To the single mom of three children who just called me in a panic: If you take the right steps today, you may be able to access your tax refund in a few days. But first, you need to get a bank account with a virtual debit card.
You applied for a prepaid debit card when you filed your taxes. You didn’t have a bank account until the day you filed your return. You signed up on that day because you wanted to get your refund as soon as possible. The preparer told you rightly that you can receive the proceeds of your tax refund sooner if you elect to receive it by direct deposit.
You gave your bank details (bank routing and personal account number) to the preparer who dutifully entered them on your tax filing.
However, two weeks have passed, and you still don’t have your card. You believe you may have entered the wrong zip code on your application. You cannot be certain, but your card still hasn’t arrived, and you have three mouths to feed.
I hear the emotion in your voice – I have the feeling you are crying.
The problem you face is that the refund may be delivered to an account associated with a card that you have not received. At this point, it’s already been ten days, but if the Postal Service returns the card to your card issuer, you may have to wait for ten or even fifteen more business days. The end of the month is near, rent is due, and you need your money.
The card company’s customer service phone system doesn’t recognize her because she never activated the card account. That’s the catch-22: she can’t activate the card until it comes in the mail.
I did some research, and there is hope.
First, you need to get a new bank account. Ideally, you need to get a new account that provides you with your routing and account number immediately on signup. As well, you need an account that comes with a virtual card.
While it isn’t the norm that a bank will give you both numbers as soon as your account is approved, there are some that will do it. Getting a virtual card is much harder – only a few card issuers are currently offering this product.
A virtual card has a routing and account number as well as a traditional 16-digit card network number. You are familiar with the 16-digit number; it is the one that appears on the front of a plastic debit card.
Your virtual card is an image displayed inside your new bank account app on your smartphone.