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Don't throw out that pre-paid debit card ... it could be your stimulus payment

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin displays a debit card used to distribute Covid-19 relief funds during a cabinet meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 19.
Kevin Dietsch | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Have you received a pre-paid debit card in the mail? Don't throw it out. It could be your stimulus payment.

While millions of Americans have received their stimulus money, many are still waiting on their checks from the U.S. government.

The IRS began sending the payments out in April as part of a $2 trillion relief package authorized by Congress. The money amounts to up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, plus $500 for each child under 17 for families who meet certain income qualifications.

Direct deposit payments were the first to go out, followed by paper checks. But some people – nearly 4 million – may instead receive prepaid debit cards.

The cards can be used to make purchases, get cash from ATMs or transfer money to your own bank account without any fees, according to the Treasury Department. You can also check the account balance online.

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The cards also come with consumer protections against fraud or loss, the agency said.

"Pre-paid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. "Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely."

There are certain features that individuals should look for to make sure the debit card is legit, according to the IRS. A Visa label should appear on the front of the card, while the back of the card should have the name MetaBank N.A. for the issuing bank. The card should arrive in an envelope labelled "Money Network Cardholder Services," and it should include information explaining that it is your stimulus payment.

Americans cannot choose to receive their stimulus check by debit card. Instead, that is determined by the government.

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Some are concerned that the form of payment might be confusing to some people. This week on Capitol Hill, members of the House Ways and Means Committee wrote a letter to the Treasury Department expressing their concerns about the debit cards.

"Recent reports indicate the cards are creating confusion and actually may delay when Americans receive this emergency assistance," the lawmakers wrote.

The cards typically arrive in an envelope labelled, "Money Network Cardholder Services," which is "not a name that taxpayers recognize," the representatives wrote.

Furthermore, the debit cards are also not labelled as economic impact payments or with the Treasury Department's name. And while there is a phone number on the cards, they do require individuals to enter a "substantial portion" of their Social Security numbers, the letter said.

"When added together, these facts are leading many individuals to believe that the debit cards are junk mail or a scam," the lawmakers wrote.

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