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Federal Checks Will Soon Go Direct

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The deadline for setting up electronic payments for federal checks is approaching

If you are receiving checks by mail for VA, Social Security, other federal benefits or nontax payments, you should know that you will soon be required to switch to electronic payments. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is mandating that this change take place before March 1, 2013. People applying for new benefits will need to use e-payments from the get-go, so it is important to learn what they entail before applying.

The small hassle of switching to electronic payments is far outweighed by the benefits. People receiving e-payments will quickly see just how convenient and helpful they are.

"Electronic payments are safer and more convenient than paper checks, and give you more control of your money," according to the website Go Direct.

"You don't have to worry about your check being lost or stolen, and your money is available immediately on your payment date," says Michael J. Astrue, commissioner of Social Security, who also highlights the benefits of not having to wait by the mailbox for your check to arrive.

Although the switch is mandatory for everyone except some people over 90 and in remote areas, you have a choice regarding the way in which you receive the payments. For many people, the most convenient option will be to have money directly deposited to an account at a bank or credit union. The second option is to have the money applied to your Direct Express Debit MasterCard.

One important thing to note is that if you have not signed up for e-payments by the deadline, the Direct Express card may be chosen for you and mailed to your address. It is important, therefore, to apply on time if you prefer your checks deposited into your bank account. Basic use of the card is free of overdraft, monthly and opening fees. There are a few small fees for optional services, according to the Ledger.

This new system will also benefit the government, with savings that get passed on to taxpayers.

"Electronic payments also will provide significant savings to American taxpayers who will no longer incur the $120 million a year price tag associated with paper checks and save $1 billion over the next ten years," according to a Social Security press release. "Eliminating paper checks also will provide positive benefits to the environment, saving 12 million pounds of paper in the first five years alone."

Safety, convenience, speed and environmental friendliness — switching to electronic payments is a great move. A simple phone call or online application will save you the repeat hassle of making constant mailbox visits, keeping track of your checks and making frequent trips to the bank. Furthermore, you won't have to worry that someone will steal your check from your mailbox. Direct electronic payments are a win for everyone. Information on making the switch online or by phone can be found at the Go Direct website: http://www.godirect.org/.

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