THE BLOG
07/05/2015 06:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When and How Social Security Checks Are Delivered

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Dear Savvy Senior,

I plan to apply for my Social Security benefits in September. When can I expect my first check? And, is direct deposit my only option for receiving my monthly payment?

--Almost Eligible

Dear Almost,

Generally, Social Security retirement benefits (as well as disability and survivor benefits) are paid in the month after the month they are due. So, if you apply for your Social Security benefits in September, you will receive your September benefits in October.

The day of the month you receive your benefit payment, however, will depend on either your birthdate, or the birthdate of the person whose work record you're receiving benefits on.

If you're applying for benefits as a retired worker, your benefit payment day will be determined by your own birthdate. But if you're applying for spousal or survivors benefits based on your spouse's or (if you were married at least 10 years) ex-spouse's work record, your benefit payment date will be determined by his or her birthdate. Here's the schedule of when you can expect to receive your monthly check:

Birthdate is 1st through 10th of month: Payment day is second Wednesday of each month.

Birthdate is 11th through 20th of month: Payment day is third Wednesday of each month.

Birthdate is after the 20th of the month: Payment day is fourth Wednesday of each month.

There are, however, a few exceptions to this schedule. For example, if the day your Social Security check is supposed to be deposited happens to be a holiday, your check will be deposited the previous day. And, if you are receiving both Social Security benefits and SSI payments, your Social Security check will be deposited on the third day of the month.

You should also know that Social Security beneficiaries who started receiving benefits before 1997, their Social Security checks are paid on the third day of the month.

To get a complete schedule of 2015 payment dates, visit ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10031-2015.pdf.

Direct Deposit Delivery

There are two ways you can receive your Social Security benefits today. Most beneficiaries choose direct deposit into their bank or credit union account because it's simple, safe and secure. But, if you don't like this option or if you don't have a bank account that your payments can be deposited into, you can get a Direct Express Debit MasterCard and have your benefits deposited into your card's account.

This card can then be used to get cash from ATMs, banks or credit union tellers, pay bills online and over the phone, make purchases at stores or locations that accept Debit MasterCard and get cash back when you make those purchases, and purchase money orders at the U.S. Post Office. The money you spend or withdraw is automatically deducted from your account. And you can check your balance any time by phone, online or at ATMs.

There's also no cost to sign up for the card, no monthly fees and no overdraft charges. There are, however, a few small fees for optional services you need to be aware of, like multiple ATM withdrawals. Currently, cardholders get one free ATM withdrawal per month, but additional monthly withdrawals cost 85 cents each not including a surcharge if you use a non-network ATM. To learn more about the Direct Express Debit MasterCard, visit usdirectexpress.com or call 800-333-1795.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.