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How to Check the Status of My Unemployment Debit Card
After you are approved for unemployment benefits, your state may offer you the option of receiving your benefits on a debit card. This card will typically be mailed to you soon after your benefits are approved, and it will be up to you to monitor any activity on it, including the receipt of your benefits.
How Can I Track my Unemployment Debit Card in the Mail?
Your state's unemployment website will inform you of when you can expect to receive your debit card. This can take a few weeks after you file your claim, so it's a good idea to be careful with your budget until your card arrives. States typically use standard mail to send your card, so no tracking is available.
What if I Haven't Received my Unemployment Card?
If your card does not arrive within the expected timeline, get in touch with unemployment to explain your situation. Some states may provide a separate customer service number for handling debit card issues. You may also want to check to make sure that your claim was approved.
As a security measure, debit cards are often mailed in plain white envelopes. The envelope may also be printed with an out-of-state return address. To avoid inadvertently throwing away your debit card, be sure to open all your mail while you are waiting for the card to arrive.
How Long Does it Take to Get Unemployment Money on My Debit Card?
The time it takes to get your first payment via debit card depends on where you live. For example, it can take four weeks for someone in Texas to receive their first payment, while recipients in Washington state can expect to receive it about two weeks after being approved for benefits. Your state should tell you when you can expect the payment to be added to your card's balance.
Once your benefits begin, most states send payments every two weeks after you have certified your continued eligibility for unemployment benefits. This means that you either call into a voicemail system or log in online and answer questions about whether you have been employed, any money that you have earned and whether you have made efforts to find a new job. Every state is different, but in many cases, a deposit will be made within a day or two after you certify.
Why Hasn't my Debit Card Been Credited?
There are several reasons why an expected payment may not arrive on your debit card. Here are a few of them:
- You failed to activate your debit card. When you received your debit card in the mail, you also receive instructions for activating the card by phone or online. If you didn't activate your card or didn't activate it properly, benefits won't appear in your balance.
- You didn't certify for benefits. States require you to certify your eligibility for benefits on a regular basis. If you fail to certify for a specific period, you won't receive a payment. If you forgot to certify, your state may allow you to go back in the system and complete certification for that period. Don't delay, however, after some time has lapsed, you may not be able to go back and claim benefits to which you were originally entitled.
- Your claim has been questioned or suspended. While this is unlikely, it sometimes happens that your unemployment agency receives information that causes it to suspend your claim while it investigates whether you are still eligible for benefits. In many cases, this happens because you made a mistake while certifying for benefits and answered a question in such a way that would disqualify you from a benefit payment.
Some states have automated phone and online systems that can tell you when a payment has been sent to your debit card. Check the service first to make sure that a payment has actually been issued.
Other Debit Card Considerations
Checking purchases: The back of your debit card should include a customer service number as well as a website address. These services can provide you with statements that show you your recent purchases.
Minimizing fees: Some debit card companies, including those contracted by state unemployment departments, charge fees for certain activities, such as using an ATM or taking advantage of bill pay services. Make sure you understand these fees before you use your card, as well as ways that you can minimize or avoid fees entirely:
- Pay with the card: Unemployment debit cards usually have either a MasterCard or Visa logo on them. This means you can use these cards to pay for purchases at any store that accepts these credit cards. There is no charge to you for using the card in this way.
- Get cash back at the register: Many retailers allow customers to request cash back on debit card payments at the register. While there is often a limit as to how much cash you can receive, stores usually do not charge you anything to receive cash back. It's a good idea, however, to check on the store's policy before making a cash back request.
- Request a cash withdrawal at a teller window: The banks that issue debit cards will sometimes allow users to make withdrawals directly from a card balance by visiting one of their branches. Check the information that came with your unemployment debit card.
- Transfer funds to a bank account: Some states, such as Indiana, do not offer direct deposit of unemployment benefits to checking or savings accounts. However, Indiana does permit benefit recipients to transfer debit card funds directly to their bank accounts via an automated phone system.
- Use only no-fee ATMs: Your debit card issuer may participate in an ATM network that charges no fees. Check with the debit card company, or your unemployment agency's website, for a list of no-fee ATMs.
- Withdraw larger amounts: If you must use an ATM that charges fees, withdraw larger amounts if it is safe to do so. Fewer withdrawals result in fewer fees.
An alternative to an unemployment debit card is to request your benefits via direct deposit into a checking or savings account. There are usually no fees associated with the direct deposit, and you won't have to worry about ATM limits, or finding a no-fee ATM when accessing your funds.
Lainie Petersen is a full-time freelance writer living in Chicago. She holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Dominican university and spent many years working in the publishing, media and education industries. Her writing focuses on business, career and personal finance issues. Her work appears on a variety of sites, including MoneyCrashers, Chron, GoBankingRates and 8th & Walton News Now.