How to avoid fees when using your stimulus payment prepaid debit card

Posted: 5 June 2020 1:48 pm
News

Woman with a wallet and debit card at the ATM.

Four million Americans are set to receive this card — follow these tips when using it to keep more money in your wallet.

Over the last few weeks, millions of economic impact payments were sent out to qualifying Americans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

If you weren’t signed up for direct deposit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you may have received your payment in the form of a paper check or prepaid debit card in the mail.

“Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement last month. “Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”

Approximately four million Americans can expect to receive one of these prepaid debit cards in the mail, which began being sent out mid-May. While many Americans believed these debit cards were a scam or junk mail, they are in fact legit.

Be on the lookout for a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services. Along with the card, you should receive a letter from the US Treasury, instructions for activating your card and the MetaBank fee schedule.

Here’s an example from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of what your card should look like.

Front and back image of the stimulus payment prepaid debit card.

Once you’ve confirmed your card is legit and you’re ready to start using it, follow a few tips to avoid fees eating away at your funds.

How to activate your card

You can activate your card online or over the phone. Every household only receives one card, and the primary cardholder must activate it.

Follow these steps to activate it over the phone:

  1. Call 1-800-240-8100 (TTY: 1-800-241-9100)
  2. Give your name, address and Social Security number to validate your identity
  3. Create a 4-digit PIN so you can withdraw cash at an ATM
  4. Check the balance so you know how much money you received

Once it’s activated, you’re free to use your card whenever you want. There aren’t any monthly maintenance or inactivity fees, and your money will never expire. If you don’t use all of your funds before the expiration date on your card, reach out to Money Network customer service to request a refund check for the remaining balance.

How to check your balance without paying a fee

You can check your balance as often as you’d like for free three different ways:

  • Online. Visit EIPCard.com and create an account.
  • Over the phone. Call 1-800-240-8100 (TTY: 1-800-241-9100) and use the automated voice response system.
  • Mobile app. Download the Money Network Mobile App at the App Store or Google Play and create an account.

If you check your balance at any ATM — no matter if it’s in-network or out-of-network — you’ll be charged a $0.25 fee.

How to withdraw cash without paying a fee

You have a few ways to withdraw cash from your card without paying a fee:

  • Use an AllPoint ATM. You can find an in-network ATM by using the ATM locator online or on the Money Network Mobile App.
  • Get cash back at participating stores. If the store allows you to get cash back, select Debit on the keypad, enter your four-digit PIN, select Yes to get cash back and finally enter the amount you’d like to receive.
  • Request a Money Network Check and cash it at a participating location. You can request a check by calling Money Network customer service at 1-800-240-8100 (TTY: 1-800-241-9100) and then cashing the check at a participating check-cashing location for no fee.

If you choose to use an out-of-network ATM in the US to withdraw cash, your first withdrawal is free. And every one after that is $2 per withdrawal. International ATM withdrawals come with a $3 fee.

You can also withdraw cash from a bank or teller. While the first withdrawal is free, every one after that comes with a $5 fee.

How to transfer money to your personal account without paying a fee

To transfer money to your personal account without paying a fee, log in to your account at EIPCard.com and provide your routing and account number for where you’d like the funds transferred.

If you want to transfer the funds to an existing personal prepaid card, first check that it accepts transfers by logging in to your account or calling customer service. If it does, you can provide the routing and account number for your personal prepaid card by logging in to your account on EIPCard.com.

Many apps like Venmo and Paypal will accept your economic impact payment card as a source of funding. However, you’ll need to check the app for instructions on how to do this without paying a fee.

How to pay a bill that doesn’t accept prepaid debit card payments

You can pay bills that don’t accept prepaid debit card payments by requesting a Money Network check. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Call customer service at 1-800-240-8100 (TTY: 1-800-241-9100) to request a check.
  2. Double-check your balance to ensure you have enough funds to cover your payment.
  3. When you receive the check, fill out the date, dollar amount and the name of who you’re paying.
  4. Activate your check by calling 1-800-240-8100 (TTY: 1-800-241-9100) and entering your check number, digit and amount.
  5. Write down the issuer number and transaction number given to you by the automated phone system.
  6. Once your check is activated, the payment will be immediately deducted from your account and you can send the check to your creditor.

What to do if your card is lost or stolen

If your card is permanently lost or stolen, call Money Network customer service immediately at 1-800-240-8100 (TTY: 1-800-241-9100) to report it. Your card will then be deactivated so nobody can access your funds and you can request a replacement card.

Your first replacement card is free, though you’ll be charged $7.50 for each additional replacement card. And you’ll also be on the hook for an additional $17 fee if you need it expedited.

If you think you simply misplaced your card, you can lock your account at EIPCard.com to prevent unauthorized transactions while you look for it.

3 tips for making the most of your prepaid debit card

Avoid fees and declined transactions by following a few tips when using your prepaid card:

  • Don’t ask the ATM to show your debit card balance. You’ll be charged a $0.25 fee every time — regardless of whether you’re using an in-network ATM.
  • If you’re using your card to pay for gas, prepay instead of paying at the pump. Many gas stations use a preauthorization, which puts a temporary hold on your account that could be greater than your transaction amount and can take up to 10 business days to be released back to you.
  • Keep an eye on your balance by checking it for free online or on the app. Unlike a checking account debit card or credit card, you can’t overdraft or spend more than your available balance. If you don’t have enough money in your account, the transaction will likely be declined.

Picture: Getty Images, CFPB

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