Coming soon: Social Security debit cards

Treasury Department's upcoming Direct Express program aimed at cutting costs and problems associated with mailing paper checks.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A pre-paid debit card aimed at making Social Security and other federal income benefits simpler and safer to receive was announced Friday by the Treasury Department.

The department said the Direct Express debit cards will be rolled out beginning this spring and come into full circulation by the end of the summer. They will be issued by Comerica Bank.

Each card is FDIC-insured and can be used to retrieve benefits at ATMs and make purchases at retail locations or online, the department said. Since transactions are electronic, there are no paper checks to become lost, delayed or stolen.

"We ultimately would like to see an all-electronic Treasury," said Judy Tillman, commissioner of the department's Financial Management Service division, in a statement. "If every unbanked federal check recipient signed up to use the card, it would save taxpayers about $44 million per year."

The department estimates that four million program beneficiaries do not hold bank accounts, and said that 90 percent of the problems with Social Security payments are related to paper checks.

Comerica (CMA, Fortune 500) has issued similar cards on behalf of state governments, Treasury said.  To top of page

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