Internet Submitted Questions

Please submit questions by COB February 26, 2014 to ensure questions are addressed and posted before the submission deadline.

Internet Submitted Questions

  1. Q: Is there a priority or scoring process for the evaluation criteria, which can be provided to prospective applicants?
    A: The Fiscal Service does not plan to share our scoring methodology. All of the evaluation criteria listed in Section B, on page 4, will be evaluated.

  2. Q: In addition to the 35 page response, can an applicant submit an appendix (perhaps with Fiscal Service approved page limit) with program specific support materials?
    A: The applicant can submit up to 35 pages of substance, which includes any pages of materials that are part of an Appendix. Pages without any substance will not be counted toward the 35 pages (see Q3).

  3. Q: Will section dividers (tabs) count as part of the 35 page limit?
    A: No

  4. Q: Please further refine the parameters of materials outlined in these sections.
    A: In addition to the 35 pages allotted to Parts I and II, the Application may also contain a table of contents, pricing proposal charts, and sample debit card issuance, usage, and other types of reports; The financial institution may not submit any sales brochures, videos or other marketing information.

  5. Q: Might Fiscal Service outline the specific directives or confirm that the scope of security directives is series 85 of the directives list?
    A: Because the financial agent is not operating a Treasury system, as a general matter Treasury security directives (including TD 85) won’t be applicable. However, we are requiring th financial agent not to operate the program from an offshore location or utilize employees other than US citizens or lawful permanent residents. In addition, to the extent that the Financial Agent’s employees are given accounts to access Treasury systems, such as, but not limited to, systems used to deliver reports, those employees would be required to sign a Rules of Behavior statement and may also be required to take annual online security training not exceeding 2 hours in duration. In addition, any data that the Financial Agent transmits to Treasury must be encrypted using FIPS 140-2 validated encryption products.

  6. Q: What is the duration/term of the financial agent agreement?
    A: The term of the Financial Agency Agreement will be for a period of no less than 5 years.

  7. Q: Can you provide payment/value load information and number of cards annually and/or monthly specific to the Direct Express program?
    A: For the months of Oct-Dec 2013, the monthly average load value was $2.7B. For the same time period, there were an average of 4.8 million open/active accounts with an average of 207,846 new cards issued each month.

  8. Q: Can you please clarify if Tables A thru C represent calls to the IVR? In addition to Table D (which represents calls to call center agents during the last 4/first 3 days of the month), can you provide full month call volumes to the call center?
    A: Yes. Table D represents call volumes for the last 4/first 3 days of the month. As stated in the FASP document, customer service call volumes (and transactions), are not evenly distributed throughoutthe month. Call volumes (and transactions) typically peak on payment days at the beginning of the month and are often compressed to certain time periods on individual payment days. This situation is further exacerbated when benefit payment days occur on a weekend or holiday and are combined to a single business day.

  9. Q: Can you provide statistics on cardholder spending behavior? Please break down dollar amount and transaction count for all spending types, including Signature POS, PIN POS, ATM, teller cash, other.
    A: The majority of balance drawdown occurs via ATM, and teller cash. We cannot provide a further breakdown.

  10. Q: Can you provide estimated volumes for the number of rep payees with the current program, as well as the number of rep payees that have multiple disbursements loading to a single card?
    A: The Fiscal Service does not track this.

  11. Q: Can you clarify what an ACH non-dollar enrollment transaction is? Can you provide a sample of the standard batch enrollment file used or confirm that the FRB and paying agencies will use the Automated Enrollments (ENR) file specification? Can you clarify how the FRB and paying agencies prefer to transmit such enrollments to the financial agent? Can you confirm that the bank will only receive an enrollment once the beneficiary has been fully approved for benefits?
    A: Prenotifications and Automated Enrollments (ENR). For further batch enrollment information please visit the Fiscal Service’s Green Book, Files are transmitted in the following ACH file formats: CTX (with 5 addenda) and PPD (Prenote) outgoing to the financial agent and ENR incoming from the financial agent. In addition, the portal mentioned in 8.a.ii should allow the FRB to enter a benefit recipient’s data directly into the applicant’s systems. No, in some instances SSA will accept and begin processing a claims application, at which time enrollment information necessary to open a Direct Express account and send a Direct Express card to a recipient will be sent to the Financial Agent, and at a later time during the adjudication process that claim is denied.

