FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Please select a topic below to explore common questions and answers.

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 federal benefit recipients who 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.
1.2 What type of federal payments can I have on the Direct Express® card account?
Federal Agency Federal Agency
  • Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard
  • Defense Finance and Accounting
  • DFAS Annuitant Pay
  • DFAS Retired Military Pay
  • DFAS Former Spouse Pay
  • Department of Labor
  • Black Lung
  • Federal Employee Workers Comp
  • Long Shore and Harbor Workers Comp
  • Energy
  • Office of Personnel
  • Civil Service Retirement/Annuity
  • Civil Service Survivor/Annuity
  • Railroad Retirement Board
  • Railroad Retirement Annuity
  • Railroad Retirement Unemployment/Sickness
  • Social Security Administration
  • Social Security Retirement
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • U.S. Department of the Treasury
DC Pension
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Compensation and Pension
  • Veterans Education MGIB
  • Veterans Education/Selected Reserve
  • Veterans Vocational Rehab and Employee
  • Chapter 33 – VA EDU Post 911 – Post 911 GI Bill
  • Chapter 35 – VA DEP EDU ASST – Dependents Education Assistance Program
  • Chapter 1607 – VA EDUCTN REAP – Reserve Education Assistance
  • Veterans Health Administration
  • Veterans Health Administration
  • Compensated Work Therapy
  • Veterans Medical Research
1.3 How does the Direct Express® card work?
When you sign up to receive your federal benefits on the Direct Express® card, you will receive your payment every month without having to worry about cashing your check or having it lost or stolen. Instead of receiving a check, your money will be automatically deposited to your Direct Express® card account on payment day. You can use your card to make purchases at stores that accept Debit MasterCard®, withdraw cash from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), and get cash back when you make purchases. You can also use your debit card online to make payments and to also buy money orders at the U.S. Post Office.
1.4 Will my Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and other federal 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 1005) and MasterCard® Zero Liability (exceptions may apply), protects you against unauthorized use of your card. When promptly reported, this will apply to your debit card account. Finally, if your card is lost or stolen, it will be replaced upon request.
1.5 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 your 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 a card to borrow money to make purchases and pay back the credit card company in part or in full every month.
1.6 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.

  • 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 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 back at retail locations, banks and credit unions, and ATMs throughout the world.

2. Enrollment

2.1 How do I sign up for the Direct Express® card?
Signing up is quick and easy. If you are currently receiving federal benefit payments such as Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, call the Direct Express® card enrollment center toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795 or visit your local federal paying agency.
2.2 How do I activate my Direct Express® card?
When you receive your Direct Express® card in the mail, call the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department number listed on the back of your card to activate your card.
2.3 Do I need to give my federal paying agency my card information in order to receive benefits?
No. After you sign up for the card, Direct Express® will notify the Social Security Administration and other federal paying agencies that you have a Direct Express® debit card account and will provide the agency the information it needs to send your benefit payments to your account.
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 at your local federal paying agency office.
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.)
2.6 I am a representative payee who receives another type of federal benefit payment on behalf of someone else. Can I sign up for a Direct Express® card?
Each Federal benefit agency has different rules in place for representative payees, including enrollment for the Direct Express® card. Please contact your paying agency to determine if they allow payments for representative payees.
2.7 Are federal benefit recipients residing in a healthcare facility eligible for the Direct Express® card?
The Direct Express® card program is designed for individual benefit recipients or a benefit recipient that has been assigned a personal Representative Payee. A Direct Express® card account cannot be opened for an agency or company who has been appointed as a Representative Payee, Guardian or Conservator.
2.8 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 number listed on the back of your card. 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, contact your local federal benefit agency.
2.9 Can I sign up for the Direct Express® card even if I have a bank account?
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.gov. You may also sign up for direct deposit through your federal paying agency, your bank or credit union.
2.10 I plan to retire in the near future. Can I request a Direct Express® card as soon as I sign up for my Social Security benefits?
You can sign up for the Direct Express® card when you apply for Social Security benefits. You can also request Direct Express® card after you receive your first benefit check by contacting the Direct Express® card enrollment center at 1 (800) 333-1795 (toll-free) to sign up for the card.
2.11 What are my options if the Direct Express® card is just not for me?
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 Direct Express® card Customer Service Department number listed on the back of your card. Before you close your Direct Express® card account, you will want to spend any money remaining on the card account. You can make purchases, withdraw your money at an ATM, get cash-back with purchase at retail stores, or visit any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash from a teller. 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, contact your local federal benefit agency.

