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free cash for senior citizens?

Has anyone had experience using the Direct Express MasterCard debit card outside of the USA?

This card is issued by Comerica Bank through collaboration with US Treasury for the delivery of Social Security and other government benefits to senior citizens, as well as others.

Although the Direct Express website doesn’t quite come right out and say it in so many words, the logical inference is that if one requests cash from a teller at a bank that “displays the MasterCard acceptance mark,” then that transaction would be completed at zero cost to the cardholder.

I’ve learned that MasterCard is worldwide with jillions of ATMs, etc., but these would charge me fees and what I’m interested in is free access to my money.

So three questions:

Can anyone confirm from personal experience that my understanding is accurate? Comerica did not deign to respond to this question.

And if you’ve had that experience, in what countries was it easy to find such a bank?

In what countries was it difficult or impossible to find such a bank?

Posted by
9361 posts

You can get a fee-free ATM card at lots of local credit unions. It should have told you something that Comerica did not answer your question. Just take a low-fee (1%) or free ATM card instead of a preloaded card. Bank ATMs abroad do not charge fees, those come from your own bank. I take my regular credit union debit and I am charged nothing for withdrawing money from an ATM.

Posted by
2 posts

To Nancy,

Bloomington, IL

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

To George,


Thanks for correcting the name of this card.

And thanks for the links, actually I am familiar with the website for this card and know that many things are free and other things have fees attached.

To All,

What I’m hoping to learn from this forum is

whether anyone has gotten no fee cash in the manner I outlined in my original posting and

whether or not it is a practical/viable way to get money and

in which countries.

Thank You,


Posted by
16761 posts

We don't believe that buying any front-loaded card is a good value. The regular ATM/debit card attached to your bank or credit union account is better. Every bank has some built-in fees, usually less at a credit union or if you are a particularly good bank customer. In all of Europe, it is difficult to find a bank to make cash advances in person. A bank teller will direct you to the ATM outside; see also

Posted by
20597 posts

You are making some assumptions or reading into some information more than may be there.

"Zero cost to the consumer" means nothing with out context. If a bank increase the exchange rates by 10% and then sells you currency at "their cost" but doesn't charge any fees. Is that zero cost? Some would argue not since they have clipped you for an additional ten percent. And the logic - the bank has to make money somewhere so why would they not profit, even a little bit, from your transaction?
MasterCard is worldwide with jillions of ATMs. Technically speaking that is not correct. There are zero Mastercard ATMs anywhere. All ATMs are owned by either a bank, credit union, or some other type of financial institution. Mastercard, Visa, are networks for processing financial transactions that are subscribed to by financial institutions. You can find ATMs worldwide that will ACCEPT a debit card branded by Visa, Mastercard, etc. Mastercard does not charge any fees. Only the card issuer can add fees and those must be clearly disclosed to the card holder. Banks in Europe do not add fees to use an ATM.
And free access to your money probably doesn't exist anywhere. What you want is low cost or min cost access to your money. So check around. Credit unions are a good source for low cost access.

And this is a huge difference between preloaded cards and standard or bank debit cards. Debit cards issued by banks are subject to all banking regulations. Preloaded debit cards are consider gifts card and not subject to bank regulations especially as related to disclosure of fees. Which is one of the reasons that preloaded cards are being pushed by banks because they can be far more profitable than a standard debit card since they can hide fees in the card.
You can easily set up direct deposit into any account. In fact, I don't think SS mails any checks unless it is an odd situation. We use a credit union that allows six withdraws a month and then $1 charge for all other withdraws that month but no currency conversion fees. Direct interbank rate charged by VISA.