Social Security is going plastic. A prepaid debit card for federal benefits is now available.

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Social Security is going plastic. A prepaid debit card for federal benefits is now available.

The Direct Express Debit MasterCard was designed to appeal to the 4 million Social Security and Supplemental Social Security Income recipients who don’t have a bank account.

Also, paper checks are more susceptible to delivery delays and theft; last year, 700,000 checks were lost or stolen.

Electronic payment of benefits saves taxpayer dollars.

“It costs 88 cents more per payment to make a check payment versus an electronic payment,” said Judith Tillman, commissioner of the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Management Service.

“We’re still making about 150 million check payments a year through paper checks.”

The card allows Social Security recipients to make purchases and withdraw money from an ATM just as they would using a debit card.

Money on the card is FDIC-insured and the card would be replaced if lost or stolen.

The card also comes with conveniences such as free e-mail, text message or telephone deposit notifications, low-balance notifications and the ability to check your balance.

There’s no fee to sign up for the debit card and no monthly charges.

Users are allowed one free withdrawal per payment from any of the network’s 50,000 approved ATMs.

After that, the withdrawals cost 90 cents. Out-of-network ATM surcharges may also apply.

Monthly mailed statements also cost 75 cents each. If you lose more than one card, it will cost $4 a pop.

However, the costs are small compared to the expense of check cashing for people without bank accounts.

The card is available to anyone receiving Social Security benefits by going to the Web site www.USdirectexpress.com or by calling 877-212-9991.