Some Americans in certain areas of the country are about to receive a prepaid debit card to access their COVID-19 stimulus check money. However, how do they work? Do they work like any debit card?
The IRS says the answer is generally yes. You can use your prepaid debit card at any retail establishment that accepts Visa. The cards also work at ATM machines. Millions of Americans are about to get the cards if the IRS doesn’t have their banking information and if their tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center.
In a press release, the IRS explained that it is “starting to send nearly 4 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) by prepaid debit card, instead of by paper check. EIP Card recipients can make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs, and transfer funds to their personal bank account without incurring any fees.”
The IRS also has created this FAQ page on the prepaid debit cards. The IRS page advises:
Shop anywhere VisaⓇ Debit Cards are accepted: in-store, online or by phone, including paying bills
Get cash back at the register with PIN debit purchases at participating merchants
Get cash surcharge-free at any in-network ATM – find one with the ATM Locator
Learn more about the IRS economic stimulus checks here.
Here’s what you need to know:
People Can Use the EIP Card at Any Retail Location That Accepts Visa
There are a variety of different ways that you can use the debit cards. You can also use the prepaid debit cards at any retail location that accepts Visa, according to the IRS.
“They can also check their card balance online, by mobile app, or by phone without incurring fees. The EIP Card can be used online, at ATMs, or at any retail location where Visa is accepted,” the IRS explains of the cards. “This free, prepaid card also provides consumer protections available to traditional bank account owners, including protections against fraud, loss, and other errors.”
The government has already sent out 140 million stimulus checks. Some people got their checks via direct deposit to a bank account. Others were mailed paper checks. Those getting the prepaid debit cards are people the IRS lacked banking information for and who live in certain areas.
“Treasury and the IRS have been working with unprecedented speed to issue Economic Impact Payments to American families. Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”
“The Treasury-sponsored EIP Card is another method to provide money efficiently and securely to eligible recipients and their families,” explains the IRS. “EIP Cards are being distributed to qualified individuals without bank information on file with the IRS, and whose tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center.”
The IRS says Treasury’s financial agent, MetaBank, “will mail EIP Cards to eligible recipients beginning this week. Each mailing will include instructions on how to activate and use the card.” That release was dated on May 18, 2020. “The EIP Card is part of Treasury’s U.S. Debit Card program, which provides prepaid debit card services to federal agencies for the electronic delivery of non-benefit payments. MetaBank was selected as Treasury’s financial agent for the U.S. Debit Card program in 2016, following a competitive selection process conducted by the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service,” says the IRS.