If you’re being extra vigilant about financial scams related to the CARES Act payments (and you should be!), you might be suspicious of a payment debit card in the mail—but it’s a legitimate government-approved delivery method.
This week the U.S. Treasury announced that they are sending out millions of Economic Impact Payment (EIP) stimulus checks not in check format, but via prepaid debit cards.
EIP Card recipients can make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs, and transfer funds to their personal bank account without incurring any fees. They can also check their card balance online, by mobile app, or by phone without incurring fees. The EIP Card can be used online, at ATMs, or at any retail location where Visa is accepted. This free prepaid card also provides consumer protections available to traditional bank account owners, including protections against fraud, loss, and other errors.
You can read more about the program at the official website for the EIP card here, and more about the impact payments in general at the IRS page here.
Not only does this seem like a novel way to get payments to people who don’t have an established relationship with a bank (and thus can’t get a direct deposit or easily cash a traditional check), it certainly feels like a setup for something bigger. While it’s always possible this was simply the method chosen to efficiently get money to “unbanked” people, it’s equally possibly this is a way to accomplish not just that but to easily deliver future payments and/or effectively provide a “bank”, debit card and all.
Either way, whether it ends up being a single payment or the beginning of something bigger, be sure to pay attention to your mail and don’t reflexively throw out an unexpected envelope with a familiar credit-card-shaped-lump in it on the premise that it’s just more junk mail with a fake “Call here to save!” card inside.