How are Social Security benefits paid?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 16, 2019

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Starting March 1, 2013, social security checks will no longer be mailed, but will be directly deposited into the recipient’s bank account, credit union account or on a debit card.

Is electronic Social Security benefit payment safe?

There are more than 43 million retired seniors receiving Social Security benefit payments. Annual estimates suggest that 440,000 payments are lost, stolen, or destroyed, mostly in the form of checks. By comparison, electronic payments are much safer. 

What do I do if I have trouble receiving my Social Security benefit payment?

There is a waiting period for reporting an estimated payment delay. Holidays may also delay payment up to two days. Estimated delays and other common questions about direct deposit options can be found on the Social Security web site: https://www.ssa.gov/onlineservices.

I don’t have a bank account or easy access to my bank account. Isn’t there some way to get a good old-fashioned check?

For someone with limited use of an existing bank account, the best option for an electronic payment is called Direct Express Debit Mastercard. This Mastercard is issued by the government and allows the recipient to use the card at any bank or retailer for purchases or cash withdrawals against the amount of Social Security benefit deposited. It is not, however, generally possible to add any other moneys than Social Security to the Debit Mastercard.

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