Overview
Enrollment
Fees
Using the Card
Customer Service
Privacy & Legal
International Use
Recommendation
Terms & Conditions
Informational Brochure
Direct Express® Debit Mastercard®
Frequently Asked Questions
Great news for those receiving VA Compensation or Pension, RRB Annuity and OPM (Federal Retirement) benefits! Call us today at 1-800-333-1795 and sign up to receive your payments on the Direct Express® Card. The frequently asked questions and answers that reference Social Security Administration also apply to VA, RRB and OPM with the exception of the enrollment telephone number.

OVERVIEW OF THE DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

ENROLLMENT

FEES

USING YOUR DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

CUSTOMER SERVICE

PRIVACY/LEGAL

INTERNATIONAL USE OF THE DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY IS ENCOURAGING RECIPIENTS TO CONSIDER THE DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

1. OVERVIEW OF THE DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

 

1.1 What is the Direct Express® card?

     The Direct Express® card is a prepaid debit card offered to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income check recipients who wish to receive their benefits electronically. The debit card offers the convenience and security of using electronic transactions to spend and access your money rather than using cash for purchases. You do not need to have a bank account to sign up for the card. There is no credit check or minimum balance requirement.

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1.2. How does the Direct Express® card work?

     When you sign up to receive your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits on the Direct Express® card, you will receive your payment every month without having to worry about cashing your check, losing your check, or having it stolen. Instead of receiving a check, your money will be automatically deposited to your Direct Express® card account on your payment date. You can use your card to withdraw cash from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), make purchases at stores that accept Debit MasterCard®, and get cash back when you make those purchases. You can also use your debit card for online bill pay and to buy money orders at the U.S. Post Office.

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1.3 Will my Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits be safe?

     Yes, with the Direct Express® card, your money is FDIC-insured up to the maximum legal limit. In addition, the consumer protections required by Regulation E (12 CFR 205) and MasterCard® Zero Liability (exceptions may apply), which protect you against unauthorized use of your card when promptly reported, apply to your debit card account. Finally, if your card is lost or stolen, it will be replaced.

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1.4 How is the Direct Express® debit card different from a credit card?

     You can only use your Direct Express® debit card if you have money in your account. The full amount of your purchase is debited from the card account at the time of the purchase or very soon thereafter. The Direct Express® card does not provide a line of credit. With a credit card, you use the card to borrow money to make purchases and pay back the credit card company in part or in full every month.

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1.5 What are the benefits of the Direct Express® card?

     The Direct Express® card gives you the advantages of direct deposit even if you don't have a bank account, including:

  • It's Safe: No need to carry large amounts of cash and no risk of lost or stolen checks.
  • It's Easy: Your money is automatically deposited to your card account on your payment day each month. You won't have to wait for the mail to arrive.
  • It's Convenient: You can make purchases anywhere Debit MasterCard® is accepted and get cash at retail locations, banks and credit unions, and ATMs throughout the world.

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2. ENROLLMENT

 

2.1 How do I sign up for the Direct Express® card?

     Signing up is quick and easy. There is no credit check or minimum balance requirement. If you are currently receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits, just call the Direct Express® card enrollment center toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795 or visit www.USDirectExpress.com.

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2.2 How do I activate my Direct Express® card so I can begin to use it?

     When you receive your Direct Express® card in the mail, call the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department toll free at 1 (888) 741-1115 to activate your card. You will be instructed to enter your 16 digit card number, the last four digits of your social security number and your date of birth. You will also need to select a four digit Personal Identification Number (PIN).

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2.3 Do I need to give the Social Security Administration my card information in order to receive my benefits?

     No. After you sign up for the card, Comerica Bank, the Direct Express® card issuing bank, will notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) that you have a Direct Express® debit card account and will give SSA the information it needs to send your benefit payments to your account.

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2.4 I am a representative payee who receives Social Security benefits for someone else. Can I sign up for a Direct Express® card?

     Yes, just call 1 (800) 333-1795 or sign up online at www.USDirectExpress.com.

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2.5 I am a representative payee who receives Social Security benefits on behalf of more than one person. Can I receive all of the benefits on one Direct Express® card?

     The Direct Express® card offers representative payees the option of receiving benefits on behalf of more than one person on one Direct Express® card or signing up for a separate Direct Express® card for each beneficiary. As a representative payee, you are responsible for complying with Social Security Administration's rules related to holding funds for more than one beneficiary. Please contact the Social Security Administration to learn the rules related to holding funds for more than one beneficiary or call toll free 1 (800)772-1213. (TTY users can call 1 (800) 325-0778.)

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2.6 Can recipients who have a Direct Express® card switch to a traditional checking or savings account and receive their payment by direct deposit?

