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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

How does the Direct Express® card work?

When a benefit recipient signs up to receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, VA  or other federal benefits via the Direct Express® card, their payment will be automatically deposited to their Direct Express® card account on payment date. The card can be used to make purchases at stores that accept Debit MasterCard®, pay bills, purchase money orders for the U.S. Post Office, and get cash from an ATM or financial institution that displays the MasterCard® acceptance mark.


For instance, if the recipient’s benefit payment is $500 monthly:

  • On payment date, $500 is deposited directly to the card. There is nothing for the recipient to do. There are no fees for depositing the full amount to the card.
  • On that same day, if the recipient spends $100 at the grocery store using the Direct Express® card, $100 is automatically deducted from their balance. They now have $400 left on the card. There is no fee charged for using the card to make purchases. Throughout the month, as purchases are made, each purchase amount is deducted from the card account’s current balance (in this instance, $400).
  • If the card balance gets down to $0, the card will be denied for all future purchases until it is reloaded with next month’s benefit payment.
  • If the recipient only spends $250 in this month, the remaining $250 will be added to the next month’s $500 benefit payment. The recipient now has $750 on the card the next month.


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