People are accidentally throwing out their stimulus check — because it looks like junk mail

Some Americans may be unwittingly throwing their long-awaited stimulus check in the trash. That’s because, starting last week, the Treasury Department and the IRS started sending out economic impact payments in regular white envelopes that could be confused for junk mail.

While some people have already received their payment as a direct deposit or paper check in the mail, almost 4 million people — including those for whom the agency does not have a bank account on file — will be getting their stimulus check in the form of a prepaid debit card. The only problem is that the debit cards come in an envelope that says “Money Network Cardholder Services” and does not bear any federal markings.

That has prompted some recipients to complain they look too similar to an unwanted credit card offer, leading some to accidentally throw the card — which could contain as much as $3,400 for a family of four — in the trash.

“I had not heard of this but I just got my covid stimulus money via a debit card? I was hella suspicious at first cause I knew nothing about this but I researched it and it’s legit… and it actually has money on it,” tweeted Twitter user valerieflames.

“I almost threw mine out with the junk mail: The return address was “Money Network Cardholder Services,” no indication it’s from the govt/U.S. Treasury,” tweeted Politico editor Zack Stanton. “Inside that envelope? A debit card from the govt with $2,400 on it.”

“My husband looked at it, briefly read it and he said, ‘Do you want this?’ And I said, ‘I don’t need another fake card,’ so he cut it up in little pieces,” Bonnie Moore of Florida told WINK. “The next thing you see is I am in the garbage can trying to pull out all of the pieces together, which did not work.”

To help taxpayers identify the card, the IRS said in an FAQ that the cards will bear the Visa logo and are issued by MetaBank. A letter included with the card explains that the card is the Economic Impact Payment Card. More information is available at

To activate the card, taxpayers need to call 1-800-240-8100 to verify their identity and set their PIN. They should also sign the back of their card.

The card can then be used like a regular debit card, for online transactions or swiped at the store, where users can also opt for cash back.

Other parts of the federal government seemed to have realized that the payment and letter could be confusing.

“I received an Economic Impact Payment VISA prepaid debit card from the government in the mail. Is this a scam?” is one of the FAQ items posted on the website of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“This is not a scam. The government is sending some people Economic Impact Payment Cards if they qualified for a stimulus payment and the IRS couldn’t direct deposit the payment,” the site continues.

The card can be used for free — but there are some optional services that can incur fees, including a $2 withdrawal fee after the first withdrawal, 25 cents for a balance inquiry, and $5 for more than one in-person withdrawal. No more than $1,000 can be withdrawn from an ATM in one day.

Taxpayers who want to pay their rent with the card should check with their landlord to find out if they have the means to accept an electronic payment, or use an app such as Venmo or Zelle.

Individuals who need to have a paper check generated can call the above customer service number and request a “Money Network Check” be mailed. After receiving it they fill out the date, dollar amount and payee, but then must call again to have the check activated.

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