Social Security: Paper to plastic

Published On: Mar 01 2013 04:50:42 PM EST
Updated On: Mar 02 2013 04:40:34 AM EST

Anyone who relies on Social Security checks needs to get ready for a big change.

Starting March 1, the government is getting rid of the traditional paper checks, and wants almost everyone else to get on board.

The latest numbers show roughly 5 million people nationwide were still using paper checks. States with the highest numbers of paper checks include Michigan, California, New York, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

There are two ways the government would like to send Social Security payments, either through direct deposit or the Direct Express debit card.

"Seniors who are receiving paper checks and don't make a switch by March could receive letters offering assistance in changing to direct deposit or the debit card," Walt Henderson of the U.S. Treasury Department told USA Today in January.

"We will not interrupt payments if a person does not comply, nor will we switch a payment method automatically," Henderson said.

Who's Exempt?

While the government wants everyone to change to the new system, it will make exceptions for people born on, or before, May 1, 1921. They will be allowed to continue receiving paper checks, if they don't switch over.

There are two ways to switch over. Customers can go to their own bank to sign up for direct deposit, or they can ask the government for help. They can call 800-333-1795 or by visiting the website www.GoDirect.org.

The Direct Express card is designed for people who do not have bank accounts. The Direct Express card has been used by more than 3 million people since it was introduced in June 2008. About 2/3 of those people did not have bank accounts when they signed up.

Transferring from paper checks to electronic payments will save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years.

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