     Yes. You may close your Direct Express® card account at any time at no charge by calling the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department toll free number at 1 (888) 741-1115. Before closing your Direct Express® card account, you will need to separately enroll in direct deposit to avoid any delays with receiving future benefit payments. To enroll in direct deposit, call Treasury's Go Direct® call center toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795 or visit www.GoDirect.org You may also sign up for direct deposit through the Social Security Administration by calling toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 (TTY users can call 1 (800) 325-0778) or enrolling online at www.socialsecurity.gov. A third option is to sign up for direct deposit through your bank or credit union.

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2.7 I have a bank account. May I sign up for the Direct Express® card?

     Yes, anyone receiving federal benefits can sign up for the card. However, if you have a bank account, please consider signing up for direct deposit. To enroll in direct deposit, call Treasury's Go Direct® helpline toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795, or visit www.GoDirect.org. You may also sign up for direct deposit through the Social Security Administration by calling toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 (TTY users can call 1 (800) 325-0778.) or enrolling online at www.socialsecurity.gov. A third option is to sign up for direct deposit through your bank or credit union.

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2.8 I plan to retire this spring or summer. Can I request a Direct Express® card as soon as I sign up for my Social Security benefits?

     After you apply for Social Security benefits and you receive your first benefit check, you should immediately contact the Direct Express® card enrollment center at 1 (800) 333-1795 (toll-free) to sign up for the card.

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2.9 What if I don't like the Direct Express® card?

     You have nothing to lose by signing up for a Direct Express® card. While we believe that you will like your Direct Express® card, if you don't like it, you may close your card account at any time at no charge by calling the Customer Service Department at 1 (888) 741-1115. Before you close your Direct Express® card account, if you have a bank account you will need to separately enroll in direct deposit to avoid any delays with future payments. To enroll in direct deposit, call Treasury's Go Direct® call center toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795, or visit. www.GoDirect.org. You may also sign up for direct deposit through the Social Security Administration by calling toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 (TTY users can call 1 (800) 325-0778) or enrolling online at www.socialsecurity.gov. A third option is to sign up for direct deposit through your bank or credit union. If you do not have a bank account you may start receiving checks for your benefit payment by contacting SSA toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 (TTY 1 (800) 325-0778).

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2.10 I signed up for a Direct Express® card before April 1, 2008. Will I automatically be signed up for the new Direct Express® card with lower fees and more features?

     No. In order to receive the new Direct Express® card with lower fees and more features, you must call 1 (800) 333-1795(toll-free) or visit www.USDirectExpress.com.

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2.11 I signed up for my Direct Express® card before April 1, 2008. Am I required to sign up for the new Direct Express® card with lower fees and more features?

     No. If you signed up for a Direct Express® card before April 1, 2008, you have several options: (a) sign up for the new Direct Express® card by calling 1 (800) 333-1795(toll-free) or visiting www.USDirectExpress.com; (b) sign up for direct deposit to your checking or savings account; or, (c) sign up for a different card from your current card provider.

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3. FEES

 

3.1 How much do I have to pay for the Direct Express® card?

     Most services are free. There is no cost to sign up for the card and there are no monthly fees. While there are fees for a limited number of optional transactions, it is possible to use the card for free. Free services include:

  • Purchases at retail locations, cash back with purchases, or cash withdrawals through bank or credit union tellers.
  • One free ATM cash withdrawal for each deposit posted to account each month $.90 per additional withdrawal (The fee waiver earned for that deposit expires on the last day of the following month in which the deposit was credited to the Card Account). Surcharge fees may apply. There are ATM owner fees called "surcharge fees", if you do not use a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM to withdraw your cash.
  • Balance information at ATMs, by phone or online.
  • Optional notification of deposits to debit card by phone, email or text message.
  • Optional low balance alert when account balances falls below a certain level.
  • Access to the toll-free customer service number and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • One free replacement card per year (additional replacement cards available for a fee)

Optional services available for a fee include:

  • More than one ATM withdrawal per deposit ($.90 cents per withdrawal). Surcharge fees may apply. There are ATM owner fees called "surcharge fees", if you do not use a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM to withdraw your cash.
  • Card replacement after one free replacement card per year ($4.00 per card).
  • Monthly paper statement mailed to cardholder ($.75 cents per month).

