Fact Checked

Don’t mistake your stimulus debit card for junk mail

Hands flipping through mail to check for a stimulus debit cardImage: Hands flipping through mail to check for a stimulus debit card

In a Nutshell

Prepaid stimulus debit cards are being mailed to millions of Americans in plain envelopes that could be mistaken for junk mail or a scam. These cards are going out to some qualified individuals whose bank information isn’t on file with the IRS. If you’re expecting a stimulus payment and haven’t received it yet, look out for a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services, which is mailing out the debit cards on behalf of the Treasury Department.
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It might look like junk mail, but that plain envelope in your mailbox could be your coronavirus stimulus debit card.

The Treasury Department started mailing economic impact payment prepaid debit cards — rather than paper checks — to 4 million Americans last month. The cards are going out to certain taxpayers without bank information on file with the IRS.

Though these stimulus debit cards can provide much-needed financial relief, the nondescript envelopes are pretty easy to mistake for junk mail. They may also resemble one of the common stimulus check scams cropping up across the country.

If you’ve been waiting for a stimulus payment and you get a plain letter in the mail, don’t throw it away just yet. It may be your legitimate stimulus debit card if …

  • The envelope is addressed from “Money Network Cardholder Services.”
  • The envelope doesn’t have any distinctive government labels or agency return address.
  • The Visa logo appears on the front of the card, while the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank, N.A.

The one-time direct payments of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples who file a joint tax return are part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. Up to an additional $500 is available for each qualifying child. 

If you receive a debit card preloaded with a smaller amount, that may not be a mistake. Rebate amounts may be less for people with income at certain levels.

What to do if you accidentally threw away your stimulus debit card

Did you lose your stimulus debit card or suspect you may have thrown it away? You can call 800-240-8100 for a replacement. Your first replacement card is free, but subsequent cards cost $7.50. There is a $17 charge for priority shipping.

Why a stimulus debit card rather than a check?

The Treasury Department said last month that it had delivered more than 140 million stimulus payments worth $239 billion by check, direct deposit and Direct Express card accounts.

Issuing prepaid cards is seen as a potentially faster way to get money into people’s hands.

“Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a May 18, 2020, statement.

How to use your stimulus debit card

Economic impact payment cards must first be activated online or by phone. Upon card activation, you’ll be able to make purchases online and at retail locations that accept Visa. You can also receive cash from in-network ATMs and transfer funds to your personal bank account without incurring fees.

The mailing from MetaBank includes additional instructions on how to activate and use the card. But if you’d like to learn more about how to get started and check your balance, you can visit EIPcard.com.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers some helpful tips on how to avoid paying fees when using your card.

What’s next?

If you’re expecting stimulus money and haven’t received it yet, there could be a number of causes for the delay. We’ve outlined some of the most common reasons why the federal government may not have paid you yet — or hasn’t paid you what you expected.

To check on the status of your stimulus payment, you can visit this IRS webpage.

Finally, the IRS is urging taxpayers to be on the lookout for phone calls and email phishing scams tied to the stimulus payments, which make a tempting target for would-be scammers. Be skeptical of anyone requesting money or personal information (like your Social Security number) by email, text message, website or social media.

About the author: Brad Hanson is a senior editor at Credit Karma. His 30 years of experience in print and digital media includes work for the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, Trucks.com and Polyvore. Most recently before… Read more.