SHARECOMMENTMORE

(WXIA) -- Most Americans receiving Social Security payments by check will be required to begin receiving their money via direct deposit to a bank account or debit card on March 1.

The Department of the Treasury is requiring all federal benefits and non-tax payments to be made electronically. The Treasury Department said in a release that electronic payments are safer and more reliable than paper checks.

Most consumers will be able to use direct deposit into their checking or savings accounts. For those who do not have bank accounts, the Treasury Department is making available the Direct Express debit MasterCard. According to a release, no bank account is required, and no monthly fees or overdraft fees are associated with the card.

The move is expected to save about $120 million, according to the Treasury Department.

An exemption from the electronic banking requirement has been provided for individuals born on or before May 1, 1921. People living in remote areas without a "significant banking infrastructure" may also apply for a waiver from the requirement. In addition, a waiver may be applied for by individuals for whom electronic payments may impose a hardship due to mental imparement.

Waiver applications may be obtained by calling 800-333-1795. That number is where consumers may sign up for the Direct Express debit MasterCard.

Switching to an electronic payment form may be handled at a recipient's bank or credit union.

The Treasury Department has set up the Go Direct website to provide information about the switch to direct Social Security payments and on information regarding methods of electronic payments to recipients.