The complete fee schedule for your Direct Express® card is as follows:

Standard Free Services
Service Fee
Purchases at U.S. merchant locations FREE
Cash-back with purchase FREE
Cash from bank tellers FREE
Customer Service calls FREE
Web account access FREE
Deposit notification FREE
Low balance notification FREE
Card replacement-One free per year FREE
ATM balance inquiry FREE
ATM denial FREE
ATM cash withdrawal in the U.S. including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands. Surcharge by ATM owner may apply. One free withdrawal with each deposit to your Direct Express® Card Account.*
* For each federal government deposit to your Card Account, Comerica Bank will waive the fee for one ATM cash withdrawal in the U.S. The fee waiver earned for that deposit expires on the last day of the following month in which the deposit was credited to the Card Account.

 

The ONLY Fees You Can Be Charged
Optional Service Fee
ATM cash withdrawals after free transactions are used in U.S. including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Surcharge by ATM owner may apply. $0.90 each withdrawal (after free transactions are used)
Monthly paper statement mailed to you $0.75 each month
Funds transfer to a personal U.S. bank account $1.50 each time
Card replacement after one free each year $4.00 after one (1) free each year
Overnight delivery of replacement card $13.50 each time
ATM cash withdrawal outside of U.S. Surcharge by ATM owner may apply. $3.00 plus 3% of amount withdrawn
Purchase at Merchant Locations outside of U.S. 3% of purchase amount

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3.2 How do I avoid transaction fees while using my Direct Express® card?

     We encourage you to look closely at the fee summary above so you can be sure to use your card wisely and avoid fees whenever possible.

  • You can keep your fees low if you use a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM to make your one free withdrawal. For subsequent withdrawals, use a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM to reduce the amount of fees that you pay.
  • You can avoid fees by using your Direct Express® card at stores and retail locations to pay for purchases instead of getting cash at an ATM.
  • When you make a purchase using your PIN number, at many places, especially grocery stores you can also get cash back for free.
  • You can go to any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash from a teller free of charge.
  • You can use your Direct Express® card to buy money orders at the U.S. Post Office and other locations that accept Debit MasterCard®.

Example: Mary receives Social Security benefits in the amount of $845 month. From those funds, she needs to pay the following:

Rent $500
Food $200
Medicine $25
Gas $30
Utilities $45
Cash $45
TOTAL $845

To keep her Direct Express® card costs low, Mary could use her Direct Express® card as follows:

  • Rent and Utilities
    • Buy money orders at any U.S. Post Office. Mary would only pay a fee to the Post Office for the money orders, but would not pay any fee to Comerica Bank.
    • Use her Direct Express® card without paying any fee to Comerica Bank, if her landlord and utility company accepts Debit MasterCard®.
  • Food, Medicine, and Gas
    • Make purchases using the Direct Express® card, without paying any fee, at retail locations that accept Debit MasterCard®
  • Cash
    • Get cash-back at the grocery store, without paying any fee, when she uses her Direct Express® card with her PIN number to pay for her groceries.
    • Withdraw money from a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM. Go to any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash from a teller free of charge.

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3.3 How does my free ATM cash withdrawal work?

     You will get one free ATM cash withdrawal in the United States for every Social Security and Supplemental Security Income deposit to your Direct Express® card account. Your free withdrawal is good through the last day of the following month in which the deposit was credited to your Direct Express® card account. For example, if you receive a $300 deposit on May 3, you may use your one free ATM cash withdrawal at any time from May 3 through June 30. As always, surcharge fees by the ATM owner may apply (see question 3.1 and 3.5).

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3.4 What is a "surcharge fee?"

     A "surcharge fee" is a fee charged to you by the owner of an ATM that is not in the Direct Express® card ATM surcharge-free network when you use the owner's ATM to withdraw cash. When you use your card at an ATM that will charge you a surcharge fee, the ATM will tell you the amount of the fee before you withdraw your money. The surcharge fee is charged to you in addition to any fee that Comerica Bank may charge when you use the Direct Express® card to withdraw cash at an ATM (see question 3.1 above for information about fees). Neither Treasury nor Comerica Bank have any control over what the ATM owner will charge you. To avoid or keep your ATM fees low, we suggest that you review the tips on how to use your Direct Express® card at retail locations to make purchases and get cash back for free (see question 3.2 above).

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3.5 How do I find a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM

     The Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network offers surcharge free ATM access at approximately 50,000 ATMs throughout the country including Comerica Bank, Charter One, Privileged Status, Alliance One, PNC Bank, MasterCard® ATM Alliance, and MoneyPass To find an ATM near you , please visit the Direct Express® card website at www.USDirectExpress.com or call the Customer Service Department toll free at 1 (888) 741-1115. Or simply look for ATMs with any of the following logos:

ATMs CharterOne ATMs ATMs
ATMs ATMs ATMs ATMs

     ATMs with these logos will not charge a surcharge fee. Although you may use your Direct Express® card at any ATM that accepts Debit MasterCard®, only ATMs with these logos will not charge a surcharge. For other ways to avoid ATM fees, we suggest that you review the tips (see question 3.2 above) on how to use your Direct Express® card at retail locations to make purchases and get cash back for free.

