Check your mail: IRS sending out stimulus checks in the form of prepaid debit cards

A trip to the mailbox typically involves weeding out the junk mail.

Before you toss everything into the trash, take a closer look. You could be making a big mistake.

"Let me just say, it would have been about $2400 of Uh Oh. Yeah,” said Tim Knox, who is among the nearly four million people to get a debit card loaded with government economic impact payments, or EIP's. "It came in a very plain envelope, and the only thing that stopped me from throwing this away was I felt a credit card inside. So I thought OK it’s someone trying to send me a credit card."

RELATED: Stimulus payment for 4 million Americans to arrive by prepaid debit card

Knox is in real estate and knows how mass mailing works and how it can be misused.

"I opened it, I looked at it and I saw this, and immediately thought that is a really clever scam, someone is going to scam me, and inside was a Visa debit card," Knox said. "I still thought it was a scam. I said I'll look at it tomorrow, laid it on my desk, the next day I took it out, looked at it, still think it was a scam, almost threw it away again, and then I actually read the letter that came with it, and sure enough it was my Visa debit card with my stimulus money on it. And I came this close to throwing it in the trash."

The IRS is sending cards to those who missed the May 13th deadline to get payments made by direct deposit. Adding to the confusion, the cards are managed by Metabank and Money Network Financial LLC.


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"I didn’t know they were doing prepaid cards, my daughter got a check and a friend of mine got direct deposit,” said Knox.

Metabank is not exactly a household name, and there was no major PR campaign about it.

RELATED: It’s not junk mail: Coronavirus stimulus payment debit cards come in plain envelope

"It doesn’t say US Treasury, it doesn’t say anything about stimulus money, and I think they do that on purpose to keep people from taking these,” said Knox.

Like a traditional debit card, there are fees for using out of network ATMs, which start at $2 except when used the first time. There is also a $5 fee for taking the card to the bank and withdrawing money more than once. A list of free ATMs is on the Metabank mobile app and the card's website. Activating the card requires jumping through a few hoops.


“Really easy set up, you go to the web site, basically you follow the instructions, you create a user name and password, they will verify that by email, and again even at that point this is a scam to get into my bank account, but after doing my research, figured out it was true,” said Knox.

Logging in provides information about how much money you have to spend and how to spend it or transfer it into your bank. If you misplace your card, you can lock it. If it’s lost, you can get a new one, but you may have to pay a replacement fee.

The IRS posted the following regarding lost and misplaced cards:

  • If you have misplaced your Card, you can lock your Card by logging in online at to prevent unauthorized transactions or ATM withdrawals while you look for it.
  • If your Card is permanently lost, it is important that you call Customer Service at 1-800-240-8100 (TTY: 1-800-241-9100) to report your lost or stolen Card immediately. Your Card will be deactivated to prevent anyone from using it and a new replacement Card will be ordered. Fees may apply.

For more information, check out the Cardholder Agreement online.


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