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In the United States, as part of the second wave of coronavirus stimulus payments, the IRS said some payments will be sent as VISA debit cards issued by MetaBank.

Wouldn't this be more complicated and more expensive then printing a check? (e.g. the debit card has to have an associated account opened for it)

Is the government getting some kind of kickback from MetaBank or VISA for issuing these cards?

VISA normally gets to earn merchant processing fees from stores anytime anyone uses a VISA debit or credit card - is VISA opportunistically paying the government to issue VISA cards so when consumers spend their stimulus at stores, VISA gets a forced kickback (2.5% of tens of billions) from the merchants?

Also, I looked up MetaBank on Wikipedia and, relatively speaking, it's a smallish bank. Why would the government partner with MetaBank instead of a larger more established bank like e.g. Bank of America?

To be clear, my question is, why mail debit cards instead of checks for people the IRS don't have direct deposit info for? And, why choose MetaBank to handle that instead of a larger bank?

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    Does everybody who is due to receive the stimulus payment have a bank account that the IRS knows belongs to them? – Caleth Jan 14 at 9:55
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    I would guess it’s for people who don’t have bank accounts. While it may seem strange not to have one, the number of check cashing places, which charge much higher fees than even debit card companies, shows the large number of people who don’t have access to a checking account. – divibisan Jan 14 at 16:43
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    One interesting fact that many are not aware of is that a check cashing place is the worst place to cash a check if you don't have a bank account. Checks can always be cashed at the originating bank - the bank where the source account is established - often with no fee (and the government could choose the bank with this in mind). So, if the US Government issues checks drawn on an account at, say Bank of America, the recipient can go to any BofA branch and have the check cashed (subject to normal limits for funds on hand, etc.). See magnifymoney.com/blog/banking/how-to-cash-a-check – cpcodes Jan 14 at 17:02
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    I would hazard a guess that they think people are more likely to spend the money simulating the economy with a debit card vs just depositing it into savings or paying bills. – JohnFx Jan 14 at 23:50

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