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3.6 What if I don't live near a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM?

     Even if you don't live near a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM you can avoid fees by

  • Using your Direct Express® card at retail locations when you make purchases instead of getting cash at an ATM.
  • Getting cash back for free when you make purchases at many retail locations
  • Going to any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash from a teller free of charge.
For other ways to avoid ATM fees, we suggest that you review the tips (see question 3.2 above) on how to use your Direct Express® card at retail locations to make purchases and get cash back for free.

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3.7 How much will people be charged for going to an out-of-network ATM?

     Surcharge fees for cash withdrawals made out of the Direct Express® card surcharge-free network will vary and will depend on the ATM owner's policies. Typically, an ATM will tell you about any surcharge before processing your transaction and give you the option to cancel. It's important to remember that while Direct Express® cardholders are allowed one free ATM cash withdrawal for each payment they receive, out-of-network ATM owner surcharges may still apply. To locate an in network ATM, cardholders can visit www.USDirectExpress.com or call the Direct Express® toll-free Customer Service Department toll free at 1 (888) 741-1115.

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3.8 As debit cards have gained in popularity, consumers have been warned of hidden fees associated with some debit card products. How does the fee structure for the Direct Express® card compare to other debit cards?

     The Direct Express® card is different from other debit cards because it was developed exclusively for federal benefit recipients. The U.S. Department of the Treasury negotiated low fees for Americans who choose to use the card.

On average, Social Security and SSI recipients who pay to cash their checks pay approximately $6 to cash each check – and some pay $20 or more. It is possible to use the Direct Express® card for free. While many other prepaid cards have required activation fees, cancellation fees, and monthly fees -- all Direct Express® card services that have required fees are completely optional. There are no monthly fees, no hidden fees and most services are free (see question 3.1 above). In fact, cardholders are allowed one free ATM cash withdrawal for every federal payment they receive. For ATM withdrawals at any of the almost 50,000 Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATMs, there is no ATM owner "surcharge fee" and cardholders can carry over any unused withdrawals into the next month. In addition, there are no fees for cardholders to make purchases at retail locations, get cash at retail locations and financial institutions, and check the card's balance at an ATM, or via telephone or online. And finally, not only are there no overdraft fees, but cardholders can choose to receive free automated text, email or telephone messages about their deposits and balance.

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4. USING YOUR DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

 

4.1 How do I make purchases with my card?

     You can make purchases using your Direct Express® card, free of charge, anywhere Debit MasterCard® is accepted. When you are making your purchase, you will authorize the retailer to debit your card account by signing your name or by providing the retailer with your personal identification number (PIN). Simply present your card when paying. The money is automatically deducted from your account. You may also ask for "cash back" with your purchase at many merchant locations.

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4.2 How do I get cash at an ATM with my card?

     When using your card at an ATM, insert the debit card and enter your PIN. Press either the checking or savings button on the ATM. Select "Cash Withdrawal." Enter the amount of cash needed and press "Enter." Don't forget to take your receipt.

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4.3. How do I get cash at a bank teller window?

     There is never a fee to withdraw cash at a MasterCard® member bank location. When using your card at the bank teller window, present your card and tell the cashier the amount of cash you wish to receive. You may be asked to show identification and sign a receipt. If the bank teller has any questions, he or she may call the Customer Service Department toll free at 1 (888) 741-1115.

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4.4. Where can I use my Direct Express® card?

     You can use your Direct Express® card whenever you need to, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to get cash at ATM machines worldwide that display the MasterCard® acceptance mark (see question 3.1 for information about fees that may apply). You can also use your Direct Express® card to make purchases and get cash back at retail locations that display the MasterCard® acceptance mark, such as grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and convenience stores. You can use your Direct Express® card online to pay bills and make Internet purchases. You can call the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free) if you have questions about how to use your card.

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4.5 What is the Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network? Where are the Direct Express® network ATMs? Are there Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATMs in every area?

     The Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network offers surcharge-free ATM access at approximately 50,000 ATMs throughout the country including Comerica Bank, Charter One, Privileged Status, Alliance One, PNC Bank, MasterCard® ATM Alliance, and MoneyPass. To avoid surcharge fees look for ATMs that display these logos:

ATMs CharterOne ATMs ATMs
ATMs ATMs ATMs ATMs

     To find a Direct Express® Card network ATM near you, visit the Direct Express® website www.USDirectExpress.com or call the Customer Service Department toll free at 1 (888) 741-1115. If you do not live near a surcharge free ATM, there are other ways to use your Direct Express® card to get cash for free. For example, at no cost, you may use your card to get cash back when you make a purchase at any merchant who accepts Debit MasterCard® or you may get cash at a bank or credit union. You may also use your card at no cost to make purchases at retailers or online where the card is accepted.

