Social Security Check Distribution


The Social Security check will soon be gone, as Social Security is going electronic. Individuals who start Social Security benefits after May 2011 will not have a check option. Social Security has delivered checks through the United States Postal System from the first check, sent to Ida May Fuller in 1939, until 2011. Direct deposit of Social Security checks first started in 1976, with use increasing through the years. Options have also increased with the Direct Express debit card.


Social Security provided monthly payments to nearly 60 million individuals in February 2011. This total includes payments for Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and individuals who receive a combination of these benefits. Since Social Security started benefits distribution in 1939, checks have been regular and an important part of the United States economy. Reliability has been a cornerstone of the operation, according to a Center for American Progress report in 2010, and Social Security reports that no direct deposits have ever been lost.

Direct Deposit Option

Social Security recipients often choose direct deposit for monthly benefits, with 83 percent using direct deposit in January 2010. This method requires a bank account to receive the funds. If you do not have an established bank account, you may choose to set up an electronic transfer account, which costs $3 a month in 2011 and allows at least four withdrawals. You can set up a direct deposit account with your bank, or, once you have a bank account, Social Security can assist you with the direct deposit setup.

Direct Express Option

Social Security also uses the Direct Express debit card to allow access to your benefits without a bank account. Direct Express works at any location that accepts MasterCard. Social Security automatically posts funds to the Direct Express account on the day it is due to arrive. If you make purchases, Direct Express deducts the money immediately from your account. You may get cash back from banks or automatic teller machines, or you may receive cash back when making purchases from merchants. You may receive one free withdrawal from a Direct Express network ATM; additional withdrawals cost 90 cents in 2011.

Payment Dates

After years of payments on the third day of the month, Social Security changed the way it does business in 1997. Individuals already receiving benefits continue to receive their benefit payments on the third, but new recipients receive payment on a schedule dependent on the birthday of the worker. Birth dates between the first and 10th of the month receive Social Security payments on the second Wednesday of the month. Worker birth dates between the 11th and 20th of the month receive benefit payments on the third Wednesday. The third Wednesday distribution covers birth dates between the 21st and the end of the month.

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