Rail Retirement, Social Security benefits go electronic

April 11, 2011

Effective May 1, Social Security and Railroad Retirement checks for new recipients no longer will be mailed.

Instead, all benefits payments — retirement, survivor and disability — will go electronically to the recipients’ bank accounts via electronic direct deposit.

Those already receiving Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits via check through the postal service will have until March 1, 2013, to establish direct deposit at a financial institution, or arrange for the benefits to be credited to a debit card.

An advance notice of this change was posted on the UTU website in December. This is a reminder.

An exception will be made for those at least 90 years old and those living in remote areas. Those recipients may continue receiving benefits checks via the postal service indefinitely.

Already, eight of 10 benefits recipients receive benefits electronically through direct deposit.

Electronic payment eliminates the problem of lost or stolen checks, and makes it easier and more prompt for those away from home to ensure payments are available for use.

Beneficiaries who do not have bank or credit union accounts may obtain a Direct Express debit MasterCard by clicking on the following website:


Or, you may call (800) 333-1795.

For new Railroad Retirement and Social Security recipients, beginning May 1, payment must be accepted as electronic payments.

Beginning May 1, when new recipients apply for benefits, they will be asked to provide bank account information.

If an individual does not have a bank account, payments can be made through Treasury’s Direct Express debit card. The benefit amount will automatically be loaded onto the card, which carries a MasterCard logo and functions as an ordinary debit card.

The debit card may be used for cash withdrawals at a nationwide network of automated teller machines and point-of-sale purchases at most merchants and retailers.

By making electronic payments mandatory, the federal government will realize significant cost savings. Since it only costs 10.5 cents to issue an electronic payment, compared to $1.03 for a paper check, replacing the 136 million federal benefits checks issued in a year with electronic payments will save the federal government more than $120 million annually.