November 06, 2020

7 Reasons Why the Stimulus Debit Cards Suck

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So I’ve talked about this a lot here on the channel, Treasury decided to go with stimulus debit cards, EIP Cards, to at least 4,000,000 Americans without bank account information on file with the IRS.

And I think this is a completely stupid idea.  And in this video I’m going to give you seven reasons why.

First of all, the stimulus debit cards were completely unexpected, and not enough time was given for the general public to be adequately informed about them.

On May 18, 10 days ago, the Department of the Treasury announced that it would be delivering 4,000,000 Americans’ stimulus payments via debit card.

This was a complete surprise.

For weeks, this is what Treasury and the IRS communicated to us: direct deposit, direct deposit, direct deposit, we’ll get your information from your tax return, we’ll get your information from Social Security or VA, if you don’t get a direct deposit, you’ll get a check.

Fine, OK.  Many of you received direct deposit, and those of you who didn’t, I think you accepted the fact that you’d probably be looking at a paper check.

And those of you receiving federal benefits administered by SSA or VA and received those benefits via direct deposit or Direct Express, IRS said for weeks, you will get your stimulus in the same way you get your benefits.

So I imagine that many folks even those who hadn’t yet received their stimulus tuned out stimulus news.  They thought, well, OK, that’s settled, it’ll come when it comes, and I’m not going to spend my time keeping up to date on everything Treasury says or everything that comes out of the mouth of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.

And so understandably many people didn’t pay attention to the news about the debit cards last week, and get this, cards went out last week and were delivered last week in the same week that they were just announced.

That is not enough time, people, not enough time, Treasury, especially considering my second point, which is

The envelopes look like a piece of junk mail, plain white envelope, “Money Network Cardholder Services”, PO Box 247022 Omaha, Nebraska 68124-7022.

Who’s heard of Money Network Cardholder Services?  You hear about a money network, and that just sounds like a scam.  I mean, my goodness, I don’t blame you at all if you saw this piece of mail and you threw it right in the trash without even opening it.

Now, I kinda get the low-key nature of these envelopes, maybe they were thinking we want to prevent mail theft so we don’t want to make it abundantly clear that there’s $1,200 in here, not sure.

But guess what?  When the IRS sends checks, it says right on the envelope return address, Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service.

But of course, this piece of mail wasn’t sent from the IRS, it was sent from Money Network Cardholder Services, which brings me to my third point

Third, somebody’s making money off of this.

You think Metabank is doing this all for free?

Nah, nah, Treasury’s paying them, Treasury is paying them our tax dollars to produce and distribute these confusing debit cards, and I hate that.

And they’re going to make money on fees, and I’ll tell you more about that later.

I mean, seriously, hat is wrong with direct deposit or paper check?  Plan A, which was either direct deposit or paper check, was not perfect by any means, the execution was not good for millions of Americans, but once you’ve reiterated for weeks upon weeks about Plan A — direct deposit or stimulus check — why you gotta go put this Plan B on us on short notice?

Fourth, the cards themselves don’t look legit.

It just says VISA Debit with the American flag stars on it.

Even if you open the very plain, unmarked envelope to see what’s inside, the card itself looks like it could just be a scam card, right, and thousands of Americans are cutting these cards up and tossing them, never to be seen again.

Last night I was talking to Sarah from Alabama who told me that she did this very thing, and she’s not alone.

And the thing that pisses me off about Sarah’s situation is that she’s on Social Security, and she gets her Social Security benefits direct deposited.

And the IRS has told us since beginning of April, if you’re on Social Security, unless you’re a new beneficiary in 2020 or unless you have to report qualifying children under the age of 17, the IRS has said that excluding those circumstances, if you’re on Social Security, you will get your stimulus in the same way that you get your benefits.

In Sarah’s case, that was a complete LIE.  Does Sarah get her benefits on a star-spangled debit card from Money Network Cardholder Services?

Nope.  She gets them direct deposited, IRS should have deposited her stimulus at the end of April, instead, she gets a poorly-announced, rushed debit card in the mail that she takes for spam, and she cuts it up and throws it away, never to be seen again.

Not any fault of her own, Treasury simply did a terrible job with this, they botched it.

And she’s not alone.

Fifth reason I don’t like these cards, they have withdrawal limits.

ATM withdrawal limit, $1,000 per transaction per day.

Some of you need cash for whatever reason, I typically wouldn’t advise you to carry around large amounts of cash, but maybe some of you pay your rent in cash or something like that, I don’t know, but whatever your reasons are, some of you out there need cash, some of you only operate in a world of cash.

And these cards limit you to $1,000 per day, you couldn’t even get your entire stimulus out in one transaction.

In terms of ACH transfers to domestic banks, $1,250 limit per transaction, $2,500 per day, $5,000 per month.  If you’re married with one kid and you make under the income limits, your stimulus is $2,900, you can’t even transfer that whole amount in one day to your bank, you’d have to do $2,500 today and $400 tomorrow.  It’s a joke.

Sixth reason I hate these cards, the fees.

Out-of-network ATM fee.  $0 for first withdrawal and then $2 per subsequent withdrawal.  I’m sorry, the people who need money NOW shouldn’t have to worry about which ATMs are in-network or out-of-network to get their government money.

And if you’re international, that’s $3.00.

ATM Balance Inquiry, whether in-network or out-of-network, $0.25.

Thank God they have a $0.00 fee for lost or stolen card reissuance, but it’s $7.50 for each subsequent reissued card.

And get this, it’s $17.00 for card replacement if you want it expedited, and you don’t get the first one free in that case.

Bank teller over-the-counter cash withdrawal.  Free for first withdrawal, or they’re so generous, and $5.00 per subsequent withdrawal.

Stimulus money should be free, there shouldn’t be these strings attached, if Treasury is going to pull some stupid move like this on short and poorly-given notice, they should compensating the people for these fees especially during a time of crisis when every penny counts, Treasury should be eating these fees if Metabank is charging them, not the people who Treasury failed to get their stimulus to them in 1) a timely manner and 2) in the manner that they were originally told they would be receiving it.

Seventh reason I hate these cards, customer services sucks, especially for those thousands of Americans who threw their card away.

I was talking to Sarah last night, and she told me that when she finally got connected to somebody at the 800 number for Money Network, 1-800-240-8100, that the guy told her that look, unless you know your card number — which she didn’t obviously because her card was long gone — you might have to wait up to 6 months for the card to essentially expire and for them to send you a new one unless the IRS or someone comes in and fixes that.

I haven’t seen that 6 month date on the website, but that’s what Sarah told me, and if that’s true, that sucks.

This is your money, pledged to you by the federal government, and they really, really screwed this one up.

Look, I know a lot of you have received these cards with no problem, and that’s great, that’s wonderful, but I also know many of you have received these cards and thrown them away, and some of you know you did it, and some of you didn’t.

Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in July 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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