Don’t toss out that mail just yet!

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reminding taxpayers that some Economic Impact Payments, sometimes called stimulus checks, are being sent by prepaid debit card. The debit cards arrive in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” 

No, that’s not a joke. As I reported earlier, nearly 4 million people are being sent their Economic Impact Payment by prepaid debit card, instead of a paper check.

According to the IRS, if you receive your stimulus check as a prepaid debit card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” The Visa V name will appear on the front of the card; the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. The information included in the envelope will explain that the card is your Economic Impact Payment Card.

In contrast, paper checks will be sent in a marked envelope from the U.S. Treasury.

The abrupt change from paper checks to debit cards is causing confusion for some folks (perhaps leading to today’s announcement). Earlier this week, Bonnie Moore and her husband, Thomas, received their stimulus check in the form of a debit card. Mistaking it for another junk mail credit card offer, Bonnie cut it up.

Her neighbor, Jay Bender, almost threw his out, too, commenting that printing on the envelope, “Doesn’t sound like the federal government to me.”

The prepaid debit card is intended to be convenient. According to the IRS, those who receive their stimulus check by prepaid debit card can do the following without any fees:

  • Make purchases online and at any retail location where Visa is accepted
  • Get cash from in-network ATMs
  • Transfer funds to their personal bank account
  • Check their card balance online, by mobile app or by phone

However, there is one fee not mentioned on the list. The cost for a replacement card? $7.50 ($17 additional charge for priority shipment). Bonnie Moore found that out the hard way.

So, use care when opening the mail.

Nearly four million debit cards are being sent out, with the first wave in mid-May. Currently, the IRS is not allowing folks to opt into (or out of) receiving their payment via prepaid debit card. 

How can you tell if you should expect a debit card? If there is a method to the IRS’ madness, they’re not sharing, stating merely that, “The determination of which taxpayers received a debit card was made by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, a part of the Treasury Department that works with the IRS to handle distribution of the payments.”

The IRS encourages you to visit EIPcard.com for more information about prepaid debit cards.

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Author

Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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