Careful: Don’t toss that plain envelope from an outfit named Money Network

A piece of mail addressed to me that arrived a couple of weeks ago bore a return address from something called the “Money Network Cardholder Services.”

It looked like one of the typical junk credit card offers that come in the mail with some frequency. I usually pitch ‘em, but this time I opened it and found inside a Visa debit card in my name and a 16-digit account number. On the back was the logo of something I did not recognize, the logo of “MetaBank” from the Money Network.

My first impulse was to throw it away, but something about it suggested that I should hang onto it and do some checking. For one thing, most of the junk mailings involve credit cards, but this was a “debit” card, and “debit” in the name usually means there’s money sitting on the card.
The attached flyer said the card was my own personal “EIP” – my Economic Impact Payment Card – “containing the money you are receiving as a result of the coronavirus aid, relief, and economic security act (CARES Act).  The EIP Card is sponsored by the US Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service as part of the US Debit Card Program. Now that you’ve received your Card, here’s how to activate and start using it.”

Still skeptical, I left it in a pile of other “get around-to-it” mail and message items that relentlessly pile up on the dining room table. And there it sat, unattended but not thrown away, for about two weeks.

Then one day last week came another envelope, this from the US Treasury Department, and an enclosed letter with that scribbled signature that the man who sits in the White House uses, telling me he would send me a card with some money on it to help get through this current fiscal crisis.

I quickly rescued the debit card from the scrap heap, and read the instructions again. I was told I can use my EIP card to buy groceries at stores, make purchases online, get cash from an ATM, or simply transfer the funds to my bank account. When I registered online, I learned the card contained several hundred dollars – found money, which I almost had thrown away!

It turns out that some four million Americans will receive a COVID 19 stimulus check in the form of a prepaid debit card or a check. Many people would expect such a payment to arrive as a government check or sent by direct deposit into their bank account. So most would think as I did that mail sent by a largely unknown cardholder services is junk mail.

But lo and behold, it’s legit!

So look for the envelope that comes in the mail from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” There has been very little publicity about these cards, but they were mailed out last month and arrived all over town. Maybe you already threw yours away.

The good news is if you did discard or lose yours, the government says it can be replaced. For help, you can call customer service at 1-800-240-8100. The card will be deactivated to prevent anyone from using it, and a new replacement card will be sent to you.