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What is a government benefit card?

Some state and federal government agencies use prepaid cards to pay unemployment benefits, child support, and other government benefits. Federal law requires disclosures and protections for loss, theft, and errors for certain types of government benefit prepaid accounts, but not for other types.

Instead of getting checks, recipients receive a type of prepaid card called a government benefit card. Each month the benefit amount is loaded onto the card. The federal government uses prepaid cards to pay certain federal benefits, such as veterans’ benefits or Social Security benefits. Depending on the benefit you can get your benefits by direct deposit to your own bank account or a prepaid card you choose, or use the one arranged through the government.

Many government benefit cards charge fees for using and maintaining the card. The types and amounts of fees you can be charged for using the card depend on the contract between the government agency and the card issuer. Read the cardholder agreement carefully before using the card to understand how you can avoid fees. For example, you may have a certain number of free ATM withdrawals every month or you may not be charged an ATM fee if you use ATMs that are in a particular network.

In general, federal government benefit cards and some state government benefit cards have certain legal protections under federal law. These protections include limitations on liability for fraudulent or unauthorized charges, error resolution procedures, and requirements that consumers have access to their account information. Check your cardholder agreement for details on these protections. These protections are not guaranteed for EBT cards so watch your account closely and report any errors, loss or theft immediately.