U.S. Treasury Mandate

Effective March 1, 2013, anyone receiving a federal benefit payment must choose an electronic payment option -  such as direct deposit into an ETA.   The move to all-electronic federal benefit payments provides significant savings to American taxpayers who will no longer incur the $120 million price tag associated with paper checks. Electronic payments also are safer, easier and more convenient for benefit recipients.

Original 31 CFR Part 208 Management of Federal Agency Disbursements, Final Rule

On September 25, 1998, Treasury issued 31 CFR Part 208, which provides, in part, that any individual who receives a Federal benefit, wage, salary, or retirement payment shall be eligible to open an account called an ETA at any federally insured financial institution that chooses to offer ETAs.   On November 23, 1998, Treasury published for comment in the Federal Register a notice setting forth proposed terms, conditions, and attributes of the ETA.  Based on the comments received, Treasury has developed a listing of required attributes and optional features for the ETA, which are the subject of this notice. An appendix to this notice is the Financial Agency Agreement that Treasury enters with each financial institution that elects to offer ETAs.

FINAL NOTICE: [Federal Register: July 16, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 136) pg 38510]

Amendment 31 CFR Part 208 Management of Federal Agency Disbursements, Final Rule

The final rule, published on December 21, 2010, amends 31 CFR Part 208 (Part 208) to require recipients of federal benefit and nontax payments to receive their payments by electronic funds transfer (EFT).

The rule required anyone who was awarded a federal benefit payment on or after May 1, 2011 to receive their payments electronically starting with their first payment. All other recipients were allowed to complete the switch to EFT payment by March 1, 2013.

Anyone who continues to receive a paper check is out of compliance with this law. Those who do not choose an electronic payment option may be automatically converted to the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard card, so they will not experience any interruption in payment.

People who are already receiving benefit payments electronically do not need to take action. They will continue to receive their payments as usual on payment day.

The Direct Express® card is a prepaid debit card program established pursuant to terms and conditions approved by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service.

FINAL NOTICE: [Federal Register: December 22, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 245) pg 80315]

People applying for federal benefit payments must choose an electronic payment option at the time they apply for the benefit. This will ensure they get their benefit payments in the safest, most reliable way possible – and avoid the inconvenience of making the switch later.

The Treasury Department's deadline to comply with the all-electronic payment requirement has passed, people who receive paper federal benefit checks can still comply with the law and switch to an electronic payment option.

To get benefit payments by direct deposit into an ETA, people should follow the steps below for a smooth enrollment:

  • Locate a financial institution  that offers the ETA account in your area or choose one of the providers that offers enrollments online or over the phone.
  • Contact your chosen financial institution to open an ETA.
  • Enroll your federal benefit payments in direct deposit when you open your ETA,   online  or by calling (800) 333-1795

People who currently receive federal benefits by paper check, should make the switch today to get their money a safer, more reliable way immediately.

If the benefit recipient already has a bank or credit union account, they should sign up for direct deposit   online   or by calling (800) 333-1795, or visiting their local bank/credit union branch or federal benefit agency office.

Click here for more information about an ETA.