if I Lose the Card?

You must report a lost or stolen card within two days to limit your liability for losses to $50. If you register the card later than two days, but within 90 days, you could be liable for up to $500 in losses. After 90 days, you could be responsible for all losses. 

You should, therefore, report a lost or stolen card as soon as you can so that you're protected against unauthorized transactions.

As with all financial institutions, it's a good idea to check your balance frequently to look for transactions you don't recognize. If you see any unusual activity on your account, you should report it immediately. 

Is There a Mobile App?

Yes, you can download the Direct Express mobile app. You’ll need to register with your social security number and personal information to set up your account. 

You can then manage your funds securely from your mobile device.

What Bank Does Direct Express Use?

Comerica Bank, based in Dallas, Texas, administers your Direct Express card. 

You also don't have to worry if your money is safe because your balance is FDIC-insured up to the legal limit.

How Can I Apply for a Social Security Debit Card?

Provided you receive federal benefits, you can register for the card. Apply at your local Social Security office, visit, or call the Direct Express card enrollment center at (800) 333-1795. 

Once you’re accepted, you need not do anything further. Your benefits are conveniently paid directly to your card account each month for access whenever you need them.

About the Author

Zia Sherrell is a digital health journalist with over a decade of healthcare experience, a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Leeds and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Manchester. Her work has appeared in Netdoctor, Medical News Today, Healthline, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, Yahoo, Harper's Bazaar, Men's Health and more.

When she’s not typing madly, Zia enjoys traveling and chasing after her dogs.

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