If you've been approved for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you might be wondering what happens next and how you'll get your benefits. Your disability award letter will explain how much your benefits will be and when you can expect to be paid. You'll receive your benefits electronically.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer sends checks in the mail. Instead, Social Security will deposit your payments directly into your bank account or onto a special debit card (called a Direct Express card). Here's what you need to know about how Social Security direct deposit works and how to set up or change your direct deposit information.
If you've never used direct deposit before, you might be hesitant to trust your Social Security benefits to this electronic payment process. But direct deposit isn't new—employers have been using it for payroll for decades.
And there are some definite benefits to receiving your Social Security disability payments electronically—whether it's a direct deposit to your bank account or to a Direct Express debit card. Direct deposit is:
Since 2011, all Social Security payments have been made electronically—so you must sign up for direct deposit. But that doesn't mean you don't have options.
You can choose to have your monthly benefits deposited directly into your bank account (traditional direct deposit). Or, if you don't have a bank account or don't want to give your banking information to Social Security, you can opt to have your benefits sent to a Direct Express debit card.
The Direct Express card is like a debit card that you can use to access your funds, but you don't need a bank account. Social Security will issue you a Direct Express card, and then each month, the SSA will add your monthly disability payments to the card on the day you're scheduled to receive your benefits.
You can use the Direct Express card like a debit card at any place that accepts MasterCard—just as you would a regular debit card. You can also use your Direct Express card to get cashback when you make a purchase or withdraw cash using an ATM (the ATM owner can charge a fee).
If you want to sign up for Direct Express instead of having your disability benefits directly deposited into your bank account, you can call Direct Express at 800-333-1795. You can sign up for free, and there's no monthly charge to use the card.
There are several ways to set up direct deposit for your Social Security benefits. You can sign up for direct deposit when you apply for Social Security disability benefits.
If you've already applied or been approved for benefits, you can set up direct deposit (or update your direct deposit information):
No matter how you set up direct deposit for your disability benefits, you'll need to give Social Security the following:
To change your direct deposit account in person or by phone, you'll need this information for your current bank account and your new account.
To sign up for direct deposit (or update your direct deposit information) online, log into your "My Social Security" account and follow these steps:
It can take Social Security 30-60 days to begin depositing your benefits into your new bank account. Direct deposit changes made before the 15th of each month will affect your next disability payment. But changes made after the 15th won't take effect until the next month.
For example, if you change your direct deposit information on May 5, your next Social Security payment will be deposited into your new account. But if you don't report the change until May 20, your next disability payment (the one you receive in June) will be sent to your old bank account—the one after that (in July) will go to your new account.
Don't close your old account until after you start seeing Social Security deposits in your new account.
If you don't already have a bank account, some banks offer what's called an Electronic Transfer Account (ETA). ETAs were started by the federal government to make sure people who receive certain federal payments have a place where their money can be deposited directly.
There are specific guidelines an ETA must follow, including:
Some banks have ETAs that allow you to withdraw money from an ATM. For more information, speak to a bank or credit union that offers ETAs, as the terms can differ.
If you're receiving disability benefits for someone else as a representative payee, you can also receive the benefits electronically, just like the primary beneficiary. But, Social Security will make direct deposits only to an account that shows the disabled person is the owner of the account, with a few exceptions for families.
If you're the representative payee, you can open an account titled with your name followed by the disabled person's name; for instance, Maria Martinez for Brenda Swanson.
(If you're the representative payee for a child receiving SSI, you may need to open a dedicated SSI account if the child will receive a large sum of back pay.)
Updated August 7, 2023