Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Chase Direct Benefit Card allows filers to receive their tax refunds on plastic debit cards

Every once in a while, you hear of an interesting and innovative idea from Corporate America that seemingly benefits the little guy. According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Chase is piloting a new program that would allow individuals without a checking account to receive their tax refunds on a debit card.
Chase offering debit card loaded with tax credits
By Mary Wisniewski
The Chicago Sun-Times
March 13, 2006
JPMorgan Chase is offering low-income tax filers a way to get their refunds safely without having a bank account or going to a currency exchange.
The Chase Direct Benefit Card allows filers to receive their tax refunds on plastic debit cards, instead of paper checks, which eliminates check-cashing fees and allows people to use the cards at stores, ATMs and online. The card is aimed at people who qualify for refunds under the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The idea originated in Chase's Chicago office, and is being rolled out in cities across the country.
"We tried to think of something outside of the box that is innovative to help people get their tax refunds faster and more efficiently," said Byron Reed, senior vice president/director of the Community Development Group at Chase. " The refund is loaded directly onto their cards."
Chase has partnered with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites in 15 cities to promote awareness of EITC refunds and support free tax preparation services. Chase is also working with the Center for Economic Progress in Chicago and other nonprofits.
The tax preparation help isn't new -- for years Chase's predecessor, Bank One, has sent out volunteers to help people fill out their taxes, Reed said. The new part this year is the card program. People can sign up for cards right at the tax preparation sites.
"We've opened hundreds of cards," Reed said. "Hopefully, next year, the numbers will increase."
The primary focus for the cards is the Earned Income Tax Credit, but Social Security and Veterans Administration benefits also can be deposited onto the cards, if the cardholder makes the arrangements.
Reed noted that some people who receive the direct benefit card might not have a good enough credit rating for a checking account. Whoever gets a tax refund can get the debit card, regardless of credit. There are no late fees or minimum balances, and the accounts are FDIC insured. Cardholders can make purchases or withdraw money only up to the amount on deposit.
For more information on the debit card, call (866) 545-6505.

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