  12. Q: Can you confirm that it is your direction that the financial agent shall open Direct Express accounts for ALL enrollees submitted by the FRB and paying agencies? Please confirm for the Direct Express program that it is your preference to only restrict account enrollment due to USA PATRIOT Act compliance as it pertains to OFAC and other money laundering regulations.
    A: Yes. If the Financial Agent is asked to open Direct Express accounts, the Financial Agent should open these accounts in accordance with their normal Customer Identification Program requirements.

  13. Q: In what circumstances would a prenote transaction be utilized along with an enrollment? Please clarify what the prenote transaction timing would be in relation to the desired service levels described in Appendix C (page 18), specifically that 98% of accounts must be set up within 2 business days and that 98% of cards must be issued within 3 business days.
    A: In the case of an enrollment by the FRB Dallas, a prenote is generated before the ENR is sent to the Agency and a card is issued. For enrollments initiated by a Federal agency, prenotes are used to issue cards. If a prenote doesn't occur before the deposit, a card is issued when the deposit comes in.

  14. Q: Please clarify what is meant by ENR Transmission – 99.9% verified deliverables were transmitted 1 business day late.
    A: The Service level should read, “99.9% verified, deliverables transmitted 1 business day later.”

  15. Q: Will Fiscal Service confirm if existing cardholders do not take any action that those cardholders will default to the new Direct Express card program as part of the transition?
    A: If a transition period is necessary, the incumbent bank must send a letter to the existing cardholder population outlining their options - - stay with the incumbent (if the incumbent decides to offer a product), move to the new Direct Express product, or arrange for direct deposit to another account. Cardholders who do not take any action will not be defaulted to the new Direct Express product or remain with the incumbent’s product. The Fiscal Service will coordinate efforts between the selected Financial Agent, the Federal Program agencies, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas to conduct outreach to the cardholder population who do not take any action.

  16. Q: Can Fiscal Service provide detail around loads from outside sources? Will these loads be included in Fiscal Service’s file or another ACH file? For recipients that receive loads from multiple sources, are the deposits sent as a lump sum or separate loads from each agency. If a lump sum deposit is made, is there a way to tell what portion of the funds come from specific agencies in order to assist with servicing?
    A: At this time, only Federal funds and some state issued funds are allowed on the Direct Express card (see page 10, Section 7.i.). If other files are received it is the expectation that those files will be blocked. If a cardholder receives deposits from multiple sources (i.e. multiple benefits from multiple paying agencies), those loads will all be made as separate deposits.

  17. Q: Can fees be charged to US merchants selling goods & services to cardholders? (What is often referred to as a Merchant Discount).
    A: Merchant fees on the Direct Express card are governed by Dodd Frank and the Federal Reserve's Regulation II. Direct Express is a government-administered payment program for purposes of Regulation II's exemption from debit interchange transaction fee restrictions, and merchant fees can be charged as permitted under Regulation II.

  18. Q: What entity is currently providing the core card issuing services?
    A: The current Fiscal Service agreement to issue Direct Express cards is with Comerica Bank as Financial Agent. It is the Financial Agent’s responsbility to use only its own employees to perform services under the agreement, unless the Financial Agent obtains written consent of the Fiscal Service to use contractors or other entities to perform such services.

  19. Q: If hard copies are to be delivered instead of electronic submission, how many hard copies are required? Can we assume that the hard copies can be hand delivered or courier delivered?
    A: Only 1 hard copy is required. It is preferred that hard copies be delivered via courier service. See the requirements document, page 15, for Application Submission options.

