The IRS sent 4 million payments by prepaid debit cards, or Economic Impact Payment (EIP) cards, as the Treasury Department has dubbed them, during the first set of stimulus payments. The agency will send out 8 million EIP cards to some eligible individuals in the second wave of economic stimulus.
The cards are going out to certain eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns but for whom the IRS doesn't have bank account information. The stimulus payment is loaded on the debit card.
In some cases, cards (and checks) may be going out to taxpayers who got the first stimulus payment by direct deposit. Filers who used TurboTax and other electronic tax services have been particularly affected because of an IRS programming glitch that sent payments to wrong accounts. And in some cases, taxpayers may have moved or changed banks since they got their first stimulus checks.
Your EIP card will arrive in an envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” Don’t throw it away thinking it’s junk mail or a scam. The Visa name will appear on the front of the EIP card; the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank, N.A. This round, the envelope will also have the Treasury seal to prevent people from throwing it away. Note that you can’t request you receive your stimulus payment by debit card — it either arrives that way or it doesn’t.
Don’t throw away your stimulus payment by accident
Why would you do that? People are rightly suspicious of unsolicited cards through the mail. The Economic Impact Payment (EIP) cards arrive in envelopes with the return address “Money Network Cardholder Services” from MetaBank in Omaha, Nebraska. They also have the Treasury seal. In addition, the IRS says it might send you an EIP card, even if its Get My Payment tool says you’re getting a check. AARP has heard from members that some people suspect the cards are a fraud or an unsolicited credit card offer, meaning some people have shredded them or thrown them away.
Naturally, wherever there is money involved, there are usually scammers trying to take it from you. Nevertheless, for the 4 million people who receive those EIP prepaid debit cards, the money can be a lifeline in the pandemic. To avoid losing your stimulus payment:
- You’ll get a letter with the EIP card telling you how to activate it. Be very careful that you call the correct phone number. Don’t search the Internet for the number. Scammers sometimes set up fake customer service numbers to deceive people and take their personal information.
- Don’t give your personal identification number (PIN), EIP debit card number or Social Security number to anyone who calls or texts you.
- Check your mail carefully to avoid tossing your EIP card out with your junk mail.
If you’ve destroyed or thrown out your EIP card, don’t worry. Call the toll-free customer service line at 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) to ask for a replacement. You can find additional information at the official EIP website.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts,” review our scam-tracking map or call our toll-free fraud help line at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.
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How to activate your EIP card
You will get a new EIP card for the second stimulus round; if you got an EIP card for the previous stimulus, the IRS won’t refill it. Call 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) to activate your new card. You'll need to provide your name, address and Social Security number. You will also be asked to create a four-digit personal identification number (PIN) required for ATM transactions and automated assistance and to hear your balance. For security, don't use personal information as your PIN. For cards with more than one name, only the primary cardholder (listed first on the card) may activate the card. There is no charge to activate the card.
You can create a user name and password for your card online, at the Money Network site. Be sure to have your card handy when you log in. You can see your balance and transaction history online any time at EIPCard.com. You can get the same information by calling the toll-free number.
How to use your EIP card
You can generally use your card without a fee to make purchases anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted — in stores, online or over the phone. You can also use your EIP card to pay most bills, get cash back with a PIN debit purchase (where available), buy groceries and get cash from ATMs that carry the Allpoint brand. You can search for surcharge-free ATMs at EIPCard.com. And you may be able to pay your mortgage or rent, if your bank or landlord accepts Visa payments.
Although most transactions don't charge a fee, a few do. For example, you'll pay 25 cents for each balance inquiry at an ATM, and $2 for each out-of-network withdrawal after your first one.
You can also transfer the money on your EIP card to your bank at EIPCard.com or the Money Network Mobile App, which can be downloaded as an app onto a smart phone. The limit on transfers to a bank account is $2,500 per transaction. People can easily transfer the money from their card to an existing bank account online at EIPCard.com. You will need the routing and account number for your bank account.
If you lose your card (or accidentally throw it out), you can get a free replacement through MetaBank customer service. It will also waive any initial fee charged to a customer from an earlier date. You don’t need to know your card number to request a replacement, and you can also request a replacement by calling 800-240-8100 and choosing option 2 from the main menu.
Privacy and spending limits
The government won't be able to ask how much is on your EIP card, and the card issuer is not allowed to give the government information about your card account without your written permission, except under very limited circumstances. The government can't withdraw money from your EIP card. Your spending limit is the amount you received for your stimulus payment.
The IRS will mail a letter about the stimulus payment to the individual’s address of record within 15 days after the payment is made. Beware of websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information and for schemes tied to Economic Impact Payments.
Naturally, where there is money, there are people looking to take it, and your card is no exception. Make sure you have a secure PIN, and don't give it to anyone. Beware of online phishing scams trying to get your card number and PIN. If you think someone has made an unauthorized purchase, call the toll-free number.
Your card may be declined if you try to spend above the limit, or you may have to use cash to pay the amount over what's in your account. In some cases, such as when you're buying gas, the merchant may put a temporary hold on your card balance — sometimes more than the amount you used to make a purchase. Once processed, the money will be released and your balance will be adjusted. Pre-authorized funds may take up to seven days to be released back to your card account balance, and up to 31 days for car rentals.