Direct Deposit: A Better Way to be Paid

Adam Rust

My financial life was a classic example of a “hurry up and wait” scenario.

We’ve all known the feeling when payday cannot come soon enough. But as bad as that can be, it is even worse when you have to wait for your paycheck to clear.

I have worked at the same hotel for six years. I used to be one of the people at the restaurant who was paid with a check. The manager would find me when things slowed down on Friday afternoon. She was good about making sure I got my check, but even so, there were times when I missed her.

Four bad things can happen when you don’t have direct deposit.

·         First, you have to wait longer to access the proceeds from your paycheck.

·         Second, you have to be physically present to receive your check.

·         Third, you can lose your check. You may have to ask your employer to stop payment on the check. That is certainly a cringe-worthy experience, as your mistake will mean that your employer has to pay an extra fee to their bank.

- Fourth, you have to pay a check casher to turn your paper check into dollars, and there are additional steps to complete before cash can be converted to a digital value.

None of those things are helpful.

According to one industry group, 82 percent of US workers used direct deposit in 2013.

But I was not one of those people. In fact, it wasn’t just the case that I didn’t have direct deposit set up at work. I didn’t even have a bank account. This creates a whole set of challenges.

Picture of card
Cash Register

First, I was going to a check casher. I was like anyone else. I wanted my money as soon as possible. I would leave work, hop in my car, and head over to my local check cashing outlet. Of course, plenty of other people had the same idea. Thus, the first thing I did every weekend was to wait in line for twenty minutes inside the check cashing store.

Then there was the expense. In New York State, a check cashing business can charge a worker 2.03 percent of the face value of a paycheck to convert to cash. Every two weeks, I paid $24.84 to cash my paycheck. When I got a raise, my check casher got a raise as well.

If I was late, then I had to find time on Saturday morning. I never lost my paycheck, but if I had, I might have had to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday before I could get it reprinted.

I wish I could say otherwise, but it took a real crisis for me to make a change.

I was in a bind: I was going to be out of town over the Thanksgiving holiday. I knew I was in trouble when we left on Tuesday evening. But since I wasn’t going to be in town, the check was going to sit in the office of the payroll department until I returned to work on Monday.

If I had been signed up for direct deposit, I would have been able to use my paycheck on Friday morning. As it was, though, I had to make do over the weekend. The rest of our extended family went shopping for the Black Friday deals. On Saturday, we went out to eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant; I had to ask my brother to cover me until Tuesday.

The first step was to get a bank account. That was easy because I used WiseWage’s excellent service. I spent some time comparing the different cards on the site. I wanted a card that did not allow me to overdraft. Luckily, none of the cards on WiseWage charge an overdraft fee. I was also looking for a card that would encourage me to set aside some of my pay for savings. I found the right card.

The rest was simple. WiseWage took me to the page of the card company. This card opened accounts through Google Play. All I had to do was to download the card’s app. I filled out my information on there. My card came in the mail a few days later. I was able to activate the card inside the app. Then, I took my routing number and my account number to the payroll department. They had a form in their office that I needed to sign, giving the company the authorization to transfer my pay directly into my account via direct deposit.

Now my paycheck lands in my bank account on Friday morning. Not only is the money there, but I can access all of it before noon. Getting paid on time is automatic. I can pay my rent with confidence, knowing that the money is in my account.

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