  20. Q: For those sections where detailed Project and Reference information is required, would the use of an Appendix be allowed in order to meet the page limit requirements?
    A: Refer to question #2 above.

  21. Q: The FASP states “…applicants must submit bids that are based on maintenance of the existing cardholder fee schedule (see Appendix D), except to the extent that an applicant contemplates reducing or eliminating one or more of the existing fees.” Please clarify if an applicant may charge a nominal fee or a new fee not currently charged in the existing program (ex. Emergency Check Fee or ATM denial fee) or if the existing fee schedule cannot be changed at all other than a potential reduction of existing fees.
    A: The existing fees schedule must be met, or improved upon. Therefore, no new fees can be added.

  22. Q: Please clarify if the new fiscal agent will be able to solicit existing direct express cardholders?
    A: Please see Question and Answer #15.

  23. Q: Can the Direct Express FASP Application be submitted by the issuer processor, or does the Application have to be submitted by the financial institution (that will be the issuer)?
    A: The application should be submitted by the Financial Agent. Please see the Direct Express requirements, page 4, Section IV, Financial Agent Selection Process, Subsection A, Legal Authority.

  24. Q: Can you provide more guidelines about the requirements to build a web-based portal utilized for sharing and processing enrollment information?
    A: The selected Financial Agent will be expected to work with the FRB-Dallas in order to build the functionality required to accept Direct Express enrollments taken at the FRB-Dallas call center.

  25. Q: Section 13. Can you provide further guidance for what you mean by “set-off” and can you please provide an example from the current product? Can you please clarify “activity unrelated to the debit card product”?
    A: "Set-off" (or offset) refers to the deduction of amounts owed by the cardholder from the balance on the card. For example, cardholder fees would typically be collected by deducting the fees from the balance on the card, or from amounts loaded onto the card. "Activity unrelated to the debit card product" refers to accounts or services other than the Direct Express card might be provided by the financial institution to the cardholder. For example, whether any amounts would be sought to be collected by offsetting a cardholder's Direct Express card balance if the cardholder had a past-due obligation on a car loan or credit card with the financial institution.

  26. Q: The RFP states that “Federal benefit payments disbursed by the Fiscal Service are to be the only source of funding for Direct Express® card accounts.” Would this prohibit an arrangement where the card used to access the Direct Express account serves as a dual access device that can access a separate account or a segregated subaccount that accepts funds from other sources?Opening and using a separate account or subaccount would be completely optional at the discretion of the cardholder.
    A: Yes, this prohibits all other dual access/sub-account arrangements.

  27. Q: Please confirm that the average load per card is $568 per month.
    A: The paying agencies are the source of this information. For a monthly statistical snapshot of SSA and SSI payments, including average dollar amounts, please visit, Monthly Statistical Snapshot.

  28. Q: What is the allowance for Teller distribution of cash?
    A: The following describes the expectation for the cardholder’s ability to withdraw funds at a bank or credit union branch or other ability to withdraw some or all funds off the card;
    The current Direct Express program follows MasterCard guidelines/procedures for over-the-counter (OTC) teller cash withdrawals. The Fiscal Service expectation is that this process will remain unchanged (i.e., the cardholders will have access to the full amount of the card balance or up to the amount allowed with no fee as allowed by card network guidelines/procedures).

  29. Q: Can you clarify if incident reporting is reported to card holders or to Fiscal Service or both?
    A: All system incidents are reported to the Fiscal Service by the Financial Agent within 24 hours of occurrence as required by the Financial Agency Agreement. Cardholder notification depends on the nature of the incident.

