Direct Express® Debit Card Reaches New Milestone—2 Million Enrollments
By Andria Harrington, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
In June, Treasury's Financial Management Service (FMS) announced that it had reached an important milestone of 2 million enrollments for its Direct Express® Card program. In May 2010, FMS reached the milestone of one million enrollments, and now the program has more than 2 million enrollees. Today, we issue more than 1.5 million monthly payments to Direct Express® card accounts, and have cumulative deposits totaling more than $16.6 billion since the inception of the program.
The program, managed by FMS's Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Strategy Division, in Payment Management, was also recognized earlier this spring as a leader in the area of government operations and received the "Excellence in Improving the Operations of Government" award from the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory.
The Direct Express® card is an electronic payment option for people receiving federal benefits who do not have a bank account, or those who prefer to receive their payments on a prepaid debit card.
Direct Express works as follows. Recurring benefit payments are loaded to an account linked to the card and multiple benefit payments can be sent to the cardholder's account. Benefit recipients can use the Direct Express® card just like any other prepaid debit card—to pay bills, purchase necessities or goods, or get cash at an ATM or cash back at a point-of-sale terminal. It is possible for cardholders to use the card for free, as most fee-based services are optional services, such as paper statements mailed each month, replacement of lost cards beyond the annual one free card, transfer of funds to a personal U.S. bank account, etc.
The Direct Express card is a major part of Treasury's All-Electronic Initiative to convert all federal benefits to electronic payments. Earlier this spring, Treasury held a "Retire the Check" ceremony in which the Treasurer of the United States, Rosie Rios, signed a ceremonial check to the American taxpayers for $1 billion dollars; the amount that will be saved over the next 10 years by making all benefit payments electronic. In fiscal year 10, Treasury issued more than 130 million total benefit paper checks at $1.02 per check. Taxpayers stand to save more than $120 million dollars a year in costs associated with printing and mailing paper checks. News of the ceremony and other outreach efforts reached millions of Americans. Treasurer Rios conducted 21 radio interviews with top local and national news stations, and additionally, Treasury spokespeople Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard Gregg, Financial Management Service (FMS) Commissioner David Lebryk, and EFT Strategy Director Walt Henderson conducted more than 40 interviews in the week following the "Retire the Check" ceremony.
In further preparation for the March 1, 2013 deadline, when all benefits will be made electronically, FMS is ramping up efforts to reach check recipients through media coverage and an expanded use of check stuffers in check envelopes to encourage beneficiaries to enroll for direct deposit prior to the deadline.
To learn more about Direct Express® visit their Web site at: www.GoDirect.org.