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Treasury announces four million coronavirus stimulus payments will be sent by prepaid debit cards

Treasury announces four million coronavirus stimulus payments will be sent by prepaid debit cards
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The Treasury has revealed it will begin issuing coronavirus stimulus payments by sending a prepaid debit card (opens in new tab) in the mail. So far, more than 140 million stimulus payments worth $239 billion have been delivered to Americans by direct deposit to accounts, Direct Express card accounts, and by paper check. However, beginning this week, the Treasury (opens in new tab) will start the process of sending nearly four million Economic Impact Payments cards, in place of sending a check. 

Check your eligibility

Find out (opens in new tab) whether you qualify for the coronavirus stimulus payment and how to make a claim. 

The payments - which are part of the $2.2 trillion aid package announced in March - are worth up to $1,200 per individual and up to $2,400 per couple. While parents should also receive an additional $500 for each qualifying child aged 16 or younger, some recipients have received less than they were expecting. Last week, the IRS moved to explain the discrepancies, and outlined the reasons why the coronavirus payment might be less than expected (opens in new tab), and how to check whether a payment is correct. 

The prepaid debit cards are mainly being sent to those who do not have bank account information on file with the IRS and so would have otherwise received a check in the mail. People whose tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center might also receive a card. 

Given the financial upheaval the pandemic has thrust upon millions of households, it is likely that many will have earmarked the stimulus payment for essential spending. The use of the best credit cards has soared amid the outbreak, with a quarter of Americans falling further into the red since the crisis began. The prepaid debit cards can be activated immediately, and should mean that recipients will be able to start putting their payment to use faster than if they receive a check. 

Treasury announces four million coronavirus stimulus payments will be sent by prepaid debit cards

(Image credit: pixabay)

“Treasury and the IRS have been working with unprecedented speed to issue Economic Impact Payments to American families,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly. Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”

How to get started with your prepaid debit card

Each mailing will include instructions on how to activate and use the card, while a website (opens in new tab) is already up and running explaining how to get started. The website also includes further details on how the card can be used and how to check your balance. To get started:

  • Read the Cardholder Agreement and Fee Schedule
  • Activate your account, set your 4-digit PIN and check your balance by calling 1.800.240.8100 (TTY: 1.800.241.9100)
  • Sign the back of your Economic Impact Payment Card
  • Keep your card number in a safe place.

How to use your prepaid debit card

The prepaid debit card can be used online, to get cash from in-network ATMs, or at any retail location where Visa is accepted. It will also be possible to transfer funds to a personal bank account without incurring any fees, while the card balance can be checked online, by mobile app, or by phone. 

The cards will come with the consumer protections available to traditional bank account owners, including protections against fraud, loss, and other errors. The IRS recently warned that the stimulus payments and the extension of the tax-filing deadline to July 15 had created a greater risk of tax-related identity theft (opens in new tab).

Find out why a regular prepaid debit card could be an excellent budgeting option if you want to keep on top of your spending or better manage debt.  

With over 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry, Tim has spent most of his career working for a financial data firm, where he was Online Editor of the consumer-facing Moneyfacts site, and regularly penned articles for the financial advice publication Investment Life and Pensions Moneyfacts. As a result, he has an excellent knowledge of almost areas of personal finance and, in particular, the retirement, investment, protection, mortgage and savings sectors.