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.

The complete fee table is listed below:

Standard Free Services
Service Fee
Purchases at U.S. merchant locations Free
Cash-back with purchase Free
Automatic deposit notification* Free
Automatic low balance notification* Free
Web account access Free
ATM balance inquiry Free
ATM denial Free
Customer Service calls Free
Cash from bank tellers Free
Card replacement - One per year Free
Mobile Application - manage your Direct Express account;
convenient, secure (for Android and Apple devices)
Free
ATM cash withdrawal in the U.S. including the District of
Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands
(surcharge by ATM owner may apply)
One(1) free withdrawl with each deposit to your Card Account**

*The cardholder can request this service any time after receiving the debit card.

** For each federal government deposit to your card account, Direct Express® 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 Service Fee
ATM cash withdrawal in U.S. including the District Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands (after free transactions are used and surcharge bu ATM owner may apply) $0.85 each withdrawal (after free transactions are used) $0.85 each withdrawal (after free transactions are used)
Direct Express Cash Access $1.50 per transaction ***
Monthly paper statement mailed to you $0.75 each month
Direct Express Cardless Benefit Access $8.50 to $12.00 per transaction****
Funds transfer to a personal U.S. bank account $1.50 each time
Card replacement $4.00 after one (1) free each year
Expedited dilvery of replacement card $13.50 each time
ATM cash withdrawal outside of the U.S. - Surcharge by ATM owner may apply $3.00 plus 3% of amount withdrawn
Purchase at merchant locations outside of the U.S. 3% of purchase amount

***Available at the Walmart Money Services or Walmart Customer Service Desk for stores located in the U.S. No additional Walmart fees apply. Additional authorized retailers may be offered in the future.

****Direct Express®Cardless Benefit Access℠ (formerly known as Direct Express® Emergency Cash) is a new feature available in the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The fee for this optional service ranges from $8.50 to $12.00 based upon transaction amount requested.

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.
    • 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.
    • Use your Direct Express® card at stores and retail locations to pay for purchases instead of getting cash at an ATM.
    • Make a purchase using your PIN, at many places, especially grocery stores you can also get cash back for free.
    • Go to any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash from a teller free of charge.
    • 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 $500.00
Food $200.00
Medicine $25.00
Gas $30.00
Utilities $45.00
Cash $45.00
TOTAL $845.00

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.
    • Use her Direct Express® card without paying any fee if her landlord and utility company accepts Debit MasterCard®.
  • Food, Medicine, and Gas
    • Make purchases using the Direct Express® card, without paying a fee, at retail locations that accept Debit MasterCard®
  • Cash
    • Get cash-back at the grocery store, without paying a fee, when she uses her Direct Express® card with her PIN 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.
3.3 How does my free ATM cash withdrawal work?
You will get one free ATM cash withdrawal in the United States for every federal benefit deposited 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.
3.4 Is there a fee to use the ATM?
If your are using your card at a surcharge free ATM, the owner/operator may charge you a fee. The fee is often referred to as a surcharge or ATM owner fee. You may refuse the fee and go to another ATM, or accept the fee, which will be charged to your card account. The surcharge fee is charged to you in addition to any fee that Direct Express® may charge when you use the Direct Express® card to withdraw cash at an ATM. Neither the Department of the Treasury nor Direct Express® has 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.
3.5 How do I find a surcharge free network?

The Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network offers surcharge free ATM access at approximately 75,000 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 by calling the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department number listed on the back of your card. Or simply look for ATMs with any of the following logos:

Mastercard® ATM Alliance Location Search Instructions.

  • Input city, State, and Zipcode in field box
  • Click "View More Options"
  • Select "Features - Optional"
  • Click "Surcharge Free Alliance"
  • Select "All Surcharge Free"
  • Click on "Find" button to begin search

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 in Section 3.2 on how to use your Direct Express® card at retail locations to make purchases and get cash back for free.

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

You can:

  • Get cash back for free when you make purchases at many retail locations or
  • Go into any bank or credit union that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark and get cash from a teller free of charge.
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 notify 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, call the Direct Express® toll free Customer Service Department number listed on the back of your card, or find on your Direct Express® Mobile App.