  30. Q: Will you describe how the ACH non-dollar enrollment transaction, the ENR formatted enrollment response, and the corresponding prenote interact in order to 1) facilitate card enrollment; 2) provide the underlying DDA and RTN to Fiscal Services, and 3) issue/mail the card to the beneficiary?
    A: A large Federal benefit agency currently enrolls its recipients for the Direct Express card by submitting a batch enrollment file via the ACH network to the Financial Agent. The Financial agent establishes a card account and submits an automated enrollment file (ENR) via the ACH network to the agency so it can update its payment file and ensure subsequent payments are sent tothe card account. The Federal agency updates their Master Beneficiary Records and sends a prenote to the Financial Agent. The prenote triggers card production and mailing. The prenote process existsas a way to ensure that the Direct Express card arrives before the benefit payment is issued.

    FRB Call Center Enrollment - Benefit recipients currently contact the FRB-Dallas to enroll for the Direct Express card. FRB-Dallas completes the enrollment by using a web portal to submit enrollment data directly to the agent. The financial agent establishes card account data and submits it back to FRB-Dallas via the web portal. The FRB-Dallas updates their original enrollment information with the updated account information for each enrollee and then creates and sends a prenote formatted file to the Financial Agent via ACH. The prenote triggers card production and mailing. The FRB Dallas then creates and sends an ENR file with enrollment information to the paying agencies for EFT set up.

  31. Q: What does the government define as an "ACH non-dollar enrollment transaction?" How will an enrolling federal agency use the routing and account information that an applicant provides in advance? Is the submission of advance routing and account information to an enrolling federal agency a requirement for this RFP, and if so, will there be a central point of contact for all federal agencies who receives that information?
    A: Please refer to Internet Submitted Questions #11 and #30.

  32. Q: Is the 40/60 splits based on dollars or transactions?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot beshared.

  33. Q: If transactions, what is the split on dollars?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  34. Q: What is the average ticket size at the POS?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  35. Q: What is the average dollar amount of ATM transactions?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  36. Q: What is the average duration of in-person service calls?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  37. Q: What is the average duration of IVR calls?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  38. Q: What is the distribution of the 15MM annual service calls between IVR and in-person?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  39. Q: What peak transactions per second at the ATM has the platform seen over 2012-2013?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  40. Q: What growth in peak transactions per second has been seen year over year?
    A: The requested information is provided to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service by the current Direct Express financial agent on a privileged and confidential basis. Therefore, the information cannot be shared.

  41. Q: What are the peak seasons for this business? Are there predictable cycles such as Christmas and other holidays? This is in addition to the beginning of the month cycle that has been mentioned already.
    A: Historically we have not witnessed any additional peak seasons for this business in addition to the predictable monthly pattern already referenced in both the requirements document and this Q&A List.

  42. Q: Section V.A.3. states: “Except for pricing information, the Application should not contain any information the financial institution deems proprietary or confidential; pricing information the financial institution considers proprietary or confidential should be marked as confidential commercial information’ on each page. No other information should be marked ‘proprietary‘ ‘confidential’ or with similar legends. ”Applicants are required to describe in some details processes and procedures they will employ to deliver the services sought in the Requirements for Applications. Much of this information is confidential, and potential applicants would take significant actions to protect the information from release to competitors. Can Fiscal Service clarify whether it is permissible for applicants to mark non-pricing information as confidential/proprietary such that competitors and others would not be entitled to obtain the information through means such as aFreedom of Information Act request?
    A: In the event the Fiscal Service receives a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, under FOIA Exemption 4, Trade Secrets and Commercial or Financial Information, the requested information would be subject to review by the Applicant so that they would have an opportunity to designate what they believe to be confidential/proprietary prior to the information being released.

  43. Q: Section V.F. allows for Application submission via courier mail. A courier will not deliver a package to the U.S. Department of Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service, without a contact name or number (of a person at the Bureau) to get through security. Could Fiscal Service please provide a contact name and number for the person who will be available and accepting submission of Applications via courier on February 28?
    A: Courier delivered packages can be delivered to Adam Martin, Bureau of the Fiscal Service, 401 14th St, SW, Washington, DC 20227, Room 305 B. If courier packages are delivered on Friday, 2/28, please contact Zora Rice, 202-874-7149.

   Last Updated:  March 14, 2014