By Lori Friberg
Elder Benefits Specialist
Aging Resource Center
FLORENCE, Wis. - If you apply for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must receive your payments electronically. If you did not sign-up for electronic payments when you applied for benefits, you should do so now. You must switch to electronic payments by March 1, 2013. If you don't, the U.S. Department of the Treasury may send your benefits via the Direct Express card program to avoid an interruption in payment.
If you already receive Social Security or SSI benefits and you have a bank account, you can sign-up for direct deposit online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and creating an online account in order to set up direct deposit.
You can also contact your bank, credit union, or savings and loan association, or call Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Alternatively, you can get a direct deposit sign-up form online at www.ssa.gov/deposit/howtosign.htm and take or mail it to your Social Security office.
The Direct Express debit card is another viable option to access benefits without the need of a bank account. With the Direct Express card program, your federal benefit payment will be deposited directly into your card account.
Your monthly benefits will be available on your payment day. You can use the card to make purchases, pay bills or get cash at thousands of locations. Call the toll-free Direct Express hotline at (877) 212-9991 to get signed up.
Also, Social Security can help you sign up. If you don't have a bank account, you must open an account before you can sign up for direct deposit.
You should shop around in your area to find an account that has the features you want at a price you can afford. Some financial institutions offer a low-cost account called an "Electronic Transfer Account."
When you decide on the account that is right for you, let the representative at the financial institution know you are interested in signing up to receive your Social Security benefits by direct deposit. If you don't get Social Security or SSI benefits yet but are planning to apply, tell the Social Security representative when you apply for benefits that you want to sign up for direct deposit. If you already have an account, have your checkbook or a copy of your bank statement with you.
The Treasury Department will grant exceptions to the rule only in rare circumstances. Automatic waivers are granted to people born on or before May 1, 1921.
Check recipients living in remote areas without sufficient banking infrastructure may apply for a waiver, as well as check recipients for whom electronic payments would impose a hardship due to a mental impairment. Waiver applications can be requested by calling (800) 333-1795.