The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a final rule Dec. 21 to move to electronic payments instead of checks for federal benefits and nontax payments.

Anyone applying for benefits on or after May 1, 2011, would receive their payments electronically, the agency said. Anyone already receiving paper checks will be required to switch to direct deposit by March 1, 2013. Such accounts could be tie to bank or credit union account or into a Direct Express Debit MasterCard account. Roughly 1.5 million beneficiaries have signed up for the Direct Express card since it launched in 2008.

“Millions of additional retirees, veterans and other Americans will also receive their money in the safest, most reliable way–electronically,” Treasury Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard L. Gregg, said in a press release.

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