What Is Direct Express? How Do I Apply?
If you’re among the 21.3% of Americans who receive government financial benefits, a Direct Express card is a powerful tool that can help you manage money and keep your benefit funds secured.
You may have heard of this program before, but what is Direct Express, exactly? Read on to answer this question more thoroughly and to learn how a person can apply for this program.
What Is Direct Express?
A Direct Express card is, at the most basic level, a debit card. It allows you to access federal benefit funds that would otherwise be impossible to obtain without a bank account.
Since many people cannot open up bank accounts for credit-related reasons and other complications, applying for a Direct Express card is an alternative that can help people get the funds needed for daily expenses.
Some federal benefit payments that a Direct Express card will qualify you for include:
- Social Security retirement benefits
- Social Security disability benefits
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
- Social Security child’s benefits
- Railroad retirement or disability benefits
- Social Security spouse’s or divorced spouse’s benefits
- Social Security widow or widower’s benefits
- Social Security parent’s benefits
- Black Lung benefits
- Bureau of Indian Affairs benefits
- Insurance, annuity, or Individual Retirement Account (IRA) payments
- Pensions (including employer, union, Federal, state, local, or foreign government, military pensions, or disability benefits)
- Unemployment Compensation or Worker’s Compensation benefits
The US Department of Treasury requires electronic payout for all benefit payments. The Direct Express card is needed because these benefits funds must usually be deposited directly into a bank account or credit union.
However, Direct Express cards can be used to manage the funds and spend them at many different venues. The deposits will be placed directly onto the card, and you can then use them to make purchases at any venue that accepts debit payments.
What Else Can Direct Express Cards Do?
Beyond allowing the acceptance of payments and direct use as prepaid debit cards, Direct Express users can also get cash from any ATM. Direct Express card carriers can also pay bills online or over the phone by giving the recipient their card number. It essentially works in the same way that other debit cards would.
All transactions have the same level of security as any debit card would. They can still be compromised if someone gets ahold of your PIN and CVV. In this case, it’s easy to contact Direct Express support to shut it down and get a replacement.
What Kinds of Things Can Direct Express Purchase?
There’s no limit to what Direct Express cards can purchase. Some popular purchases include:
- Food (groceries and eating out)
- Rent payments
- Utility payments
- Cell phone bill, unless you are a Lifeline customer. Want to get rid of that cell phone bill? Apply now.
- Student loan payments
- Pet care supplies
As long as the payee accepts debit, they’ll accept your Direct Express card.
Is There a Minimum Balance That Must Remain on the Card?
Many people need immediate access to all cash received through their benefits program(s).
Because this is the audience that Direct Express is designed for, cardholders can use all of the funds until they reach a $0.00 balance. It will simply stop people from making payments when you have nothing left- no overdraft fees apply.
To ensure that users have enough money to pay the bills and make essential purchases, it’s critical to know how to check the balance on a Direct Express card. All cardholders need to do is call the toll-free customer service number at 1 (888) 641-1115. It’s impossible to forget this number since it’s on the back of the physical card.
Users also can check their balance on www.usdirectexpress.com. If you’re a cardholder who prefers a mobile device’s convenience and security, you can install the app, log in, and check it there. Still, remember that there is absolutely no way that you can overdraft on the card so that you can maximize your peace of mind.
Additional Benefits of the Card
Besides convenience and security, cashback is one of the greatest benefits of Direct Express cards. You can also get cash back after purchasing an item at many stores. Like getting money at an ATM, you can access money in your account in physical cash form.
Here’s how to do this:
- Enter your 4-digit PIN when paying for your items at the register
- Use the PIN pad to complete the transaction
- If this doesn’t work, tell the cashier the amount that you want
- Funds will be withdrawn from your account, and the bills will be handed to you
- Make sure that you got the correct amount
There is no fee to get cashback with Direct Express. The only limitation is that you can’t exceed your card balance. Since the program is intended to help make your life easier, convenience is critical to its success.
Note, however, that while there are no cashback fees for Direct Express card owners, you will need to pay ATM fees when applicable. This fee is usually around $3-4. It will come directly out of the Direct Express card balance.
Who Qualifies for Direct Express Debit Cards?
Anyone who receives federal benefits qualifies to get a Direct Express card. There are no limits to this qualification. You can be any age, in any location, and have any income as long as you both qualify for and receive federal payments.
Some people who receive government benefits do have bank accounts, and if this applies to you, you may be wondering whether you still qualify for the card. The answer to this question is ‘yes.’ Many people who have checking or savings accounts still choose Direct Express cards because they’re convenient, portable, and secure.
How Can You Apply?
Applying for Direct Express isn’t as challenging as a process as you might believe. However, it is a process with multiple steps that you need to take. The entire process may take two weeks or so because that’s how long it will take for your application and approved card to arrive in the mail.
Step 1: Apply for Your Benefits Program
As we mentioned earlier, you need to be an active recipient of Federal Benefits to get a Direct Express debit card. This requires you to have already signed up for the benefits program that you qualify for. If this is indeed the case, you can move on to step 2 without worrying about meeting any qualifications.
If you have not yet applied, go to the US government website and fill out the application for the benefits you hope to receive. Unfortunately, those who are still applying will need to wait to be approved and receive their first payment before applying for Direct Express debit.
Step 2: Sign Up for the Card
The process of signing up for the card couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is call the toll-free number 1 (800) 333-1795 and answer a few questions. If you prefer an online application, you can find it at www.usdirectexpress.com. The form will ask you the same questions as a phone call would, so neither option is superior to the other.
Once the completed application is sent in, your card will arrive within 10 business days.
Step 3: Comerica Communicates With the Social Security Administration (SSA)
Comerica, the company that issues Direct Express cards, will then notify the SSA that you now have an account with them. They will give the SSA your account number and other information to send payments to you.
You don’t need to do anything for the completion of this step — it happens automatically. Once it has been done, you will be able to receive payments to your card as soon as it arrives.
Step 4: Activate Your Card
When your card comes in the mail, you can then gain access to your money. Call the customer service department of Direct Express at the toll-free number 1 (888) 741-1115 to activate it.
They’ll ask you for the 16-digit card number on the front of your card. You will then need to give them your birthday and social security number to verify your identity.
To finish activating the card, you also will need to choose a PIN to make purchases and get cash at ATMs. This number is 4 digits long and can be anything that you’ll remember.
After that, congratulations! You’re ready to use the payments from your federal benefits program.
Access Government Benefits Today
So, what is Direct Express?
In short, it’s a resource that allows those without bank accounts to access payments made via federal benefits programs easily. Not only is this convenient and helpful for all individuals and families, but it also is effortless to apply for. Once you do so, you’ll get a card and access to a wide variety of benefits.
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
We hope that this post has helped you learn how to access the Direct Express program. If you qualify for a Direct Express card, then you also qualify for free wireless service with Lifeline. Apply now and start saving money every month!