Washingtonians who are among the roughly 5 million Americans relying on a special debit card offered by the federal government for Social Security recently had trouble accessing their cash.
Direct Express promises safety and convenience. However, multiple users complained they couldn't find an ATM in Western Washington that would accept the card without a $3 penalty.
"To direct deposit, you need to have a bank account for the money to come into the bank, which I didn't have. So, it really was my only choice," said Larry Woods, a recipient of Social Security, explaining why he chose Direct Express.
The trouble started when Woods visited his nearest ATM and was blocked from obtaining cash without paying a surcharge.
Woods lives on just over $800 a month. So for him, $3 makes a big difference. As he put it, "It's lunch." ...
Technically, Woods shouldn't have to pay. On the website, Direct Express claims to have an extended network of surcharge-free ATMs.
However, when KING 5 accessed the website, most of the links weren't working or identified zero participating ATMs west of the Rockies.
While Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Fiscal Service regulates the program, it's facilitated through a contract with Comerica. A Comerica spokesperson said the Direct Express website was experiencing temporary technical issues. ...
After roughly two weeks, the website ATM search tool was functioning again.
Direct Express Card Holders can visit BECU branch ATM's without a penalty, according to other area banks. ...