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Fact Sheet

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  • Receiving Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments by direct deposit is safe, quick and convenient; and it saves the Federal Government money.
    • As of October 2001, almost 36 million (80%) of the 45 million Social Security beneficiaries and over 3 million (50%) of 7 million SSI beneficiaries use direct deposit.

  • Direct deposit is the safest, most reliable, and most expedient method of payment. It offers:
    • No paper checks that may be lost or stolen,
    • No long lines or delays to cash a check,
    • Avoiding traveling to a bank in times of inclement weather, ill health, or an unscheduled absence from home, and
    • The security of knowing that your money is in the bank every month.
  • The Department of the Treasury’s Financial Management Service says a check now costs the government approximately 45 cents to process and mail. A direct deposit payment costs 4 cents to process.
    • Annual savings to the Social Security Trust Funds based on direct deposit participation for CY 2000 was about $133 million.
  • There are options available for people without bank accounts.
    • To encourage Federal (paper) check recipients to consider an account at a financial institution and to use direct deposit, the Department of Treasury introduced an easy and affordable option—Electronic Transfer Account (ETA).
    • An ETA is a low-cost account at a bank, credit union or savings and loan to which Federal benefit payments are deposited electronically.
      • Anyone who receives a Federal benefit payment is eligible.
      • The maximum monthly account fee for an ETA is $3.00, but it could be offered for less at the discretion of the ETA provider.
    • ETA is available through participating Federally insured financial institutions, including banks, savings and loans, and credit unions. Institutions offering ETAs have a decal in their windows or lobbies identifying them as certified ETA providers.
  • Beneficiaries without bank accounts living in some states have additional choices.
    • If an individual prefers the convenience of a debit card, they can obtain a Benefit Security Card. The Benefit Security Card is available in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
      • Anyone who does not have a bank account and receives a Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income check (as well as various other types of Federal benefit payments) can get a Benefit Security Card. The debit card is available through the Department of Treasury’s electronic benefits transfer (EBT) program.
      • When a person signs up for the Benefit Security Card, their Federal payment is deposited in an account set up just for them.
      • A Benefit Security Card can be used at automated teller machines (ATMs) and Point-of-Sale devices.
      • There are fees associated with the service.
    • To sign up for the program individuals should call the Customer Service Help Line for their state. (The toll-free numbers are listed at, the Department of the Treasury’s website.)

NOTE: For additional information on the Electronic Transfer Account and Benefit Security Card, visit The Department of the Treasury’s website:

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