Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who can open an ETA?
  2. What if I have bad credit?
  3. Can an ETA Provider refuse to open an ETA for me?
  4. Will my ETA be closed if I stop receiving a Federal payment?
  5. Can institutions such as investment or insurance companies open an ETA for me?
  6. How do I sign up for electronic deposit of my Federal payment into the ETA?
  7. Can an ETA be jointly held?
  8. Can a jointly held ETA receive two separate eligible payments?
  9. Does the ETA Provider tell me what my minimum balance must be?
  10. Can I only have my Federal Payment deposited into the ETA?
  11. Will I have to pay a fee for these other types of deposits?
  12. What happens if my payment is not the correct amount?
  13. Do I have to leave my money in this account all month after I receive it?
  14. Will I get personalized checks with an ETA?
  15. Do I get an ATM/debit card to use when I shop?
  16. How do I check my ETA balance? Is there a fee?
  17. Do I get a monthly paper statement mailed to me?
  18. Do I earn any interest on my ETA?
  19. What happens if I overdraw my ETA?
  20. What happens if I move? Must I keep my ETA with the same ETA Provider once it's opened?
  21. Can an ETA Provider close my ETA without my authorization?
  22. If my ETA Provider charges fees, how do I pay them?
  23. Can anyone else take money out of my ETA account? For example: garnishments or liens.

1. Who can open an ETA?

Any individual who receives a Federal benefit, wage, salary, or retirement payment is eligible to open an ETA at a participating bank, credit union, or savings and loan. Credit unions can offer ETAs, but a recipient must be eligible to be a member of that credit union in order to open an account there.  As a condition to opening an ETA, Federal credit unions may require that a recipient open and maintain a share account with a minimum balance, if such a requirement is imposed under Federal or State law.
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2. What if I have bad credit?

An ETA Provider is required to open an ETA for any recipient of a Federal benefit, wage, salary, or retirement payment regardless of credit history, unless the financial institution is aware that the individual previously held an ETA that was closed because of fraud at any financial institution,  or; the institution, for reasons of fraud or account misuse, previously closed an ETA held by the individual at that institution.
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3. Can an ETA Provider refuse to open an ETA for me?

Yes, if the financial institution is aware that the individual previously held an ETA that was closed because of fraud at any financial institution, or the institution, for reasons of fraud or account misuse, previously closed an ETA held by the individual at that institution.
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4. Will my ETA be closed if I stop receiving a Federal payment?

An ETA may remain open even if you stop receiving a Federal payment. Contact your ETA Provider to learn what their practices are.
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5. Can institutions such as investment or insurance companies open an ETA for me?

No. Only participating ETA providers can open an ETA account.

Only federally insured banks, credit unions, and savings and loans are allowed to participate in the ETA program. Investment companies, check cashing facilities, and other non-bank financial service providers cannot offer ETA accounts.
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6. How do I sign up for electronic deposit of my Federal payment into the ETA?

After opening an ETA account ask the provider to set up the direct deposit of your federal benefit(s) into your new ETA account.

If your provider cannot assist you with direct deposit, please contact the Go Direct Helpline at (800) 333-1795 to sign up for direct deposit.

For direct deposit sign up you will need:

  • 9-digit bank routing number
  • Account number
  • 12-digit federal benefit check number or your claim number
  • Dollar amount of your most recent benefit check
  • Social Security number of the benefit recipient(s)
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7. Can an ETA be jointly held?

Yes, at the discretion of the financial institution. The recipient's name does not have to be the only name in the title of the ETA. The ETA account can also be held by a representative payee receiving payments on behalf of another individual.
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8. Can a jointly held ETA receive two separate eligible payments?

Yes, it can. However, offering a joint ETA account is at the discretion of the ETA Provider.
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9. Does the ETA Provider tell me what my minimum balance must be?

No minimum balance is required for an ETA unless required by Federal or State law. For example, credit unions may require that a balance of a membership share be maintained.
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10. Can I only have my Federal Payment deposited into the ETA?

