How Do Unemployment Debit Cards Work?

unemployment debit card
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When you receive unemployment compensation, your benefits may be paid via a debit card (also known as a direct payment card or electronic payment card) provided by your state unemployment office.

When you file for unemployment,  you will be advised of the options available for receiving benefits. Most states no longer issue paper checks. In those locations, options for receiving unemployment benefits include a direct deposit transferred electronically to your bank account or benefits added to a bank debit card.

How Do Unemployment Debit Cards Work?

After you sign up, your card will be mailed to you, and you will need to activate it and set up a PIN in order for it to be funded. Once it's activated, it will be funded according to a schedule determined by your unemployment office.

Payments are typically made on a weekly or bi-weekly basis depending on your location. To find out how to sign up for or change unemployment payment options, check with your state unemployment office.

If your state unemployment office provides a debit card, it will work just like any other bank debit card. You will be able to withdraw cash at an ATM machine and use your card for purchases at stores and to pay bills. For example, you may be provided with a Chase Visa card, a Bank of America Mastercard, or another bank issued card.

When you use your card, it won’t be apparent that it’s an unemployment payment card.  Your card will be similar to a personal debit card.

The only difference is that it is funded with your unemployment compensation payments.

In addition, you may be able to transfer funds from your unemployment debit card to your bank account via a direct deposit transfer.

What to Do if You Don't Receive Payment

If your payment is more than a few days late, call your unemployment office.

They will be able to provide information on whether your payment has been processed and what to do if your payment is delayed or missing.

Avoid Unemployment Debit Card Scams

Unemployment debit card scams involve scammers who target unemployment recipients to get their unemployment debit card information so they can steal their unemployment benefits.

Unemployment offices do not ask for your personal information once your claim is set up. A phone call, email or text message requesting the following information is most likely a scam:

  • Social Security number
  • Bank Card/Direct Payment Card number
  • Direct Deposit account number
  • PIN number

To protect your privacy, not provide that information to a third party. Here's more on debit card scams and how to avoid them.

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