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Fact sheet for Direct Express cards

Fact sheet for Direct Express cards

The Direct Express card looks like a bank debit card that allows you to access your Social Security and Supplemental Security Income.  The money is held in an account, and you can withdraw it or spend it by using the card.  You will no longer need to worry about the security of your checks in the mail, or the cost and time it will take to cash in your checks.  Also, the Department of Treasury has negotiated certain protections with Comerica, who issues the card.  Among these protections are lower fees than those you may find with other prepaid cards.   

Questions for Recipients to Ask about Direct Express

1.  How can I obtain a Direct Express card? 
You can sign up for a Direct Express card either by phone (877) 212-9991 or on-line at www.USDirectExpress.com. Comerica then lets the Social Security Administration (SSA) know you have signed up for an account and SSA provides Comerica with the information they need to send your benefits to the account.   

Once you obtain your card, you will need to activate the card.  Be sure to choose a secure PIN (Personal Identification Number).  You will be using this 4 digit number for many transactions. *Avoid choosing an obvious PIN, such as your birth date or part of your address

2.  Do I need a bank account to get a Direct Express card?
No.  You do not need a bank account to obtain a Direct Express card.  The Direct Express account only holds your Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits.   You cannot overdraw money from this account or obtain a line of credit on this account. 

3.  How can I get access to my money with the Direct Express card? 
There are a few ways you can access your SS and SSI benefits for free when using the Direct Express card.  You can: withdraw money at a Direct Express network ATM; withdraw money in person at a bank or credit union displaying the Mastercard logo; or, get cashback with purchases.

  • ATM

You can withdraw cash from a Direct Express network ATM for free once a month. To find a network ATM near you, you can call 1-800-741-1115 or go on-line to www.USDirectExpress.com and use the “ATM Locator” feature.  (If you do not use your free ATM withdrawal in the month, it will transfer over to the next month)  Additional cash withdrawals at network ATMs are 90 cents each.

If you use a non-network ATM, you may have to pay two fees.  First, if you are making additional withdrawals during the month, you will pay Comerica a 90 cent fee.  Second, you may be charged a surcharge fee if you are using a non-network ATM.  A notice posted on the non-network ATM should tell you how much the surcharge fee will be before you decide to withdraw money. 

If you use an ATM outside the U.S., you will be charged an additional $3 and 3% of the amount withdrawn by Comerica.  Again, you may also have to pay an additional surcharge fee for withdrawing money from a non-network ATM. 

Although Comerica does not set a limit on the number of ATM withdrawals you can make with the Direct Express card, there may be a dollar limit on how much you can withdraw from certain ATMs. 

  • Bank Teller/Credit Union Teller

You can go into a bank or credit union that displays the Mastercard logo to withdraw cash for free. 

  • Cashback with Purchases

Although you will not be charged a fee by Comerica, the merchant might.  Ask if they provide cash back with purchases for free.  Note that some merchants may also charge you a fee for using a debit card to pay for goods or services. 

4.  How do I check the balance on my Direct Express card? 
You can check your balance at a Direct Express network ATM, on-line at www.USDirectExpress.com, or by phone for free. You may also request a monthly statement to be mailed to you for a fee of 75 cents per month.  

5.  How can I use the Direct Express card to pay my bills? 
You can purchase money orders using your Direct Express card from the US Postal Service.  You can also pay your bills on-line where Mastercard is accepted.  On-line bill pay costs 50 cents for each payment. 

6.  Can I add money to my Direct Express card? 
No.  You cannot add money to your Direct Express card. 

7.  How can I manage my Direct Express card account funds better? 
There are some good features that may help you save money with the Direct Express card, such as no overdraft fees or monthly fees required to use the card.  These terms were negotiated with the Department of Treasury.  You may not get the same advantages with other prepaid or debit cards.    

Here are a couple additional good tips to keep in mind when using the Direct Express card:

  • Debit Holds

Debit “holds” or debit “blocking” happens when a certain amount of money is frozen in your account until the actual transaction amount goes through. For instance, if you use your Direct Express card to pay at the pump for a tank of gas, an extra amount (sometimes on top of the cost for your fill-up) may be held in your account for about 3 business days. That means, you won’t be able to use the held money until the transaction is processed. 

You should be aware that debit holds may be placed on your account when using the Direct Express card at the pump at gas stations, at hotels, car rentals and restaurants.  You can avoid debit holds or debit blocking at gas stations by going inside the station to pay. 

  • Low Balance Alerts

You can set up an alert by email, phone or text message to notify you that your account balance is getting low. 

8.  Will my Direct Express account funds be protected if my card is lost or stolen?  Comerica will provide similar protections as those provided under Regulation E.  The amount of money you will lose depends on how quickly you discover and report your lost or stolen Direct Express card. 

If you contact Comerica about your lost or stolen Direct Express card within 2 business days, you may lose up to $50.  If you do not report your lost or stolen card to Comerica within 2 business days, you may lose up to $500 for those unauthorized charge(s) made until you contacted Comerica. 

If you find unauthorized charge(s) on your statement, but your card wasn’t lost or stolen, you need to contact Comerica within 90 days to limit your loss to $500.  (For other debit cards, you will need to contact the card’s issuer within 60 days to limit your loss to $500.  The Department of Treasury negotiated an extra 30 days of protection for the Direct Express card).  If you don’t report the unauthorized charge(s) until after 90 days, you may be responsible for all of the charges made after the 90 days and until you contact Comerica. 

Also, Mastercard provides a “Zero Liability” policy.  The “Zero Liability” policy protects you as long as you have not used the policy more than twice in a year, your Direct Express account is in good standing, and you’ve kept your card safe. 

9.  What about my privacy? 
Under the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the federal government is not allowed to ask questions about your account, and Comerica is not allowed to give the government information about your account without your written permission.  Your sensitive information, including your personal and financial information, should be kept confidential under the Social Security Administration, Treasury Department and Comerica Bank’s privacy policies. 

10.  Can I get all the information about the card, including customer service, in a primary language other than English? 
Yes.  You can obtain information about the Direct Express account in both English and in Spanish.  Comerica also offers translation services in other languages. 

11. What are some fees I may be charged for when using the Direct Express card?



One monthly in-network ATM withdrawal


Withdrawals from bank or credit union teller


ATM balance inquiry


On-line account access


Cash back with purchase


Purchases at stores in U.S.


Customer service calls


Free card each year





Additional in-network ATM withdrawals

90 cents each withdrawal after the 1st

Non-network ATM withdrawal

See notice on ATM for surcharge fee
*will have additional 90 cent fee if you have already withdrawn money during the month.

On-line bill pay

50 cents each payment

Monthly paper statement mailed to you (must be requested)

75 cents each statement

Card replacement after one free each year

$4.00 each

Outside of US ATM withdrawal

See notice on ATM for surcharge fee
*will have additional $3 fee AND 3% the withdrawn amount

Outside of US Purchases at Stores

3% of the purchase amount

12.  How is the Direct Express card different from other prepaid cards?
You are likely to save more money by using the Direct Express card than other prepaid cards.  The Department of Treasury has negotiated lower fees and protections you likely will not receive with other prepaid or debit cards on the market.  For instance, the Direct Express card does not have activation fees, monthly fees, and other fees that many prepaid cards have.  Also, the Direct Express card has Regulation E protections, which may limit how much money you may lose if your card is lost or stolen (see Answer to Question #8 for more information). 

13.  Can my Social Security benefits in my Direct Express account be garnished?
Your Social Security benefits should be safe from garnishment in your Direct Express account.  The exception is when these funds can be taken for child support or other reasons allowed by federal or state law.