The VA (through the Treasury Department) will offer beneficiaries without bank accounts the option to enroll in the Direct Express debit card program with Comerica Bank. Direct Express payments will be directly deposited into that account and made accessible through a debit card that is mailed by Comerica Bank to the beneficiary's home address. Personal funds cannot be transferred into this account as it can only be used to receive Federal benefits.
According to the VA release the following advantages are assoicated with debit card program:
1. The Direct Express debit card offers beneficiaries the opportunity to receive their payments electronically even if they do not have a bank account.
2. Cardholders have 24/7 access to their money at automated teller machines (ATMs) and are able to make purchases at any retailer that accepts MasterCard.
3. Cardholders can access their account information by telephone and Internet, make purchases over the Internet, and receive cash back with no fee at retail locations.
4. Debit cards eliminate the cost of cashing a check.
5. Debit cards are a safe and reliable means of receiving a payment.
Thanks to some of our readers for pointing out that although most services are free, there are some fees associated with the Direct Express card.
Here is a quick summary taken from the Direct Express website.
Free services include:
- There is no cost to sign up for the card and there are no monthly fees.
- Purchases at retail locations, cash back with purchases, or cash withdrawals through bank or credit union tellers.
- One free ATM cash withdrawal for each deposit posted to account each month $.90 per additional withdrawal (The fee waiver earned for that deposit expires on the last day of the following month in which the deposit was credited to the Card Account). Surcharge fees may apply. There are ATM owner fees called "surcharge fees", if you do not use a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM to withdraw your cash.
- Balance information at ATMs, by phone or online.
- Optional notification of deposits to debit card by phone, email or text message.
- Optional low balance alert when account balances falls below a certain level.
- Access to the toll-free customer service number and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- One free replacement card per year (additional replacement cards available for a fee)
- More than one ATM withdrawal per deposit ($.90 cents per withdrawal). Surcharge fees may apply. There are ATM owner fees called "surcharge fees", if you do not use a Direct Express® card surcharge-free network ATM to withdraw your cash.
- Card replacement after one free replacement card per year ($4.00 per card).
- Monthly paper statement mailed to cardholder ($.75 cents per month).