Folks interested in switching their Social Security payments to direct deposit can do so by calling the Go Direct help line at (800) 333-1795, signing up online at www.godirect.org, or visiting their bank or credit union.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury is advising Social Security recipients to consider signing up for direct deposit of their benefit checks, and not just because it's faster, easier, more efficient and cheaper for all involved.
It also can be critical during a disaster.
Need a case study? Check out the flooding that has forced evacuations along the Mississippi River, as failing levees and overrun flood-control systems have sent water cascading into places where people must leave.
"The flood damage already sustained has disrupted some mail service and forced many residents to evacuate their homes," said Alvina McHale, director of the department's Go Direct project. "While people work to get through this crisis, one simple step seniors and other federal beneficiaries can take is to sign up for direct deposit - the safest and most reliable payment option."
Such direct-deposit options have become increasingly popular - even pervasive - as people become more comfortable with technology and electronic transactions. Such systems allow employers, government programs and other payers to transmit money without having to issue a paper check.
Instead, the money goes directly into a recipient's designated bank account.
Teri Smith, director of Douglas County Emergency Management, said that opting for direct deposit would be among the easiest steps anyone could take to be prepared for the aftermath of a disaster.
"I think that was a big lesson learned in (Hurricane) Katrina, because it happened on the 29th of August," Smith said, of the devastating storm that ravaged the New Orleans area in 2005. "They were all waiting for their checks to be delivered, and nobody got them because there was no place to deliver them to. So it delayed the assistance to those people who truly needed it."
Specifically, the treasury had to issue 85,000 emergency payments as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as thousands of people had been evacuated.
"You don't want to be in that position," Smith said. "You need all the money you've got. And if it's direct-deposited, you're not waiting on it."
Treasury officials say that about 80 percent of those who receive federal benefits do so through direct deposit.