4. ATM Questions

4.1 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. Choose 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 card and receipt.
4.2 What is the Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network?
The Direct Express® card surcharge-free ATM network offers surcharge-free ATM access at approximately 75,000 ATMs throughout the country including Comerica Bank, Charter One, Privileged Status, Alliance One, PNC Bank, MasterCard® ATM Alliance, and MoneyPass.
4.3 Where can I find Direct Express® card network ATMs?
To find an ATM near you, please visit the Direct Express® card website at www.USDirectExpress.com or by calling the Direct Express® card Customer Service Department number listed on the back of your card. Or simply look for ATMs with any of the following logos. Remember you can also make purchases and get cash back with your Direct Express® card account for no fee.

Mastercard® ATM Alliance Location Search Instructions.

  • Input city, State, and Zipcode in field box
  • Click "View More Options"
  • Select "Features - Optional"
  • Click "Surcharge Free Alliance"
  • Select "All Surcharge Free"
  • Click on "Find" button to begin search
4.4 What is the maximum amount of cash I can withdraw from an ATM with my Direct Express® card?
Direct Express® 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.
4.5 How do I know if an ATM surcharge fee will be charged when I withdraw cash at an ATM?
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.
4.6 What if I can't find an ATM or my ATM is "out of order"?
To find a Direct Express® card network ATM near you, visit the Direct Express® website www.USDirectExpress.com, locate on your Direct Express® Mobile App, or call the toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card. If the ATM is out of order, 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.

5. Customer Service

5.1 Who 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 the Direct Express® card toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card or visit www.USDirectExpress.com.
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 toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card. A customer service representative will assist you and a new card will be sent to you. Refer to question 3.1. Replacement card fees may apply.
5.3 How long will it take to receive a replacement card if reported lost or stolen?
If your Direct Express® card is lost or stolen, immediately call the Direct Express® card toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card. Replacement card will arrive by standard mail within 7 to 10 days.
5.4 Who should I notify if I change my mailing address?
If you move or change your address, call the Direct Express® card toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card. You will need to separately notify the federal paying agency about your new address. Direct Express® does not provide this information to any federal agency.
5.5 What if I don't agree with my balance or one of my transactions?
If you have a question about your balance or a transaction, you should immediately call the Direct Express® card toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card to find out how to dispute a transaction.
5.6 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 toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card. You can also visit www.USDirectExpress.com to view your transaction history online at no cost.
5.7 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 toll-free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card. 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.
5.8 Is Customer Service available in languages other than English?
Yes. Direct Express® 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, Direct Express® provides real-time free interpreter services in virtually any language a caller requests.

6. Using your Direct Express® card

6.1 How do I make purchases with my card?
Simply present your card when paying. 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 entering your personal identification number (PIN) at the Point of Sale (POS). The money is automatically deducted from your account. You may also ask for "cash back" with your purchase at many merchant locations.
6.2 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 toll free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card if you have questions on where to use your card.
6.3 How do I check my balance 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 toll-free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card, 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 on the Direct Express® Mobile App. Balance information can also be obtained at any ATM that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark, at no cost.
6.4 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.
6.5 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.
6.6 Can I change my PIN?
Yes. You may change your PIN by calling the Direct Express® card toll-free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card.
6.7 What if I forget my PIN?
You should call the Direct Express® Card toll-free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card.
6.8 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 or make purchases with cash back, you are 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 may need to sign a receipt depending upon the dollar amount of the transaction.
6.9 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.
6.10 How does the free Deposit Notification work?
After you sign up for the free Deposit Notification service, Direct Express® will send a notice to you by phone, email, or text message each time a federal benefit is deposited to your debit card account. In addition, the free DX℠ Mobile App can also be used to track payments and transactions.
6.11 How does the free Low Balance Alert work?
After you sign up for the free Low Balance Alert, Direct Express® 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. In addition, the free Direct Express® Mobile App can be used to track payments and transactions.
6.12 How do I get cash at a bank teller window?
There is no 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 toll-free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card.
6.13 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. 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.
6.14 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 toll-free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card or visit the web www.USDirectExpress.com.
6.15 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 funds paid to you by the federal government.
6.16 Can I use my card to pay rent?
You can use your Direct Express® card to pay your rent if your landlord accepts a MasterCard® debit card as a payment option. It is recommended that you check with your landlord or company if they will accept your debit card.
6.17 Can I use my 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.
6.18 Can I use my 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.
6.19 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 card account.
6.20 Can a merchant/retailer block or put a hold on my card account?
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, gas stations, and other 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.
6.21 How can I avoid blocking or holds?
  • 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. 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 in person.
  • 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". Also ask 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.
6.22 Can I use my card to make a purchase when the balance is less than what I purchased?
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 form of payment).
6.23 Can I get a loan or cash advance from the Direct Express® card?
No. Funds are not available for use until the federal benefit payment is deposited to your card account.
6.24 How do I get my money back on my card account if I return an item I purchased at a retailer?
Once you have brought back the merchandise along with the purchase receipt to the retailer, the refund process will begin. It may take up to 30 days for the refund to be credited back to your card account.

