While most people have gotten their 2020 economic stimulus payments via direct deposits or checks, some 4 million payments are being made by prepaid debit card, and it appears to have caused some confusion.
The cards, which arrive in a plain envelope, are sometimes being mistaken for junk mail or a possible scam, according to media reports. But rest assured, they are legitimate, and you should make sure not to throw them away. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s an Economic Impact Payment?
The stimulus payments, known as Economic Impact Payments, were a key provision of the federal CARES Act, a package of emergency measures designed by the government to provide financial relief amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Depending on income, qualifying U.S. citizens and residents are eligible for up to $1,200 each (or up to $2,400 if they are a married couple who files their taxes jointly), plus $500 per dependent child under age 17. Non-residents and those without a valid Social Security number are among those who are not eligible.
If you have an adjusted gross income (AGI) within certain ceilings (no higher than $75,000 to $150,000, depending on tax filing status), you are eligible to receive the full $1,200 or $2,400. Payment amounts decline according to income when your AGI is over those limits. If your AGI exceeds the maximum thresholds ($99,000 to $198,000), you won’t receive anything.
Those who don’t make enough to file a tax return are eligible for Economic Impact Payments and should use the Non-Filers Enter Payment Info Here tool on the IRS website.
What’s an EIP Card?
The logistics of the Economic Impact Payment depend largely on how and when you’ve filed taxes. If you set up direct deposit through the Internal Revenue Service for your 2018 or 2019 tax return, the stimulus payment goes directly to your bank account. If you didn’t set up direct deposit, your payment is typically mailed to you as a paper check, or in some circumstances, as a prepaid debit card.
The EIP Card is sent out in a plain envelope from "Money Network Cardholder Services." The card looks like any other prepaid debit card, with the Visa name on the front and the issuing bank, MetaBank, listed on the back. The envelope will also include information explaining this is your EIP Card.
If you get one of these cards in the mail, here's what you'll need to do:
- Use the phone number provided to activate your card, create a secure four-digit PIN, and check your balance
- Sign the back of your card and keep it in a safe place
- Review the cardholder agreement and fee schedule provided so that you aren’t surprised by ATM fees or other rules
Remember, this is a prepaid debit card, so it's not drawing from your bank account. The government funds have been loaded onto the card, and as you make purchases or withdrawals, your balance is reduced by those amounts. It’s also not reloadable, meaning you can't add more funds to it.
The IRS has an online tool, called Get My Payment, which lets you check the status of your Economic Impact Payment. However, watch out: It may say you’ll be getting a check when you’re getting a debit card, according to the IRS.
How To Use Your EIP Card
If you receive an EIP Card, there are multiple ways you can use it to access your stimulus payment.
Get Cash at an ATM
You can use your EIP Card at an ATM to withdraw cash. There's no fee to withdraw cash at in-network ATMs carrying the Allpoint brand, but you will be charged a $2 fee for each out-of-network ATM withdrawal, plus any fees the ATM's operator may charge. Just use your PIN, select the “withdraw” option, and choose to withdraw from “checking.” There is a $1,000 withdrawal limit per transaction and per day, unless the associated bank sets a lower limit.
Make Purchases With the Card
Your EIP Card can be used to make purchases anywhere that accepts Visa debit cards, including online. Just enter your four-digit PIN at checkout.
Request Cash Back
You can use your card to get cash back when making purchases in almost the same way. Use your PIN, select “yes” for cash back, then specify how much cash you want, just as you would with a standard debit card. Keep in mind many stores have limits on how much cash back you can receive per transaction ($40 or $100, for example).
Deposit Into Your Bank Account
You can move money from your card to your bank account using an ACH transfer that typically posts in one to two business days. You can execute this transfer online at EIPCard.com or after downloading the Money Network mobile app. Just follow these steps:
- Click on “Register” and create a user ID and password.
- Follow the prompts for “Move Money Out.”
- Make sure to have your bank account and routing number handy.
- Keep in mind the limit on ACH transfers to a bank account is $2,500 per transaction, per day.
Get Cash at a Bank Branch
While getting cash from a teller at a bank branch is another option, be mindful that fees may apply. There is no fee the first time you do this with your card, but after that, you’ll be charged $5 per transaction. That doesn’t include any possible fees you may be charged by the bank you choose.
Keep in mind you'll need to tell the teller how much you want to withdraw (the teller won’t be able to inform you of your balance) and provide your PIN. You may also be asked for an additional ID. Again, the regular limit for cash withdrawals is $2,500 per transaction per day, although the bank may impose a lower limit.
How To Replace a Lost EIP Card
If you lose your EIP Card (or throw it away because you didn't realize what it was for), it’s not the end of the world. You can have it replaced.
First, call 1-800-240-8100 and choose the “Lost/Stolen” option. Your card will then be deactivated so no one else can use it. A new one will be mailed to you. There is no fee to replace the card once, but if it happens a second time, you would have to pay $7.50 for a replacement. In addition, if you need the funds right away, priority shipping for a replacement card costs $17.
- Check your card balance by logging in at EIPCard.com, calling 1-800-240-8100 (you’ll get an automated line), or downloading the Money Network mobile app.
- Use the ATM Locator Tool at EIPCard.com to find ATMs that won’t charge a fee.
- Call 1-800-240-8100 or visit EIPcard.com if your name is incorrect on your EIP Card. In some cases (if it was issued in your maiden name rather than your married name, for instance), the payee can still activate the card, according to the IRS.
- Go to EIPcard.com’s FAQ page for answers to many common questions about how to access your money.
- Visit the IRS’s online resource, the Economic Impact Payment Information Center, for more details on the stimulus program.