WASHINGTON — Federal benefit recipients in Utah need to switch to direct deposit or a Treasury-recommended debit card before March 1, when all benefit payments will be transmitted electronically, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Treasury reports that Utah seniors and other federal benefit recipients are still receiving more than 19,000 paper checks each month and have yet to make the switch to direct deposit or the card — the Direct Express Debit MasterCard.

In Utah today, more than 350,000 monthly federal benefit payments are already made via direct deposit to a bank or credit union account, or to the Direct Express card. The card allows federal benefit recipients to pay bills, withdraw cash and make purchases without paying check-cashing fees. The money on the card is FDIC insured, and many card services are free.

Check recipients can sign up for direct deposit or the Direct Express card by calling 800-333-1795, visiting www.GoDirect.org or talking to their local federal paying agency office. The process is free.

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Social Security office locations can be found at www.socialsecurityofficelocations.com. Information about other federal benefit programs can be accessed via www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Benefits.shtml.

Individuals will need their Social Security number or claim number, their 12-digital federal benefit check number and the amount of their most recent federal benefit check. If choosing direct deposit, recipients also will need their financial institution's routing transit number, account number and account type. There are no sign-up fees or monthly fees to receive benefits electronically.