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You can receive Security Benefits either of three ways (click on the links to learn about the subject):

Social Security strongly recommends that everyone receive their benefit by direct deposit either into their own account or into an ETA. These systems assure that payments arrive on time and are not stolen from a mail box.

To find out when to expect payments from Social Security, see: Social Security Payment: When You Will Receive.

Electronic Transfer Account

To encourage the use of Direct Deposit, the Department of the Treasury introduced an easy and affordable option to opening a checking account if you don't have one. The account is known as an Electronic Transfer Account (ETA).

The ETA account, which provides the full range of consumer protections, is available to any one who receives a Federal benefit, including Social Security Disability, Social Security Retirement Income and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

ETA is available through participating Federally insured financial institutions, including banks, savings and loans, and credit unions.

Features of an ETA include:

  • No minimum balance, unless the law requires it.
  • A minimum of four cash withdrawals per month have to be permitted.
  • A monthly statement listing all deposits and withdrawals.
  • Your bank, savings and loan, or credit union will tell you whether you can get your money from a teller, an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or both. Note: it may cost you extra to use ATMs at certain locations.
  • A maximum cost of $3.00 per month.
  • Federal insurance of the account.

For more information about ETA or to locate an ETA provider near you, visit the Department of the Treasury ETA website at offsite link or contact the ETA call center toll free at 888.382.3311. Note: Social Security uses both ETA and ETASM when referring to Electronic Transfer Accounts. Both refer to the same type of special bank account created for Social Security beneficiaries.

Direct Deposit of Social Security Benefit Payments

What is Direct Deposit?

With direct deposit, the U.S. Treasury sends an electronic message to your bank, savings and loan or credit union crediting your account with the exact amount of your Social Security benefit. There is no check involved. You don't have to do anything -- the money automatically appears in your account.

You can withdraw money, put some in savings or pay bills -- any thing you do with your money now. The only difference there is no check mailed to you. Because there is no check, it can't be lost or stolen.

The advantages of Direct Deposit

Direct Deposit:

  • Is safe. Crime against mail carriers and people collecting Social Security increases around the first of the month because that is when everyone used to receive their Social Security payments.
  • Is dependable. You also don't have to worry about checks getting lost in the mail.
  • Provides immediate access to your cash.
  • Is convenient. You don't have to deposit checks yourself or go to the grocery store to cash your check.

The disadvantages of Direct Deposit

  • You need to have a checking account (but see Electronic Transfer Account below.)