Why Millions of Taxpayers Will Get Stimulus Payments via Debit Card
Still haven’t received your stimulus check? It could be coming in the mail — in the form of a prepaid debit card.
On May 18, the Treasury Department announced that nearly four million Economic Impact Payments (a.k.a. stimulus checks) will be sent out around Memorial Day 2020 via a new prepaid debit card. These new cards are being distributed only to “qualified individuals without bank information on file” whose last tax returns were filed to IRS service centers in Andover, Mass., and Austin, Texas.
The two most common forms of payment for stimulus checks have been bank direct deposit and traditional paper checks. While it’s not exactly clear why taxpayers serviced by these specific centers will receive a different form of payment, the press release states that the EIP cards provide a way to “efficiently and securely” pay those who are eligible and haven't already received their checks.
According to the statement from the IRS, which is overseen by the Treasury Department, recipients will immediately be able to activate and create a PIN number in order to use their prepaid card by following the instructions mailed with it.
The card works just like any regular debit card and provides consumer protections against fraud and loss. It can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, including online purchases and ATM transactions. (Users will incur not fees at ATMs carrying the AllPoint brand; fees for non-AllPoint ATMs still apply.) Those who need to pay bills with checks will be able to request free Money Network checks through the Treasury’s financial agent, Metabank.
Metabank has already developed a website and mobile app where users can check their balance and transfer funds to their personal bank accounts without incurring any fees.
In a surprisingly robust FAQ for the new cards, you can find detailed rules surrounding privacy, proper use, and how to manage your account. The rules specifically state that under the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Treasury Department will not be able to monitor or control how your Economic Impact Payment card is used or withdraw funds from your account.
Roughly 140 million out of the estimated 150 million stimulus payments have already been sent out, according to the Treasury Department. After the distribution of four million debit cards, only an estimated six million payments will be left to deliver. Those six million payments are still expected to be delivered in the form of a paper check, direct deposit, or Direct Express card accounts.
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