You might be one of the nearly 4 million Americans who finds a debit card in their mailbox. If so, don't automatically think it's some sort of scam or junk mail. It might actually be the stimulus check payment you've been waiting for - just in the form of a prepaid debit card. The cards - called Economic Impact Payment Cards, or EIP Cards, by the IRS - will go to certain people who filed a tax return but don't have bank information on file with the tax agency. Instead of mailing a paper check (which takes longer to process), the cards will be sent to the most recent mailing address on file with the IRS.
If you receive one of these EIP Cards, you'll probably have a lot of questions about how it works. How do I use it? Where can I use it? Are there any fees? Can the IRS track my purchases? The cards come with some nice features, but there are also some special rules for their use. So that you can hit the ground running if an EIP Card shows up in your mailbox, here are answers to a few important questions you're likely to have about your stimulus payment debit card.
What an EIP Card Looks Like
Answer: Your stimulus payment debit card will come in a plain envelope from "Money Network Cardholder Services." The card will say "Visa" on the front and "MetaBank" (the issuing bank) on the back.
Activating the Card
Question: Do I have to activate my EIP Card?
Answer: Yes, you will have to activate your debit card by calling the toll-free activation line at 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100). You'll have to confirm your identity by providing your name, address, and social security number. If your card has more than one name on it, only the first person listed (i.e., the primary cardholder) can activate the card.
You'll also be asked to create a 4-digit PIN number.
Adding Payment to an Existing Card
Question: Can I have my stimulus payment sent to an existing prepaid debit card?
Answer: It depends on your existing card and whether the IRS has already scheduled your stimulus payment. Some reloadable cards have account and routing numbers that you can provide to the IRS through their Get My Payment portal or Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool. Check with the financial institution that issued the card to see if your card can be re-used and to obtain the routing number and account number, which may be different from the card number.
If you got your prepaid debit card through the filing of a federal tax return, you still must contact the issuing bank to get the correct routing number and account number. Don't use the routing number and account number shown on your copy of the tax return.
When routing and account numbers to the IRS, treat them as if they're for a checking account unless the bank says otherwise.
Volunteering to Get a Debit Card
Question: Can I specifically ask the IRS to send may stimulus payment to me on a debit card?
Answer: No. At this time, taxpayers can't choose to receive a prepaid debit card. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which works with the IRS to handle distribution of the stimulus payments, decides who will receive a debit card.
Purchases at Brick and Mortar Stores
Question: Can I use my EIP Card to make purchases at stores?
Answer: Yes, you can use your stimulus check debit card to make purchases at stores that accept Visa® debit cards. Depending on the store, you can either sign for the transaction or enter your 4-digit PIN.
Question: Can I use my debit card for online purchases?
Answer: Yes, you can also use your EIP debit card to make online purchases if the seller's website accepts Visa® debit card payments. If asked, make sure you use the correct billing address for your debit card account. To verify or change your billing address, log in to your account at EIPCard.com and click on "My Profile."
Buying Gas with Your EIP Card
Question: How do I pay for gas with my EIP Card?
Answer: When using your debit card to pay for gas, give your card to the attendant to pre-pay for gas. This will avoid a pre-authorization charge. If you pay for gas at the pump with most debit cards, the gas station will often "pre-authorize" your purchase. This puts a temporary extra charge on your card. It can take up to seven business days to get that money back.
Some other businesses - such as hotels, car rental companies and restaurants - may also impose pre-authorization charges.
SEE ALSO: 10 States with the Highest Gas Taxes
Question: Can I get cash using my EIP Card?
Answer: Yes, there are three ways you can get cash using your stimulus payment debit card.
First, you can withdraw cash from an ATM. There could be a fee if you use an out-of-network ATM. You can find in-network ATMs at EIPCard.com/locator.
Second, you can get cash back from some stores when using your 4-digit PIN to make a purchase. (Select "yes" when asked if you want cash back.)
Third, you can go to a bank or credit union branch to get cash. Make sure you know how much money is on the card, because the bank teller won't be able to check the balance. Also note that bank fees may apply.
Daily cash withdrawal limits may also apply for your EIP Card. ATMs could have their own limits, too.
Question: Can I make recurring bill payments with my debit card?
Answer: Yes, your EIP Card can be used to make recurring payments. Just make sure you have enough money on the card to cover each payment. If you don't have enough money on the card, the transaction will be fully or partially declined.
Person-to-Person (P2P) Payments
Question: Can I use my EIP Card with a person-to-person payment app?
Answer: Yes, you can use your EIP Card with PayPal, Venmo and most of the other popular person-to-person payment apps. Ask your preferred app provider for any details or special requirements.
SEE ALSO: 9 Ways to Raise Cash Quickly
Question:Are there any fees for using my stimulus payment debit card?
Answer: Yes, there are service fees for a few EIP Card transactions. See the chart below for the announced fees.
EIP Card Fees
Cash Withdrawal at Bank
$5 for Second and Subsequent Withdrawals (first withdrawal is free; the bank may also charge a fee)
Domestic Out-of-Network ATM Withdrawals
$2 for Second and Subsequent Withdrawals (first withdrawal is free)
International ATM Withdrawals
ATM Balance Inquiries
Replacing Lost or Stolen Card
Priority Shipment for Replacing Lost or Stolen Card
Check your EIP Card welcome packet and cardholder agreement for more information about fees.
Tracking the Card's Balance
Question: How can I check the balance of my account?
Answer: There are two ways to track your EIP Card account balance and transaction history.
First, you can check your balance and transactions online at EIPCard.com. You have to register first, though. To register, go to EIPCard.com, click on the Login button, and the click on the "Register Now" link. Follow the steps to create a user ID and password (you'll need to have your EIP Card in hand).
You can also keep track of your account information by phone. Call 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) to hear your balance and transaction history using the automated system.
Extra Cards for Family Members
Question: Can I get more debits cards for my family?
Answer: No, you can't get additional EIP Cards for other members of your family. You only get the one card.
Question: Will using the debit card help my credit score?
Answer: No. Unlike a credit card, using an EIP Card will not improve your credit score. On the other hand, you won't have to pay interest or build up debt, either.
SEE ALSO: Changes Are Coming to Your Credit Score
Lost or Stolen Cards
Question:What should I do if my card is lost or stolen?
Answer: If your EIP Card is lost or stolen, log in to your account at EIPCard.com immediately and "lock" your card so no one else can use it. You should then call customer service at 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) and report the loss or theft of your card right away. As mentioned above, fees will apply.
Transfers to Your Bank Account
Question: Can money on the debit card be transferred to my bank account?
Answer: Yes. Although your EIP Card is not linked to your bank account, you can transfer money from your card to your bank account. This type of transaction is done online at EIPCard.com. Transfer fees may apply.
Government Access to Information
Question: Can the IRS or other government agency track my EIP Card activity?
Answer: No. Except in rare and limited situations, no government agency, including the IRS, will have access to information about your EIP Card activities.
The government can't take money out of your EIP Card account, either.
SEE ALSO: How to Invest Your Stimulus Check
Question: Can I write a check for payments from my EIP Card account?
Answer: Yes. If you have an EIP Card, you can request a Money Network® Check by calling 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100). The check amount will be subtracted from your debit card account balance. For more information, check your EIP Card welcome packet or cardholder agreement at EIPCard.com.
Copyright 2020 The Kiplinger Washington Editors