It's that time of year when you start thinking about doing your taxes, but there's a big change you should know about. The state of Virginia isn't sending out tax refund checks anymore. People are starting to receive their tax returns in the mail on a debit card.
As of February 16th, more than 69,000 people in Virginia have received their refunds on debit cards. Even more, about 450,000, are getting their refunds through direct deposits. Those are your options now in Virginia, and this new way of doing things has some people very frustrated.
"I can only imagine people that don't have access to any other funds that are relying on the use of this card," said Clear Brook Resident Michael Wysong.
Wysong says he has spent hours trying to get his tax refund money. It's been almost a week since he got his debit card in the mail. Instead of being able to use the money to pay bills, he says he has lost a couple dollars to fees.
"You get one or two initial calls free and then after that you're charged between $2.50," said Wysong. "It varies with what service you're trying to extract from the card, but it virtually pulls your account down further and further."
Wysong says his bank teller told him he's not the only one who's experiencing problems.
"The voicemail system says the card is active and the balance is there, but when I go online to try to verify the card it can't find the card," said Wysong.
A representative with the Virginia Department of Taxation says they haven't seen any widespread issues.
"There was a wrong phone number we found out that they had posted somewhere," said Virginia Department of Taxation Public Relations Manager Joel Davison. "So it's little things like that that the customers keep us well informed about what's going on out there."
Joel Davison says they made sure to include a list of possible fees people could accrue. They have extra staff at their call help center, and they're also working with groups such as AARP to guide them through the new process.
"There are many ways to access your money for free including taking it to almost any bank and cashing it out or transferring all the funds or part of the funds into your own accounts," said Davison. "You can also use it as any debit card to make point of sale transactions and get cash back."
Michael's bank is Navy Federal Credit Union. He was told to go to Wells Fargo. He went there. Told them the exact amount on his debit card and was able to get those funds transferred to his account, minus a few dollars from calling more than two times to try to get help. So remember to check the list of fees when you get this card.
Don't forget, to avoid it, you have the option of setting up a direct deposit. Virginia is one of about six or seven states that are using debit cards for tax refunds now.
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