There are a lot of people in this country that are "under-banked." These are people who do not keep their money in banks or at least do not have a checking account because either they do not want one or they can not qualify for one. And a lot of these people are elderly.
So what happens when one of these senior citizens becomes eligible for Social Security? How do they receive their benefits? After all, they do not have bank accounts set up so the government can not just automatically deliver their money to them electronically.
In the past they were forced to receive a check just like many other people and they would have to rely on either a friend or family member to help them cash it. That was always at best inconvenient. Another option was to use one of those Check Caching places you see in so many stripalls. They took a big cut out of the check as a fee so that was not the greatest solution either.
So the US Treasury department actually did something about this. About a year ago they instituted a Direct Express prepaid card program which in effect set up Social Security seniors with a prepaid card that their benefit checks were loaded to. And the program has become a hit!
Over half a million citizens are on the program now and they love it (survey says – 95% are satisfied). They have quick access to their funds (because the prepaid debit cards are loaded automatically), they do not have to pay exorbitant check-cashing fees, and they do not have to carry around a lot of cash – so they feel safer too . They're now part of the electronic financial mainstream and they never have to set one foot in a bank. You know, sometimes the government gets it right.