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The third round of stimulus payments are going out now, and most people are receiving their money either via check or direct deposit. But as was the case the first two times around, some Americans will receive their payment in the form of an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Card instead.

Not everyone who received their payment on a EIP card in either the first or second round will get an EIP card this time, and some people who got their first two payments by check will get a card this time. But if you received an EIP card before, your new payment will not be added to your old card. You’ll either receive a new card in the mail or a check.

If you do get an EIP Card with the third stimulus payment, it’s essentially a prepaid Visa debit card, and you probably know that prepaid debit cards often come with fees. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to use the card in ways that won’t get you charged.

The easiest ways to use your stimulus debit card without a fee

If you have a personal bank account, your best bet is to transfer the entire debit card balance to your own account. You can make transfers from the card to your bank account at no charge, and the limit is a relatively high $2,500 per day. That means most people should be able to transfer their entire stimulus payment in one swoop, though for those with large families, it could take two or three transfers to get it all into your bank account.

To transfer money from your stimulus debit card to your bank account, go to the EIP Card website or use the Money Network mobile app, and select the option to “Move Money Out.” You’ll need both the routing number and the account number from your bank account to make the transfer.

If you don’t have a bank account, you can also make purchases with your card anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted without being charged a fee. This includes in stores, online or over the phone. And if you’re physically in a store, you may also be able to get cash back when you make a purchase without incurring an extra charge.

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You won't be charged a fee when using your stimulus debit card at any store that accepts Visa cards.
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You won't be charged a fee when using your stimulus debit card at any store that accepts Visa cards.

It’s also possible to write a check from the money on your stimulus debit card, but to do so, you’ll need to call customer service and ask for Money Network checks to be mailed to you. There’s no fee for these checks, but you need to call and get a transaction number every time you write a check, so it’s not the most convenient method.

By instead moving the money in its entirety from your stimulus debit card to your bank account, you can easily use it for payments where a Visa debit card isn’t accepted, such as for your rent or mortgage. Plus, if the money is in your own account, you might be able to save some of it to use down the line, especially if you’ve created a spending plan.

Regardless of which of these methods you use, they’re all safe ways to get your stimulus money and not get charged extra. But what shouldn’t you do with your stimulus debit card?

Don’t use your stimulus debit card at the wrong ATM

You can get cash from your stimulus debit card at any ATM, up to $1,000 per day (though some bank ATM limits may be lower). However, it’s important that you use the right ATM so it doesn’t cost you extra.

When you use your stimulus debit card at an ATM within the AllPoint network, you won’t pay a fee at all. You can find a list of all the network ATM’s on the EIP Card website.

But if you use a machine outside of that network, you’re at risk of paying not just one, but two separate fees. First, Metabank, which issues the card on behalf of the Treasury Department, will charge you a $2 fee each time you withdraw cash on a non-network ATM (though it will waive the fee once, for your first ATM withdrawal).

And second, the owner of the ATM itself may charge you a fee, which can range from 99 cents to several dollars, depending on the machine. Plus, if you happen to be outside the US, you’ll be charged an even higher $3 fee by Metabank to withdraw cash from an ATM, no matter what machine you use, plus any additional fee charged by the ATM operator.

So if you’re going to withdraw cash from your stimulus debit card using an ATM, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it only at a network ATM in the US.

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Don’t ask an ATM for the balance on your stimulus debit card

Watch out for fees when using your stimulus debit card at ATMs.
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Watch out for fees when using your stimulus debit card at ATMs.

While we’re on the subject of ATMs, if you’re not sure how much money you have left on your stimulus debit card, you can now use an ATM to find out. Previously, every time you made a balance inquiry at an ATM, Metabank charged you a fee of 25 cents. However, on Metabank’s most recent fee schedule, there’s now no fee listed for getting your balance at an ATM.

However, just as when you’re withdrawing money, if you’re using a non-network ATM, the ATM owner can still tack on an additional fee of its own. So to safely find out how much money is left on your card without getting charged a fee, either use a network ATM, go online and look it up at the EIP Card website or call customer service at (800) 240-8100.

Don’t withdraw money from an overseas bank teller

You can also theoretically withdraw money from your stimulus debit card by walking into any bank or credit union displaying a Visa logo. In the past, Metabank charged a $5 fee for using a bank teller, but the current fee schedule no longer lists a fee for withdrawals made at banks within the United States.

However, like with non-network ATMs, the bank is allowed to tack on a fee of its own. And if you’re overseas and go to an international bank teller, the $5 fee still applies, though it’s waived for your first withdrawal and it can be lower for subsequent withdrawals depending on how and where the card is used.

Avoid stimulus debit card fees and keep more money for yourself

Don't lose your stimulus money to debit card fees.
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Don't lose your stimulus money to debit card fees.

Fortunately, the stimulus EIP Cards aren’t terrible when it comes to fees, but there are still a few you’ll need to dodge. Remember that in all cases, before you use your stimulus debit card for the very first time, you’ll need to activate it and set up a 4-digit PIN by calling customer service at (800) 240-8100 and verifying your identity.

Finally, never give your PIN to anyone, even if someone calls claiming to be from a bank or government agency. Your PIN should always remain a secret that only you know. But if you keep your PIN safe and make sure you’re only using your stimulus payment debit card in a fee-free way, you can keep every dollar of your stimulus money for yourself.

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