Economic Quarterly

Spring 1996

The Economics of Electronic Benefit Transfer Payments

David B. Humphrey

Around one-third of recipients of government Social Security, retirement, unemployment, food stamps, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and other benefit programs do not have a bank account. Electronic benefit transfer (EBT) allows such recipients to obtain benefits electronically through ATM and debit card terminals, rather than by checks or food stamps. In so doing, EBT should lower costs and may double or triple the number of debit card transactions, hastening the replacement of checks by electronic payments.

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