Deposits may be limited by the ETA Provider to Federal benefit, wage, salary, or retirement payments paid electronically. Other types of deposits (e.g., checks, cash, and/or other electronic deposits including State benefits deposited electronically) may be allowed at the option of the ETA Provider.

Check with the ETA Provider to learn if it allows other types of deposits to the ETA account.
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11. Will I have to pay a fee for these other types of deposits?

No. An ETA Provider is not permitted to charge any fee in connection with allowing deposits of other funds into an ETA. Check with the ETA Provider to learn if it allows other types of deposits.
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12. What happens if my payment is not the correct amount?

If the direct deposit amount of your benefit is incorrect, then you must contact your paying agency.
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13. Do I have to leave my money in this account all month after I receive it?

No. You may withdraw money from your ETA account on the day it is deposited. Providers must allow their ETA customers a minimum of four (4) free withdrawals per month (some may allow more). Check with the ETA Provider to learn how many withdrawals are allowed.
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14. Will I get personalized checks with an ETA?

No. There are no check-writing privileges with an ETA account.
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15. Do I get an ATM/debit card to use when I shop?

Most ETA Providers allow ATM withdrawals. Check with the ETA Provider to learn if it offers ATM services and, if so, the locations of its ATMs. There may be extra fees charged for using an ATM not owned by the ETA Provider.

On-line Point-of-Sale (POS) access using debit cards is available to ETA customers at no extra charge if the ETA Provider is part of an on-line POS network and it offers this access to its other customers.  Check with the ETA Provider to learn if it offers on-line POS access. ETA customers will be responsible for any fees for POS use that may be imposed by individual merchants.
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16. How do I check my ETA balance? Is there a fee?

There are several ways to check your ETA account balance. Contact your ETA Provider to learn how. ETA Providers must allow their ETA customers a minimum of four (4) free balance inquiries per month by whatever means used for providing balance information to other customers.
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17. Do I get a monthly paper statement mailed to me?

Yes. ETA Providers must provide monthly statements to their ETA customers at no extra charge.
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18. Do I earn any interest on my ETA?

An ETA may earn interest at the discretion of the bank, credit union, or savings and loan offering the ETA. An ETA Provider may charge a higher monthly fee for an interest bearing ETA than it charges for a non-interest bearing ETA, but in no case may it charge a monthly fee in excess of $3.00.  Check with the ETA Provider to learn if it offers interest on the ETA.
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19. What happens if I overdraw my ETA?

It’s very difficult to over draw an ETA. If you do, there is a maximum charge of $10 for overdrafts that have occurred during a 24-hour period.
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20. What happens if I move? Must I keep my ETA with the same ETA Provider once it's opened?

An ETA customer can close an ETA by notifying the ETA Provider AND paying agency (e.g., Social Security Administration) so that other payment arrangements can be made (e.g., electronic deposit to another account).
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21. Can an ETA Provider close my ETA without my authorization?

An ETA Provider may close an ETA for fraud or account misuse. If the ETA Provider terminates its agreement with the Treasury, the ETA Provider must stop opening ETAs.  In addition, it must close existing ETAs in a manner that allows for the orderly transfer of the ETAs to another type of account or another ETA Provider.
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22. If my ETA Provider charges fees, how do I pay them?

Monthly fees are the responsibility of the ETA customer (the recipient of the Federal benefit, wage, salary or retirement payment). Once the ETA is opened, the monthly account maintenance fee may be charged in accordance with the standard billing procedure of the bank, credit union, or savings and loan.  Monthly fees may be deducted from the ETA automatically. Check with the ETA Provider to learn how to pay fees associated with your ETA.
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23. Can anyone else take money out of my ETA account? For example: garnishments or liens.

Federal benefit payments deposited to an ETA account are generally protected from attachment. However, federal benefits are garnishable by the IRS, Child Support and Alimony. Providers opening ETAs must inform you on the types of funds that are not attachable and whom to call for more information.
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