Go Direct Pilot Results

U.S. Department of the Treasury Gives Green Light to National Campaign to Promote Direct Deposit of Social Security Benefits

Go Direct pilot campaign bolstered rate of conversion from paper to electronic payments

Washington, D.C. (Aug. 1, 2005) -- Following a successful six-month grassroots pilot campaign, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, together with the Federal Reserve Bank, today announced it is expanding the Go Direct program nationwide to encourage more Americans to select direct deposit for their federal benefit payments, such as Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The decision to expand the campaign nationwide was made after a comprehensive evaluation demonstrated that the Go Direct pilot campaign -- which began in Texas, Illinois, Tennessee and Puerto Rico last fall and ended March 31, 2005 -- was highly effective in motivating paper check recipients to switch to direct deposit. According to data from the Treasury, the six-month pilot campaign convinced tens of thousands of Social Security and SSI check recipients to convert to direct deposit.

"We are gratified by the success of the Go Direct pilot and the tremendous demonstration of community-level support from public and private partners," said Treasury Fiscal Assistant Secretary Don Hammond. "Our partners are the cornerstone of this effort and the key to spreading the word to recipients about the benefits of direct deposit.

With the first wave of baby boomers starting to draw from Social Security in 2008, it's critical that we take action now to increase the use of direct deposit. In so doing, recipients gain greater security, convenience and control over their benefit payments, and taxpayers save millions of dollars."

Currently, the Treasury issues nearly 13.3 million benefit checks each month -- the majority of which are Social Security payments. If these were converted to direct deposit, it would save the American taxpayers about $120 million annually. Despite educational and marketing efforts to spur the use of electronic payments, growth in direct deposit has slowed in recent years to less than 1 percent a year. Only 75 percent of newly eligible Social Security recipients, the largest group to receive government payments, are signing up for direct deposit. Participation has fallen from 90 percent in the late 1990s.

The pilot campaign reached out to benefit recipients through organizations and people they know and trust -- such as financial institutions and community-based groups -- to educate them about the benefits of direct deposit, and help them sign up for it. The outreach effort also used media, direct mail, advertising and Web sites in English and Spanish.

The Go Direct pilot was conducted in 10 markets -- Chicago and Springfield, Ill.; Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, Texas; Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, Tenn.; and all of Puerto Rico. Grassroots partnerships with financial institutions and community-based organizations were integral to the success of the pilot -- about 250 such organizations joined the Go Direct cause.

"The Go Direct campaign was incredibly helpful in increasing the use of direct deposit," said Denise McBride, vice president of community development for SunTrust Bank in Nashville. "We've been a proponent of direct deposit for many years, but we didn't have a partner to strengthen our efforts. Go Direct has greatly helped us in this area by publicizing the benefits of direct deposit and also simplifying the process not only for our customers but for our tellers."

Jeff Weaver, managing director of Guaranty Bank in Dallas said many retirees live in fear each month that their check will be lost or stolen. "One woman literally wouldn't leave her house on the day she was expecting her check because she wanted to be there when the check came," Weaver said. "We told her about the benefits of direct deposit and she decided to make the switch -- she's now thrilled, and for the first time in years has peace of mind because she knows where her money is."

More than 11,000 bank tellers in the target markets were trained to help people switch to direct deposit. In addition, 13,000 volunteers participated in the effort and hundreds of promotional events, called Direct Dialogues, were used to build awareness and to get people to sign up for direct deposit. These events ranged from Go Direct bingo games to Meals on Wheels deliveries to designated Go Direct Weeks and Months in the pilot markets.

Details of the national campaign will be announced in September.

Go Direct has an established Web site, www.GoDirect.org (English) and GoDirect.org/espanol (Spanish), as well as a toll-free number to help people sign up for direct deposit: (800) 333-1795.