Don’t Throw Out That Stimulus Debit Card!

Don’t throw that card out! It may contain thousands of dollars in stimulus payments you can use.

“I almost threw it out,” confessed one client.

“I thought it was another unsolicited credit card offer and was getting ready to put it in the shredder,” said another.

They are talking about the prepaid debit cards they received from the U.S. Treasury containing their stimulus payments issued under the CARES Act. The cards, called Economic Impact Payment (EIP) cards by the Treasury, arrived in plain white envelopes mailed from “Money Network Cardholder Services” in Omaha, Nebraska.

Just who is that exactly? Our clients didn’t recognize the sender’s name, and were prepared to throw what they judged to be credit card spam straight into the garbage. Fortunately, they didn’t, and later discovered there was over $1,000 in stimulus payments loaded onto those prepaid cards.

These stealth stimulus payments caught everyone by surprise. Here’s what you need to know about the latest wave of pandemic support payments headed on their way out to American taxpayers:

What are these cards all about? Many taxpayers have already received their pandemic stimulus payments either by direct deposit to their bank account, or via checks mailed out from the U.S. Treasury. But an estimated 4 million people have not yet received their payments. It was to these people that the Treasury was mailing prepaid Visa debit cards containing the stimulus payment.

Why is the Treasury sending money this way? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained that the cards were intended to provide recipients a secure, fast and easy way to access their money. Officials believed it would help get money to recipients faster than using paper checks. “Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely,” reported Mnuchin.

So what’s the verdict? Mixed. Treasury didn’t do a very good job publicizing use of the cards, and some recipients threw them out, thinking they were spam. Others came pre-printed with the wrong names and couldn’t be used. While the cards were intended to be free of transaction fees, fees can and do apply to certain transactions. On the plus side, the “help” phone number provided in the instructions actually seemed to work. One client told us she called to ask why she didn’t receive the full $1,200 payment loaded onto her card. Not only did someone call her back promptly, but they correctly explained why her payment was slightly reduced due to a few dollars of income she earned above the limits.

How can I recognize the card if I receive one in the mail? The cards come in an envelope marked “Money Network Cardholder Services” and are issued by MetaBank, acting as financial agent for the Treasury. A typical card image is shown above.

How can I use the cards? After activation, the cards can be used to make purchases, withdraw cash at ATMs, or deposit funds into your own bank account. You can access additional instructions at the EIP Card website.While use of the cards is intended to be free, fees and other restrictions could apply to certain transactions.

My card was pre-loaded with less than the full $1,200 stimulus payment. Why? Your stimulus payment may have been reduced due to your filing status and income. For example, single taxpayers may have received less than the full $1,200 amount if their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) was over $75,000 for the last tax year filed.

I threw out my card. How do I get a replacement? Not a problem. Call the toll-free customer service line at 800-240-8100 to request a replacement, ask questions, or report any problems using the card.

How can I get more instructions or information? Visit the EIP Card site or check the guidance available at AARP or other media sites.

Mercer Global Advisors Inc. is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and delivers all investment-related services. Mercer Advisors Inc. is the parent company of Mercer Global Advisors Inc. and is not involved with investment services.

About Mari Adam

Mari Adam, Certified Financial Planner™ has been helping individuals and families chart their financial futures for over twenty-five years. Have a question about your financial situation? Ask Mari!

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