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4.6 Can I get cash when I need it with my Direct Express® card?

     Yes. You can get cash at any ATM location that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark (see question 3.1 for information about fees that may apply). You can also get "cash back" with your purchase at many retail stores and other merchants when you use your debit card at retail locations that display the MasterCard® acceptance mark. You can go to any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash back for free.

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4.7 What is the maximum amount of cash I can withdraw from an ATM with my Direct Express® card?

     Comerica Bank does not impose a daily limit for ATM withdrawals. However, many ATM owners do set limits and you may withdraw up to the maximum amount allowed by the ATM owner. ATM owner's daily ATM withdrawal limits typically range from $200 to $1,000.

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4.8 How will I know how much money I have on my Direct Express® card?

     It is important that you keep track of your deposits and how much you spend using your Direct Express® card. You can obtain balance information at no cost by calling the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free). You can view your account information at www.USDirectExpress.com or obtain balance information at any ATM that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark, at no cost. You can also request free optional deposit notification and low balance alerts. For a monthly fee of $ .75, you may request that a monthly paper statement be mailed to you.

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4.9 How does the free Deposit Notification work?

     After you sign up for the free Deposit Notification service, Comerica Bank will send a notice to you by phone, email, or text message each time a Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payment is deposited to your debit card account.

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4.10 How does the free Low Balance Alert work?

     After you sign up for the free Low Balance Alert, Comerica Bank will send a notice to you by phone, email, or text message whenever your debit card account balance reaches an amount lower than the amount you choose. The low balance notice does not affect your use of the card, but does let you know that the balance is getting low. For example, if you set your Low Balance Alert to $50, you will receive a notice when your account balance reaches $50.

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4.11 Can I pay my bills or pay for Internet purchases with my Direct Express® card?

     Yes, if a merchant accepts Debit MasterCard®, you can use your Direct Express® card to pay bills and make Internet purchases. You can also use your Direct Express® card to buy money orders at the U.S. Post Office or other locations that accept the card.

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4.12. How do I know if a surcharge fee will be charged when I withdraw cash at an ATM outside the Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network?

     When you withdraw cash at an ATM outside the Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network, the ATM owner must provide a notice before you have to pay the fee. You will receive the notice at the ATM and then be given the choice of continuing or canceling the transaction. If you choose to continue, you will receive your cash and the fee will be deducted from your debit card account. If you choose to cancel the transaction, you will not receive your cash and you will not be charged any fees. See question 3. 2 for tips on how to avoid fees when using your Direct Express® card.

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4.13 How do I know if a retailer is charging me a fee for using my debit card?

     Prior to using your card at a retail location, you should ask the cashier if there will be a fee. To find out if you have been charged a fee, you may call the Direct Express® Card Customer Service Department at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free) or view your account information at Direct Express® card website at www.USDirectExpress.com.

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4.14 Can I transfer money from the Direct Express® card to a checking or savings account?

     Yes. You may transfer funds from your Direct Express® card account to a personal U.S. bank account. A fee of $1.50 will be deducted from your Direct Express® card account for each transfer made. To transfer funds, call the Direct Express® Card Customer Service Department toll free at 1 (888) 741-1115 or visit the web www.USDirectExpress.com.

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4.15 Can I add my own money to the Direct Express® card?

     No. You cannot deposit personal funds onto this card. The card will only accept monies paid to you by the Federal Government.

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4.16 Can I use the card to buy money orders?

     Yes. You can use your debit card to buy money orders at any U.S. Post Office or wherever Debit MasterCard® is accepted.

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4.17 Can I use the card to buy gas? Can I pay at the pump or do I need to pay the cashier?

     You can use your Direct Express® card to buy gas, but only by paying the cashier. If you try to use your card to pay for your gas at the pump, you will be instructed to see the attendant. Cardholders must go inside the gas station to pay for their gas with the Direct Express® debit card. This offers cardholders convenience of purchasing fuel with the debit card but without the risk of overdrawing the debit card account, which can sometime occur when you pay for gas with a debit card at the pump.

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4.18 Can I use my card to rent a car?

     Some rental car companies will allow you to use your Direct Express® card to pay. You should be aware that the company will often put an "authorization hold" on the debit card during the rental period, usually between $300 and $500. You will not be able to use the amount of money placed on hold by the rental car company until the unused funds are returned to your account after you return the car. Cardholders should be aware that it may take up to two weeks for the funds to be released back to your account.

