There are currently 7.4 million unemployed people in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Becoming unemployed can be scary and unsettling. To make matters worse, how unemployment benefits are disbursed can oftentimes be confusing. This is on top of an already confusing banking system. When you receive unemployment benefits, you will find that you have several options available for how to receive your benefit payments. In many cases, people choose to have their benefits paid directly into their existing bank accounts. However, one option for receiving unemployment benefits that many people might not be aware of are unemployment debit cards.

What are Unemployment Debit Cards

Unemployment debit cards have become increasingly popular because they allow users to manage their unemployment benefits separately from the rest of their finances. Instead of having the unemployment funds deposited to your regular account, they are kept distinct on the debit card. In addition to simplifying your finances, keeping unemployment benefits separate can also help with budgeting. While the benefits of these debit cards are clear, there are still many that aren’t aware that these debit cards are an option for them. Therefore, in the guide that follows we will provide helpful information on unemployment debit cards.

How Do You Apply For and Activate Unemployment Debit Cards?

The exact process you need to follow will vary depending on the state you’re in. However, the general process involves applying for the card via the bank that your state government is working with. For example, if you’re in the state of North Carolina and therefore looking for a NC unemployment debit card, you will be applying through U.S. Bank as of November 15, 2021.

Once you’ve submitted your application, it usually takes between 7 and 10 days to receive your card in the mail. Upon receipt, you then need to activate the card. Again, the exact process for this differs depending on your state. So we’ve broken down the process based on several states:

North Carolina – NC unemployment debit card

Those applying for unemployment debit cards in North Carolina will now be receiving the ReliaCard issued by U.S. Bank. This follows a change from Bank of America to U.S. Bank which occurred on November 15, 2021.

ReliaCard is a prepaid debit card which is where your unemployment benefits will be deposited. The card is not a credit card. However once the funds are deposited onto the card, you will be able to use it pretty much as you would use a credit card. The ReliaCard is the new NC unemployment debit card and can be used to make purchases online, for physical purchases and to pay bills. It can also be used to withdraw cash at ATMs, banks and credit unions.

What the New NC Unemployment Debit Card Looks Like

us bank unemployment debit card

The image gives you an idea of what to expect when you are mailed your new NC unemployment debit card by U.S. Bank. You can also manage your account similar to a typical bank account by going to There you will be able to change your PIN, view your balances, card transactions, previous statements, pay bills and set up alerts.

Nevada – Unemployment Debit Cards Are The Way2Go Prepaid MasterCard

As of July 1, 2021, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation changed their debit card provider from Bank of America to the Way2Go card. Therefore, from now on the Way2Go prepaid debit card is where your unemployment benefits will be deposited. These cards will be mailed within 7-10 business days from the date a new claim is filed. The cards can be activated online at or by calling 1-844-542-1115.

What the New Nevada Unemployment Debit Card Looks Like

nevada unemployment debit card

The timeline for receiving funds for individuals who are first-time filers of unemployment claims is:

  • Week 1 – you successfully file your claim.
  • Then, Week 2 – file your weekly certification.
  • Then. also in Week 2 – the benefits will be deposited onto your Nevada unemployment debit card. This is only the case if you are immediately eligible for the benefits.
  • Beyond this, if you continue to certify your status on a weekly basis, then each week your deposit will post to the card within 48 hours.

Maryland – Unemployment Debit Card By Bank of America

In Maryland, the government issues unemployment benefits onto the Maryland Unemployment Insurance Benefits Debit Card. However, the state also provides the option for you to receive a paper check instead. In order to opt for this you would need to call 1-800-827-4839. The debit card is a Visa debit card and is issued by Bank of America.

What the Maryland Unemployment Debit Card Looks Like

image of maryland unemployment debit card

Additional helpful information about the Maryland unemployment debit card:

  • Once your benefits are approved you’ll receive a notice indicating this and a heads-up on the mailing of your Bank of America Visa card.
  • Expect to receive the card in 7-10 business days in a white envelope.
  • The card should look like the image above.
  • You can access the funds on the card without any fees by going to a bank branch, using a Bank of America ATM or using the card for purchases and entering your PIN.
  • You also can use non-Bank of America ATMs six times per month without paying a withdrawal fee.

Michigan – Unemployment Debit Card By U.S. Bank

Michigan offers two options for receiving unemployment benefit payments. First option, which we will focus on, is through a prepaid debit card. The second is a direct deposit into your bank account. For the first option, the state issues the funds onto a U.S. Bank ReliaCard. Similar to the NC unemployment debit card, the funds in Michigan are handled by U.S. Bank. Michigan switched from Bank of America to U.S. Bank on August 25, 2021.

The ReliaCard works in the exact same way as described earlier, in the section on North Carolina. In Michigan the debit cards are typically recieved within 10 business days. The government has a customer service department which can be reached with any questions: 1-866-500-0017.

How Does an Unemployment Debit Card Work?

Once you’ve received and activated your card, it’s time to put it to good use. Your local unemployment office will begin depositing funds onto the card based on a schedule set with you beforehand.

From there, you can use your unemployment debit card just like you’d use a regular debit card. You can withdraw money from any ATM, buy items at stores, or use your card to make bill payments. You may also be able to transfer funds from your unemployment debit card to your regular bank account, offering you more control over your finances in the process. As a side note, the card also looks like any other debit card. This means nobody will know that you’re using an unemployment card when you’re making payments in public.

How Often Do You Receive Money?

As mentioned earlier, the answer to this depends on the schedule that you’ve set up with your unemployment office. Generally speaking, you will receive your payments on a weekly or biweekly basis. You can check the card’s balance at any ATM, the issuing bank or online. You may also find that your card’s issuer offers the option to sign up for text alerts that keep you informed of exactly how much cash you have in your account.

If your payment is behind schedule, call your local unemployment office. They should be able to help you find out if the payment has already been processed or if there is an issue you need to address before it is released to you.

What Benefits Does an Unemployment Debit Card Have Over Regular Unemployment Payments?

There are several reasons why you may opt to apply for an unemployment debit card ahead of receiving your payments the traditional way. These include the following:

  • Payments are deposited into your debit account faster than they’re deposited via any other means.
  • You can use the card to make purchases and get access to cashback options.
  • You will likely receive fraud protection for the card that covers you in case somebody steals it or misappropriates your funds.

What Happens if I Lose My Card?

Your first step should be to request a replacement card if yours is lost or stolen. To do this, you must contact the customer service department of the bank or financial institution that issued the card, rather than contacting your unemployment agency. For example, somebody who loses an NC unemployment debit card would need to call U.S. Bank.

The sooner you request and receive your replacement, the sooner the balance for your old card can be transferred to your new one. You may also find that your state charges for replacements.

Be Wary of Unemployment Benefit Scams

Unfortunately, some scammers try to take advantage of people who’ve received an unemployment debit card. Typically, they will attempt to extract money from you by impersonating your local unemployment office. The good news is that there are several warning signs to look out for. The most prominent of these is that your unemployment office will not ask for any personal information from you once you’ve made your claim for your card. That means you can assume that any caller who asks for personal details, such as your address, social security number, or debit card numbers, is likely just attempting to scam you.

If you’re unsure, call your unemployment office directly and ask them if they would ever request such details.

Closing Thoughts: A New Way to Receive Unemployment Payments

With  unemployment debit cards, you have the option for receiving payments that provide you with flexibility and protection. You’re still in control of the funds that you receive and you can use the card to make payments in the same ways that you’d use a traditional debit card. Becoming unemployed can be very stressful and daunting and so getting support sooner and having increased flexibility is a clear positive.