published Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Social Security: Electronic transfer best way to get benefits

By Martin Coffey

You probably don’t need a reminder that natural disasters lurk around the corner when we least expect it.

Many natural disasters force people to leave their homes. The last thing a person who falls victim to this kind of devastation needs to worry about is how they’re going to get their next Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payment.

Here’s a solution. Make sure that you’re receiving your benefit payments electronically. Electronic payments are the best way to receive your benefit payments. Here’s why.

* Electronic payments are safe. Your money is deposited directly into your account each month. Because it’s transferred electronically, there’s never a risk of your check being lost or stolen.

* Electronic payments are quick. You’ll get your payment faster when it’s made electronically. Your money is immediately available to you once it’s deposited; no waiting by the mailbox for the check to arrive.

* Electronic payments are convenient. No more need to stand in line at the bank to cash your check or to leave your house when the weather is bad.

It’s also nice to know your payment is in your account instead of your mailbox when you’re on vacation or away from home.

* Perhaps we also should mention that electronic payments now are mandatory. People who apply for Social Security benefits on or after May 1, 2011, must receive payments electronically.

Nearly everyone currently receiving benefits who has not signed up for electronic payments must switch to electronic payments by March 1, 2013. Electronic payments may be made by direct deposit, the Direct Express card program, or an Electronic Transfer Account. You can learn more about all three at

If you’re ever faced with a devastating event, there will be no question about where you’ll find your money when you receive electronic payments.

The same cannot be said for paper checks being sent to mailboxes that may no longer exist.

You can learn more by reading our online fact sheet, Get Your Payments Electronically at or go directly to the source, where you can learn more and sign up for electronic payments:

Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@times

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