The Treasury Department has introduced a prepaid debit card for Social Security payments and other federal benefits.

The Direct Express Debit MasterCard is aimed at people without bank accounts as a safe alternative to paper checks. The card is being introduced in 10 states and will be rolled out nationwide this summer.

The Treasury Department has selected Comerica Bank to issue the card. People currently receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income checks in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have already received information about the card. 

About 4 million Social Security and SSI recipients do not have bank accounts and have to depend on paper checks. That has subjected them to high check-cashing fees and the need to carry around large amounts of cash. There is no sign-up fee for the Direct Express card, and no bank account or credit card is required to enroll.

Cardholders will be able to make purchases at no cost wherever Debit MasterCard is accepted and use the card to pay bills and get cash at ATMs. The cards are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. up to the maximum legal limit, and offer a personal identification number for use at ATMs and retail locations. If a card is lost or stolen, it will be replaced.

Cardholders can get free cash back with purchases at retail locations, or free cash withdrawals through bank or credit union tellers. Cardholders also receive one free ATM cash withdrawal in the United States for each benefit payment deposit posted onto an account, although ATM owner surcharges may apply at ATMs outside the Direct Express network.

For more information, call (877) 212-9991 or visit www.USDirectExpress.com.

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