By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- The U.S. Treasury Department has decided to stop mailing out checks for things like social security and veterans benefits.
By 2013, everyone must either get their money through direct deposit or a debit card.
It says switching to all electronic transactions will save taxpayers $400 million in the first five years, plus 12 million pounds of paper.
In that same spirit, Tulsa County is now offering pay checks on debit cards.
Plastic payroll is certainly a sign of the times and Tulsa County wants to be on the front edge of that. The problem is convincing employees that it's safe to have their entire paycheck on one little card.
Out of nearly 2,000 Tulsa County employees, all but 242 are getting direct deposit. Those 242 still receive paper checks. That costs money, takes time and uses up paper.
So County Clerk Earlene Wilson decided to offer plastic pay, where employees can get their money on a debit card.
"Even having checks printed is expensive," Wilson said. "There's a minimum order, it's special security paper, I just thought it would make sense in this day and age."
But, when the county offered the debit cards last month, not one person signed up for them.
Off camera, they told News On 6 reporter Lori Fullbright they didn't like the idea of all their money on one card, wondered how they'd pay some bills and worried about security.
Wilson said the cards have a PIN and can be cashed like a paycheck, used at ATM's for cash and at stores to make purchases.
"We pay monthly, so every month, it's loaded onto that card so the employee is ready to go," she said.
Employees would still receive a piece of paper that outlines benefits and withholdings. Wilson said it's perfect for people who don't have bank accounts, because they no longer have to pay a fee to cash their check or pay fees to get cashiers checks to pay bills.
Plus, if there was a disaster and the courthouse was closed, they couldn't print checks, but, deposits could still be made directly and debit cards loaded.
"It's an education process," Wilson said. "We'll have to get the word out, give details to smaller groups and let them know it's doable and will save them a lot of worry."
For now, the County is not making direct deposit or debit cards mandatory, so unless those 242 folks change their minds, the county will continue to spend taxpayer money to print checks each month.
Given how tight budgets are right now, saving money anywhere they can, really helps.