Social Security Checks are Going the Way of the Dinosaur

How to switch to direct deposit.

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I’m not talking about the huge deficit facing the Social Security system. It’s the physical checks that are becoming extinct.

Physical checks have not been an option for anyone enrolling in Social Security since April 30, 2011. New enrollees could only get their benefits by direct deposit. Those that are enrolled and receiving a paper check each month have until March 1, 2013 to switch to direct deposit. To avoid delays, the Social Security administration recommends not waiting until the last minute.

Most beneficiaries are already getting their benefits by direct deposit. However, it is estimated that about 15% of Social Security recipients still receive a check in the mail. The Treasury Department estimates each check costs $1 to issue. Eliminating physical checks is expected to save the government $1 billion over 10 years.

Switching to direct deposit is easy to do online. You need to go to the Social Security website and set up a password. Once you have a password, you can enroll by providing your bank account information. Direct deposit can be set up for a checking account, credit union, or savings account. Anyone that doesn’t have internet access can enroll by calling Social Security at (800) 772-1213.

The biggest obstacle that prevented Social Security from doing this sooner has been the number of beneficiaries that do not have a bank account. Those individuals can have their benefits deposited to a prepaid debit card offered by Treasury and Comerica Bank. You will need to enroll as a benefit recipient by going to and signing up for a debit card. There is no cost to sign up for the card and there are no monthly fees. Transaction costs may apply, so you should review the schedule of fees carefully before you enroll. You can also sign up by calling (800) 333-1795.

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