Q&A: Unemployment Check Via Direct Deposit?

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Q: I’ve recently lost my job and I’m applying for unemployment insurance with my state. One thing I’d like is to receive my check via direct deposit. Is that possible? — M. Flaherty, Lansing, Mich.

A: As a Michigan resident, you’re in luck. In fact, many states, including Ohio, Minnesota and Massachusetts can pop unemployment checks directly into your bank account. Others, like Oregon, Louisiana, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Illinois, give recipients a choice: you can receive your unemployment benefits via direct deposit or through a debit card the state sends you in the mail.

But for your purposes, out there in Lansing, let’s use the Michigan direct deposit program as a model.

First, Michigan offers the direct deposit or debit card model. Start by visiting Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency. The Web site allows you to sign up for benefits, choose a payment method and can also offer help if you wind up exhausting your unemployment benefits.

Whether or not you opt for the direct deposit or debit card program, you’ll be given a JPMorgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) account. Once you’re registered and approved for payment, your unemployment benefits are added to your debit card via Michigan’s MARVIN online payment system. Or, if you opt for direct deposit, the money will hit your bank account. Expect two or three days for the paperwork to clear, and for the first payment to hit your account.

The Visa (Stock Quote: V) card acts just like a regular debit card. You can use it at any retail outlet that accepts Visa, and can be used to get cash out of your bank’s ATM (and any partnering financial institution ATMs). Some bank transaction fees may apply.

Michigan calls it a win-win for recipients and for the state. You’ll get access to your money more quickly (a time saver of two to four days, on average) and the state saves $160 million on postage, paper and envelopes, the UIA says.

It’s tough calling any unemployment situation a win-win, but at least you won’t have to wait at your mailbox for your check to come. These days Michigan, like a lot of other states, is taking the direct route to getting you your unemployment cash.

Check out this state-by-state list of unemployment offices.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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