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4.19 Can money in my Direct Express® card account be "blocked" or put on "hold" by a merchant to cover the estimated cost of a transaction?

     In some cases, a merchant may place a "hold" on a debit or credit card account in an amount to cover the entire estimated cost of transaction, sometimes for up to 72 hours. This practice is typically used by hotels, rental car companies and gas stations, and merchants who block, in advance, for more than the actual cost of the transaction. This practice is determined independently by each merchant as a way to limit their risk when accepting any debit or credit card payment. However, Direct Express® cardholders may avoid such instances by not using the card to reserve hotel rooms or rental cars unless the card account has a balance sufficient to cover the hold (see question 4.20). Although certain gas stations may put a hold on pay-at-the-pump debit card payments -- where valid ID and a signature are not required for payment -- Direct Express® cardholders may avoid such practices by simply paying the cashier (see question 4.17).

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4.20 How can I avoid blocking or holds?

     When you check into a hotel or rent a car - or if a restaurant or other business asks for your debit card in advance of service - ask if the company is "blocking," how much will be blocked, how the amount is determined, and how long the block remains in place. Consider paying hotel, motel, rental car, or other "blocked" bills with the same debit card you used at the beginning of the transaction. Ask the clerk when the prior block will be removed. If you pay with a different card, by cash, or by check, remind the clerk you are using a different form of payment and ask them to remove the prior block promptly.

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4.21 Can I use my card to make a purchase when the balance left on my card is less than what I need to pay the cashier? How do I use my card to make a partial payment at a retail location that will accept my card?

     You can use your Direct Express® card to make a payment towards your purchase even if the remaining balance on the card is less than the purchase price. Tell the cashier that your Direct Express® card should be used for a set amount and that you will pay the rest of the balance with cash, check, or another card. Example: You buy groceries for $50, but your card only has $48.22 left on it. Tell the cashier to use your Direct Express® card to pay $48.22 and that you will pay the remaining $1.78 in cash (or some other type of payment).

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4.22 Can I close my account and withdraw my money?

     Yes. You may close your card account at any time at no charge by calling the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free). You can withdraw your money at an ATM machine, by obtaining cash-back at a retail location, or by visiting any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash from a teller. Please note that fees may apply depending upon how you use your card (see question 3.1).

     Before you close your Direct Express® card account, if you have a bank account, you will need to separately enroll in direct deposit to avoid any delays with future payments. To enroll in direct deposit, call Treasury's Go Direct® call center toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795, or visit www.GoDirect.org. You may also sign up for direct deposit through the Social Security Administration by calling toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 or enrolling online at www.socialsecurity.gov. A third option is to sign up for direct deposit through your bank or credit union. If you do not have a bank account you may start receiving checks for your benefit payment by contacting SSA toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 (TTY 1 (800) 325-0778).

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5. CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

5.1. Whom do I call if I have questions about how to use my Direct Express® card?

     If you have questions about your Direct Express® card, you may call Direct Express® card Customer Service Department, at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free) or visit www.USDirectExpress.com.

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5.2 What if my Direct Express® card is lost or stolen?

     If your Direct Express® Card is lost or stolen, immediately call the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department, at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free). A customer service representative will assist you and a new card will be sent to you. See question 3.1 for replacement card fees that may apply. Generally, if you call right away to report that your card is lost or stolen, you will not lose funds deducted from your card by an unauthorized user and your Social Security benefits will be protected. See Terms of Use for more details.

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5.3 Whom should I notify if I change my mailing address?

     If you move or change your address you should visit www.USDirectExpress.com and login to your account or you may call the Direct Express® card Customer Service. You will need to separately notify the Social Security Administration about your new address. Comerica Bank does not provide this information to any federal agency.

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5.4 What if I don't agree with my balance or one of the transactions?

     If you have a question about your balance or a transaction, you should immediately call the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free) to find out how to dispute a transaction.

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5.5 Can I have a monthly paper statement mailed to me?

     Yes. You may request that a paper statement be automatically mailed to you each month. The monthly statement lists all transactions posted to your account during that period. There is a fee of $0.75 per month for receiving the automated paper statement. To request a paper statement, call the Direct Express® Card Customer Service Department toll free at 1 (888) 741-1115 or visit www.USDirectExpress.com. To view your transaction history online at no cost, visit www.USDirectExpress.com

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5.6 What is a PIN?

     Your personal identification number (PIN) is a number you choose when you activate your card. Your PIN is a four-digit number that you enter on the keypad at ATMs and retail locations when you use your card.

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5.7 Can I change my PIN?

     Yes. You may change your PIN by calling the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free) or by visiting the Direct Express® card website at www.USDirectExpress.com.

