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Is it true that Social Security beneficiaries are being required to receive their payments electronically?

That's correct. On March 1, 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department will stop mailing paper benefit checks. After that date, all Social Security beneficiaries (as well as anyone receiving another type of federal benefit, such as Supplemental Security Income benefits, Railroad Board annuity payments, federal retirement benefits, or veterans benefits) will be required to receive their benefits electronically. The federal government estimates that switching to electronic payments will save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years, and cut down on the risk of lost and stolen checks.

Most Social Security beneficiaries are already receiving benefits electronically, and if you're among them, you don't need to do anything--you'll continue to receive your benefits via the method you've chosen. But if you're receiving a paper check, you need to choose one of two electronic payment options as soon as possible.

The first payment option is to have your benefit directly deposited to a bank or credit union account. The second option is to have your benefit put on a Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® prepaid card that can be used to pay bills, make retail purchases, or withdraw benefit funds from an ATM or a financial institution. Most transactions are free, although fees do apply to certain services. The Treasury Department recommends the direct deposit option for anyone with access to an account at a financial institution. The Direct Express ® card is most appropriate for individuals who need the benefits of direct deposit but who don't have an account at a financial institution. If you haven't chosen an option as of March 1, 2013, you'll be automatically enrolled in the Direct Express ® card option. If you're applying for Social Security benefits for the first time, you'll be asked to choose your payment option at that time.

To sign up for electronic payments, you need to visit the government website, www.GoDirect.org, or call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795. You can also sign up for the direct deposit option at your bank or credit union, or for the Direct Express ® card at www.usdirectexpress.com.