Social Security, others to stop sending checks

Published 12:11 am Sunday, September 30, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — The Social Security Administration branch on Lower Woodville Road in Natchez is one of thousands across the country preparing for a 2013 switch to electronic payments. Starting in March, across the country Social Security checks will no longer be mailed but will be received by direct deposit. Below, a customer heads inside the office.

NATCHEZ — Area residents who receive many types of federal benefit payments will see a major change next year.

Beginning March 1, the U.S. Department of Treasury will stop mailing out paper checks and switch to electronic payments.

The change will affect everyone who receives payments from the Social Security Administration, Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management and Department of Labor.

Email newsletter signup

Payments will be deposited directly to a banking or credit union account. For people who don’t have a banking or credit union account, their payments will be deposited to the Direct Express card.

The United Way and Alcorn State University are helping get the word out locally, and United Way Executive Director Tiffany Mascagni said ensuring locals are equipped for the change is key.

“Our goal is to educate people on direct deposit and how to use the cards safely,” Mascagni said.

The United Way is sponsoring a workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday in the school of nursing’s auditorium located at 15 Campus Drive. Mascagni said the workshop would explain the different options available, talk about using ATMs correctly and offer help to residents who need to sign up with the program.

“We have been doing a lot of boots-on-the-ground work,” Mascagni said. “We have been going door-to-door and getting campaign materials out to our partnering agencies.”

Mascagni said people could select whether or not they want the Direct Express card when they sign up for the service. Those people who already receive benefits, but have not registered, will automatically receive a Direct Express card once the switch is made.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Direct Express card works like a prepaid debit card. Federal payments will be credited to the card account. Cardholders can use it for purchases at retail stores and acquire cash back through purchases.

Cash can also be obtained though ATM withdrawals from the Direct Express card. Although there won’t be any service fees for many things such as retail store purchases and getting cash back after purchases, however service fees will be assessed for some ATM uses and optional services, such as text alerts and monthly statements.

Cardholders are allowed one free ATM withdrawal per month, but according to Britton & Koontz Bank Vice President of Marketing Marty Seibert, that doesn’t mean a surcharge will not be charged through the ATM owner.

“Usage fees are what your card company charges you to use their cards at ATMs and surcharges are what the ATM owners charge,” Seibert said. “Those fees can vary from location to location.”

One-way around surcharges, Chief Financial Officer for United Mississippi Bank Adrian Sandel said, is opening a bank account and obtaining an ATM card through the bank.

“Like most other banks, we charge for a surcharge for non-customers,” Sandel said.

He said customers who have an ATM card though their bank aren’t charged when they use that bank’s ATMs.

For more information on the Go Direct program, contact Tammy Prince of the United Way at 601-442-1081 or go to