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5.8 What if I forget my PIN?

     You should call the Direct Express® Card Customer Service Department at 1 (888) 741-1115 (toll-free) for help.

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5.9 Do I always need to use my PIN? Can I use my card without a PIN?

     If you use your debit card at an ATM, you will be required to enter your PIN. If you make purchases at stores, restaurants or any other merchant, the use of your PIN is optional. When asked if "debit" or "credit", select "credit" to make a purchase without using your PIN. You will need to sign a receipt.

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5.10 How can I protect my PIN?

     Try to choose a PIN that you can memorize and that would be difficult for someone to guess. Avoid writing down your PIN and never give out your PIN to anyone.

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5.11 Is Customer Service available in languages other than English?

     Yes. Comerica Bank offers both English and Spanish support through its automated telephone service or through its customer service representatives. Callers may choose to speak with a customer service representative in either language. In addition, Comerica Bank provides real-time free interpreter services in virtually any language a caller requires.

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6. PRIVACY/LEGAL

 

6.1 Will the government know what I buy or have access to my account?

     No. Under Federal law (the Right to Financial Privacy Act), the Federal Government is not allowed to ask Comerica Bank for information about your account and Comerica Bank is not allowed to give the government information about your account without your written permission, except under very limited circumstances..

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6.2. Will my personal information be kept confidential?

     Yes it will. The Social Security Administration, Treasury Department and Comerica Bank each have a role in the delivery of your Federal benefits to your Direct Express® card and each has a privacy policy which sets out how it will use your information. Social Security's privacy policy may be found at www.socialsecurity.gov. Comerica Bank's privacy policy may be found at www.USDirectExpress.com. The Treasury Department does not receive any of your personal information.

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6.3 What happens to my account if I die?

     If you die while you are a Direct Express® cardholder, your account will not be closed until Comerica Bank is notified about your death. In the event of your death, a family member or friend should immediately notify the Direct Express® Customer Service Department at toll free at 1 (888)-741-1115. Some of the funds on your card may need to be returned to the Social Security Administration. Any other funds on your card will be distributed in accordance with the laws of your state.

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6.4 Can my money in the debit card account be attached or garnished by creditors?

     Social Security benefit payments are generally protected from attachment or garnishment under federal law. This means that your creditors do not have the right to have these funds taken out of your account. There are a few exceptions, however. For example, funds in your account can be taken to satisfy child support or alimony obligations you owe. Supplemental Security Income benefits are not subject to garnishment of any kind. If you have questions about a creditor's right to remove funds from your account, contact the Social Security Administration or your local legal services organization.

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6.5 If my card is lost or stolen, is my money protected?

     Yes. Your liability for unauthorized transactions is limited if your card is timely reported to Comerica Bank as lost or stolen. Under the federal law known as Regulation E, cardholders who dispute a transaction within 2 business days of learning of the loss or theft cannot be held liable for more than $50. Those who dispute a charge within 60 days cannot be held liable for more than $500. Treasury was able to negotiate an additional one month cushion for Direct Express® cardholders – so that Direct Express® cardholders have 90 days to report any unauthorized transactions and not be liable for more than $500.

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6.6 What is MasterCard® Zero Liability?

     Under MasterCard®'s policies, Comerica Bank cannot hold you liable in the event of an unauthorized use of your U.S.-issued Debit MasterCard® card. This coverage applies to purchases made in a store, over the telephone, or online. Zero Liability protection is provided under the following conditions: a) Your account is in good standing, b) You have exercised reasonable care in safeguarding your card, and c) You have not reported two or more unauthorized events in the past 12 months. Zero liability does not apply if a PIN is used as the cardholder verification method for the unauthorized transaction(s). It only applies to signature based transactions. Visit MasterCard's website for more details.

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7. INTERNATIONAL USE OF THE DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

 

7.1 I live outside the United States. May I sign up for the Direct Express® card if I receive Social Security benefits?

     Yes. If you live outside the United States, you may sign up for the Direct Express® card by calling 1 (765) 778-6290 (collect) or visiting the Direct Express® website at www.USDirectExpress.com. See Section 2, above, for information on how to sign up for the card. See question 5.11 for information about the languages available when you contact the Customer Service Department. See question 3.1 for information about fees that apply to transactions made outside the United States.

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7.2 How do I reach Customer Service if I live outside the United States?

     When calling the Customer Service Department from outside the United States, you should call 1 (765) 778-6290 (collect), or visit the Direct Express® website at www.USDirectExpress.com. See question 5.11 for information about the languages available when you contact Customer Service.

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7.3 May I use the Direct Express® card outside the United States?

