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Common Questions: For Recipients

Are Federal payment recipients who currently receive payment by check required to open an ETASM?

No. However, Federal benefit payments must be paid electronically and beneficiaries should select Direct Deposit to a traditional checking or savings account, the Direct Express card, or open an ETA to receive their payments.

Can an individual who already has an account at a financial institution sign up for an ETA?

Yes. The ETA is available to all individuals who receive Federal benefit, wage, salary, or retirement payments, regardless of whether they have an existing account at a financial institution.

What types of consumer protections are available to ETA holders?

ETAs will be subject to the same consumer protections available to other account holders at the same financial institution. For example, an ETA is Federally insured and subject to the Truth in Savings Act disclosure requirements in Regulation DD and the electronic access protections found in Regulation E.

How quickly after a financial institution is designated as an ETA provider can that institution advertise the ETA to the public?

The Financial Agency Agreement must be signed by the financial institution and Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, as Fiscal Agent for Treasury, the financial institution may begin to offer the ETA and advertise its availability to the public after the effective date indicated in the Financial Agency Agreement.

How can an account holder withdraw all of his or her funds from an ETA if the balance is less than the smallest denomination available at an ATM?

Account holders may use their debit card at a POS terminal if the financial institution is a member of an on-line POS network. POS terminals are commonly found in many retail outlets such as grocery stores, service stations, and post offices, and are available for purchases in any amount. In addition, some financial institutions may offer over-the-counter cash withdrawals. These cash withdrawals may be made in any denomination.

Is it possible for an ETA holder to overdraw his or her account? If so, how much is a financial institution permitted to charge the account holder for an overdraft?

Yes. It may be possible for an account to be overdrawn under very limited circumstances. The maximum amount that may be charged for an overdraft in an ETA is $10. This fee covers all overdrafts that may occur within a 24 hour period.

May a nursing home or other entity open an ETA in a capacity as a representative payee for one or more recipients?

No. An ETA must be owned by an individual. Therefore, a representative payee may open an ETA only if the representative payee is an individual. Although corporations and other entities, including nursing homes, sometimes act as representative payees, they may not establish ETAs.

When using an ATM for a cash withdrawal, should the ETA customer choose withdrawal from savings, withdrawal from checking, or some other designation on the ATM screen?

The ETA provider should determine which option ETA customers should choose. The financial institution must, at the time an ETA is opened, disclose to the recipient which option the customer should choose when withdrawing cash from an ATM.

How can an ETA holder obtain account balance information?

Financial institutions may provide ETA holders with account balance information through a variety of methods: 1) through balance inquiry transactions at proprietary ATMs, 2) over-the-counter at the ETA provider's main office or branch locations, 3) through a combination of ATMs and over-the-counter, 4) over the telephone, and, 5) if the recipient agrees, through other electronic means. Any of these methods may be used at the option of the financial institution as long as a minimum of four balance inquiries is provided within the monthly fee. Also, ETA holders must receive a monthly statement.

Where can recipients find more information regarding their Federal electronic payments?

Recipients can contact the appropriate Federal agency to receive more information regarding electronic payments.

Agency customer service telephone numbers:

  • Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213
  • Department of Veterans Affairs 1-800-827-1000
  • Office of Personnel Management 1-888-767-6738
  • Railroad Retirement Board 1-800-808-0772

Or call:

  • The agency issuing your salary or wage payment.
  • The agency issuing your benefit or retirement payment, if different from the agencies listed above.

Where can Federal recipients find a listing of financial institutions offering the ETA?

Treasury made publicly available a list of participating financial institutions on September 15, 1999. This information can be found at or by calling 1 (888) 382-3311, or an ETA-recipient TDD, (877) FBN-KTDD (877) 326-5833).

Where do Federal check recipients reside?

The majority of Federal check recipients are concentrated in metropolitan areas across the country. The top five cities in which check recipients reside are Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami. In addition, over half of all Federal benefit, wage, salary, and retirement payments are made in 10 states: California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Florida.