Get your stimulus money on a prepaid debit card? Here’s what to know before you use it

Hayley Fowler
·4 min read

Millions of people are getting a somewhat inconspicuous prepaid debit card in the mail loaded with their stimulus payments from the federal government.

It’s not a check to be cashed at the bank, nor is it an automatic deposit into a personal account.

Economic Impact Payment Cards, also known as EIP Cards, are being sent to people whose bank information the Internal Revenue Service did not receive and whose tax return was processed by an IRS service center in Andover, Massachusetts, or Austin, Texas, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Some four million people are slated to receive them, McClatchy News reported.

The cards are arriving “in a plain envelope from ‘Money Network Cardholder Services,’ ” EIPCard.com says. Their unassuming packaging actually had some people thinking the prepaid cards were junk mail, according to McClatchy News.

Aside from not accidentally throwing it away, here’s what recipients of prepaid debit cards should know.

How to activate

To activate the card, recipients should call 1-800-240-8100. They’ll then need to provide their name, address and social security number to prove their identity, according to EIPCard.com.

People will also need to create a four-digit pin to be able to use the card at an ATM and get their balance at a later date.

AARP recommends individuals not use any personal information for their PIN number. There also should not be a fee to register.

“For Cards with more than one name, only the primary Cardholder (listed first on the Card) may activate the Card,” EIPCard.com says. Additional cards can’t be ordered for other family members.

The card can also be registered online with a new user ID and password. The same login credentials should work for the Money Network Mobile App.

Where you can use the prepaid debit card

The Treasury Department has touted EIP Cards as “easy to use” and available for making purchases, taking cash out and transferring funds to personal bank accounts without any fees.

According to AARP, the cards can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. They can also be used to “pay most bills,” get cash back at the register, buy groceries and take cash out.

To make a purchase online, users must enter the card’s 16-digit number, expiration date and CVV code, according to EIPCard.com.

For in-store purchases, the card functions much the same as a regular debit card. EIPCard.com says users need only swipe or insert the card at a retailer, then sign or enter their four-digit pin to complete the transaction.

To pay for gas, EIPCard.com suggests users give the card to an attendant instead of paying at the pump to avoid a “pre-authorization,” which could place a hold on the account for an amount greater than what was paid.

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,” according to AARP. “Once processed, the money will be released and your balance will be adjusted.”

But it might take up to seven days, AARP says, and sometimes longer for things such as car rentals.

If your bank or landlord accepts Visa payments, the EIP card may also be used to make mortgage or rent payments, AARP says.

The card can be used to take cash out of an ATM, but it must be in-network to avoid fees. Users can search for an in-network ATM on EIPCard.com.

Watch out for fees

According to EIPCard.com, most everyday transactions won’t be subject to hidden fees.

But there are a few exceptions.

The first withdrawals from a bank teller over the counter or at an out-of-network ATM are free, according to the website. Any future withdrawals from a teller or out-of-network ATM will be subject to a $5 or $2 fee, respectively.

International ATM-withdrawals will cost $3, and an ATM balance inquiry at either in-network or out-of-network ATMs — in the U.S. or abroad — is accompanied by a 25 cents fee.

If the card is lost or stolen, people will be subject to a $7.50 replacement fee. It will cost an additional $17 for priority shipment on a replacement card.

For more information on the EIP Card, visit the website’s FAQ page.