How Unemployment Debit Cards Work

a person holding an unemployment debit card
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When you receive unemployment compensation, your benefits may be paid via a debit card (also known as a direct payment card or electronic payment card). The card will be provided to you by your state unemployment office. It will be mailed to you once your claim is approved.

Options for Receiving Unemployment Compensation

When you file for unemployment, you will be advised of the different options available for receiving benefits. Most states no longer issue paper checks because it is far less expensive to process benefits electronically.

In the states that have gone electronic, options for receiving unemployment benefits include having a direct deposit transferred straight to your bank account or having your benefits added to a bank debit card. For example, in Connecticut, claimants have two options for payment: direct deposit or a debit card.

How Unemployment Debit Cards Work

After you sign up for benefits, your card will be mailed to you. Once it's received, you will need to activate it and set up a PIN in order for it to receive funds from the government. You'll receive your funds according to a schedule determined by your local unemployment office.

If your state unemployment office provides a debit card, it will work just like any other bank debit card. You will be able to withdraw cash at an ATM machine of your choice and use your card for purchases at stores.

You can also pay bills with your debit card. For example, you may be provided with a Chase Visa card, a KeyBank debit card, a Bank of America Mastercard, or another bank-issued card. When you use your card, it won’t be apparent to the department store or your dry cleaner that it’s an unemployment payment card. Your card will be similar to a personal debit card.

In addition, you may be able to transfer funds from your unemployment debit card directly to your bank account via a direct deposit transfer if you want to pay your monthly bills that way. Check with your local bank to see if they provide this service.

How Often You'll Be Paid

Payments are typically made on a weekly or biweekly basis depending on your location. To find out how to sign up for (or change) your unemployment payment option, check with your state unemployment office.

What to Do if You Don't Receive Your Payment

If your payment is more than a few days late, call your unemployment office. They will be able to provide you with information as to whether or not your payment has been processed and what to do if your payment is delayed or there's been some kind of issue.

Most states have a special number to call for debit card problems.

What to Do if You Lose Your Debit Card

What should you do if you have lost or misplaced your unemployment debit card? If your debit card is damaged, lost, or stolen, check the FAQ section of your state unemployment office for instructions on how to get a replacement card. For example, in California, there's an 800 number to call to get a replacement card mailed to you.

How to Avoid Unemployment Debit Card Scams

Unemployment debit card scammers are thieves who target unemployment recipients in order to get their hands on their funds.

The good news is, you can protect yourself. Unemployment offices do not ask for your personal information once your claim is set up. Therefore, most likely you're dealing with a scammer if you receive a phone call, email, or text message requesting the following information:

To protect your privacy, do not provide any of the above information to a third party.

Article Sources

  1. State of Connecticut. "File for Unemployment Benefits." Accessed April 16, 2020.

  2. Employment Development Department. "How Can I Get My EDD Debit Card Replaced?" Accessed April 16, 2020.