7. Privacy/Protection

7.1 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 Direct Express® for information about your card account and Direct Express® is not allowed to give the government information about your card account without your written permission, except under very limited circumstances.
7.2 Will my personal information be kept confidential?
Yes. Federal paying agencies, the Department of the Treasury and Direct Express® each has a role in the delivery of your federal benefit payment to your Direct Express® card and each entity has a privacy policy which sets out how it will use your information. You can check with your federal paying agency's website or local office for their privacy policies. The Direct Express® privacy policy may be found at www.USDirectExpress.com. The Treasury Department does not receive any of your personal information.
7.3 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 Direct Express® 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 by calling the toll free number on the back of your card. Some of the funds on your card may need to be returned to the federal paying agency. Any other funds on your card will be distributed in accordance with the laws of your state.
7.4 Can funds on my 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, such as, 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 your federal paying agency or your local legal services organization.
7.5 If my card is lost or stolen, is my money protected?
Yes. Your liability for unauthorized transactions is limited if your card is reported timely to Direct Express® 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.
7.6 What is MasterCard® Zero Liability?

Under MasterCard®'s policies, Direct Express® cannot hold you liable in the event of an unauthorized use of your U.S. issued Debit MasterCard® card. This MasterCard Zero Liability applies to purchases made in a store, over the telephone, or online.

Zero Liability protection is provided under the following conditions:

  • You report any unauthorized transaction(s) promptly to Direct Express®.
  • You have exercised reasonable care in safeguarding your card.
  • A PIN was not used as the cardholder verification method for the unauthorized transaction(s).
  • Your account is in good standing. Visit MasterCard's website for more details.

8. International use of the Direct Express® Card

8.1 I received federal benefits and live outside of the United States. Can I sign up for the Direct Express® card?
Yes. If you live outside the United States, you can sign up for Direct Express Card® by calling the enrollment center toll free at 1 (800) 333-1795. See question 5.8 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.
8.2 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 5.8 for information about the languages available when you contact Customer Service.
8.3 Can I use the Direct Express® card outside the United States?

Yes. You can 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:

  • All 50 states
  • District of Columbia
  • Guam
  • Puerto Rico
  • 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).

8.4 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 cannot 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 6.14 for information on how to transfer funds to an account located within the United States.

9. The U.S. Department of the Treasury encourages recipients to consider the Direct Express® Card

9.1 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 requires all federal benefit and nontax payments be paid electronically. Anyone applying for benefits, must choose an electronic payment method at the time they apply for the benefit. Those already receiving federal benefits by paper check must contact their paying agency to switch to an electronic payment method. 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.

For more information, please visit www.GoDirect.gov.

9.2 Who is issuing the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card?
Comerica Bank is the U.S. Department of the Treasury's financial agent and is the issuer of the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card.