     Yes. You may use your Direct Express® card outside the United States, wherever Debit MasterCard® is accepted. See question 3.1 for information about fees that apply when you withdraw cash or use your card to make purchases outside the United States. The “United States” includes the 50 states, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands. Surcharge fees may apply when using your card at an ATM outside the United States or in a location that does not offer a large Direct Express® ATM network at this time (for example, Puerto Rico).

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7.4 Can I transfer funds from my Direct Express® card to a bank or credit union account outside the United States?

     No. At this time, you may not use your Direct Express® card to transfer funds from your Direct Express® card to a bank or credit union account outside the United States. See question 4.14 for information on how to transfer funds to an account located within the United States.

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8. THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY IS ENCOURAGING RECIPIENTS TO CONSIDER THE DIRECT EXPRESS® CARD

 

8.1 Why is the U.S. Department of Treasury encouraging recipients to consider the Direct Express® card?

     The Direct Express® card is a safer, more reliable payment option for the millions of Americans who receive federal benefits by paper check. Americans are increasingly open to – and actively seeking -- alternatives to cash and paper checks. According to a 2007 study by the Federal Reserve, of the 93 billion non-cash transactions in 2006, more than two-thirds were electronic payments. Furthermore, debit cards now surpass credit cards as the most frequently used electronic payment type. To put this in context, Americans made more than 25 billion debit card purchases valued at $1 trillion and made 5.8 billion ATM cash withdrawals in 2006. In addition to Americans’ increased preference for debit cards, individual states have paved the way for a federal benefit debit card by widely introducing child support, unemployment insurance, and other economic assistance on state-sponsored debit cards. For example, the majority of states in the U.S. use debit cards to disburse child support payments.

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8.2 Do people without bank accounts who receive federal benefit checks really want this card?

     Yes, people who receive federal benefits and don’t have bank accounts are interested in safer and less costly alternatives to paper checks. Through Treasury’s existing Go Direct® campaign, which encourages banked federal benefit recipients to switch to direct deposit, the Treasury found that 8,000-14,000 unbanked federal benefit recipients inquire each month about alternatives to paper checks. In fact, according to survey information, nearly half of all unbanked check recipients are at least somewhat likely to consider using a debit card for their benefit payment. A successful 2007 debit card pilot initiated by Treasury in Illinois found that 85 percent of pilot participants said they were satisfied with the debit card, and 88 percent would recommend the card to a family member or friend.

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8.3 Will the U.S. Department of the Treasury mandate the use of this card for benefit recipients who currently use paper checks and don’t have a checking or savings account?

     The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced a new rule requiring all federal benefit and nontax payments be paid electronically. Anyone applying for benefits on or after May 1, 2011, must choose an electronic payment method at the time they apply for the benefit. Those already receiving federal benefits by paper check must switch by March 1, 2013. Benefit recipients can choose to receive their payments by direct deposit to the bank or credit union account of their choice or to a Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card account.


     People applying for federal benefits that do not choose an electronic payment option and those currently receiving federal benefits by paper check who have not switched by the deadline will receive their benefit payments via the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card, so they will not experience any interruption in payment.
For more information, please visit www.GoDirect.org.

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8.4 Who is providing the Direct Express® card?

     Direct Express® is a Debit MasterCard® card issued by Comerica Bank as the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s financial agent.

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8.5 Why did the U.S. Department of the Treasury select Comerica Bank to provide the Direct Express® card?

     Treasury received competitive applications from over a dozen banks in response to the request for nationwide debit card services and was pleased with the excellent qualifications of the applicants. Comerica Bank was selected, in part, because of its experience as a prepaid debit card issuer for millions of benefit recipients, particularly for state government programs. Comerica Bank and its partner, ACS State and Local Government, Inc., have been serving state and local governments since 2003. Since that time, they have worked together to implement and operate debit card programs in 13 states, representing 25 benefit and payment programs and servicing more than 2.5 million recipients in all U.S. states, territories, Canada, Mexico, and many foreign countries. Of importance to FMS, Comerica Bank offers a competitive cardholder fee schedule that allows benefit recipients to use the debit card at little or no cost. Most services are free to the cardholder. In addition, Comerica Bank offers several ways to allow a cardholder to keep track of his or her transactions and balance, including an option that allows the cardholder to receive free automated text, email or telephone messages about their deposits and balance. Comerica Bank also offers a surcharge-free ATM network of almost 50,000 ATMs throughout the country.

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Direct Express® and the Direct Express® logo are service marks of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service.

 

The Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® is issued by Comerica Bank, pursuant to a license by MasterCard International Incorporated. MasterCard® and the MasterCard® Brand Mark are registered trade marks of MasterCard International Incorporated.