HELENA — People around Montana are starting to receive their second federal stimulus payments – but be aware, they may look different than you’re expecting.
Many Montanans are receiving their payment in a prepaid Visa debit card, which came as a surprise to some.
Alyssa Bardo, retail manager for First Interstate Bank in Helena, said they’ve been fielding a lot of questions about whether the cards are legitimate.
“In all the communication, the reports we were hearing, things like that, it was always referred to as a check,” she said. “So when a debit card showed up in the mail, there was a little bit of a surprise.”
The federal government approved a new round of $600 payments at the end of December. The U.S. Treasury Department reports about 8 million of those went out in the form of a card. They say that was a faster way to get money out to people.
The IRS says it doesn’t determine who receives a card instead of a check, but that people in the western United States are more likely to get one.
One point of confusion is that some people who received their first stimulus payment last spring in a paper check, but this payment in a card. The IRS says the opposite is also true: Some people got cards last time and a check this time.
Additionally, the cards aren’t mailed from a government address, but from a P.O. box in Omaha, Nebraska. There have been reports nationwide that some people are throwing the cards away, thinking they’re junk mail.
If you do receive a stimulus card, there are several ways to recognize it:
- It comes in a white envelope, with red lettering saying “Important information about your Economic Impact Payment.
- Inside, you will find a paper with the U.S. Treasury Department logo.
- The Visa card itself is issued by MetaBank, and instructions will be included on how to activate it.
- The mailing will direct you to EIPCard.com for additional services.
More information on the mailing can be found on the IRS website.
If you accidentally threw your card away, you can call 1 (800) 240-8100 to report the card lost and request a replacement.
Once you activate the card, it can be used the same places you would use a normal Visa debit card, including for online purchases. You can use it to withdraw cash from an ATM or transfer the money to your bank account. Most services are free, but several – including withdrawals from out-of-network ATMs and from a bank over the counter – could cost a fee.
Bardo said some people who receive direct deposit stimulus payments have also experienced issues this time. She said one issue is that, after the first payment, they were able to manually correct some addressing problems, but the IRS gave them specific instructions not to do that for this payment.
“The biggest common factor we’ve seen is they’ve come in coded to go to a savings account when it’s really a checking account,” said Bardo. “Last time we were able to account for that, and this time they simply got rejected.”
People eligible to receive a stimulus payment who don’t get it may be able to claim a credit on their taxes this year.
The IRS has set up an online “Get My Payment” tool that you can use to check when your stimulus payment was sent to you.