10. Additional benefits

10.1 What is EMV and why does my Direct Express® card have a chip?
EMV is the standard for payment cards worldwide. It uses microchip technology to process transactions instead of the magnetic stripe on a traditional payment card. Direct Express® is now using "chip" cards because they are more secure than cards with magnetic stripes only. An executive order dated October 17, 2014, requires all credit and debit cards that carry government funds to move to the EMV standard. Your new card still has a magnetic stripe. You will still be able to use it everywhere that accepts Debit MasterCard®, even at merchants and ATMs that haven't updated their card readers to the new standard yet.
10.2 How do I use my EMV Direct Express® card to make purchases?
Just like your old card, you should swipe your Direct Express® card in the magnetic stripe card reader. If a merchant is set up to do chip transactions, the terminal will prompt you to insert (or "dip") the card face up into the slot in the front of the terminal. Not every store will have their machines updated yet to read the chip, but your card will still work by using the magnetic stripe. When using the card's chip, you'll need to leave your card in the reader until the transaction is complete. Be sure to remember to take your card with you when done. Transactions you make with your Direct Express® card online or over the phone will work the same way as they do today.
10.3 Will I need to enter my PIN to get my EMV card to work?
Sometimes you will need to enter your PIN. Machines at stores that are able to process the chip may prompt you to enter your PIN. At stores that aren't set up to take chip card payments, the card's magnetic stripe will work and you'll be given the option to process the transaction as "debit" or "credit." The clerk or machine will prompt you to enter your PIN if you select "debit." When it comes to ATM transactions, everything will be the same: you'll still dip your card and enter your PIN. Be sure to call the Direct Express® Card toll-free Customer Service Department number on the back of your card if you need to add or change the PIN to your card.
10.4 Can I still use my old Direct Express® card?
No. Your new Direct Express® card with the chip will replace your old card. Dispose of your old card by shredding or cutting it up once you receive your new card.
10.5 What are the benefits of EMV chip cards?
Chip cards have an additional layer of security and usually last longer than magnetic stripe cards.
10.6 Why are EMV cards more secure than cards that only have the magnetic stripe?
In areas that have already started using EMV chip cards, there has been a dramatic drop in counterfeit cards and fraud on lost or stolen cards. Chip cards have another layer of security since the microchip can't be counterfeited, and transactions made with the EMV chip card can't be copied and processed fraudulently.
10.7 Do I still need to sign the back of my card?
Yes. You need to sign the back of the card for security purposes.
10.8 What about recurring payments billed to my old Direct Express® card?
You must update your billers with your new card information (card number, expiration date, and 3-digit security code) so your payments continue to process without interruption.
10.9 Are there additional fees for the EMV chip card?
No. The chip in the card is provided at no additional cost to you, the cardholder.
10.10 What should I do if my Direct Express® EMV card is lost, stolen, or if I notice unusual activity on my account?
Even though the chip in the EMV card adds a layer of security to your Direct Express® card account, call the Direct Express® Customer Service Department number listed on the back of your card immediately to report a loss, theft, or unusual activity.

11. Direct Express® Mobile App

11.1 What is the Direct Express® Mobile App?
The Direct Express® Mobile App provides a convenient and safe way to manage your money securely from your mobile device.
11.2 How do cardholders get the Direct Express® Mobile App?
Direct Express® cardholders can download the app from the iTunes® (Apple®) and Google Play™ (Android™) stores.
11.3 Is there a charge for the Direct Express® Mobile App?
The Direct Express® Mobile App is free from the iTunes and Google Play™ stores. Data network usage charges may apply. Fees may also apply for international use.
11.4 What are my smartphone requirements?
The Direct Express® Mobile App runs on iPhones® with an operating system of 7.0 or higher and Android™ operating system of 4.0 or higher.
11.5 What do I do if I need help using the Direct Express® Mobile App?
Once cardholders are registered and logged into the mobile app, a tutorial is included to help users navigate through the app. There are frequently asked questions (FAQs) and help menus on the app to assist users. Users can also contact customer service for additional assistance.
11.6 Can cardholders put the Direct Express® Mobile App on more than one phone or device?
Yes. You may install the app on multiple devices, however you will only need to register on one device. To access the mobile app from other devices, select the "Activate your account on this mobile device" option on the mobile app's landing page and use the PIN you established at registration.
11.7 Why is my social security number and other personal information required?
Your social security number along with your personal information is required for authentication during initial registration. Direct Express® requires your social security number when setting up an account and follows privacy laws for your protection.
11.8 Will my personal information be safe?
Yes. The secure registration process establishes a link between you and your mobile device. During the registration process, the card number is masked as it is entered and only the last four digits appear on the mobile device. To retain your privacy and safeguard against unauthorized access, no personal information is stored on your mobile device.
11.9 If I have several card accounts, what are my options for using the Direct Express® Mobile App?
Representative payees who manage card accounts for adults and children can use this mobile app to view transactions, check balance and edit each name for each card account.