Unlike typical bank and other customer service functions, Direct Express® customer service is available to cardholders 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English and Spanish (additional language services are available).

There is rarely a period when the customer service team is not handling calls and these calls are heavily loaded in the first ten days of the month. Over 50 percent of monthly call volume occurs during the first week. This is because most payments are disbursed in the first three days of every month.

Customer Service Options

There are three ways that cardholders can access customer service for Direct Express®:

DX Mobile App or Cardholder Web Portal (directexpress.treasury.gov): Direct Express® offers a state-of-the-art mobile application and cardholder web portal which cardholders can use proactively to manage their accounts.These tools provide basic self-service options for cardholders, such as changing a PIN, requesting a replacement card, and updating address information. They also provide the ability to check account balances, review transactions, manage funds through card-to-bank transfers, instantly block usage, and create transaction summaries. All these functions are available at the cardholder’s fingertips through the Mobile App or the web portal. This means cardholders can avoid contacting the call center during heavy call volume periods and access most of their customer service needs online.

Integrated Voice Response (IVR): The Customer Service Call Center (888-741-1115) allows automated voice or keyboard interaction so cardholder can manage routine balance checks, transaction reviews, establish PINs, block and unblock cards and order replacement cards quickly and easily.

Customer Service Representative (CSR): CSRs are available at the Call Center (888-741-1115) for cardholders who have questions or more complex challenges related to their card, for example, when a cardholder identifies an unauthorized charge.

The Cardholder Population

Most cardholders never have a reason to contact the customer service helpline. Some, however, see it as a vital connection to their card account and use it routinely to check on deposits, transactions and more. This is particularly prevalent among older cardholders (30 percent of Direct Express® cardholders are over 65 and only 7 percent under 35), as well as those with disabilities or other challenges that necessitate a little more help with card account management. 7 percent of cardholders call the customer service helpline 5 or more times a month.

With 68 percent of the cardholder population unbanked, there is also a degree of unfamiliarity with the usage of debit cards of any kind. The Direct Express® Financial Education Center (DEFEC) plays an important role in educating the cardholder population as to the efficient use of Direct Express® aimed at increasing the financial capability of individual cardholders (see below).

Typical Customer Service Helpline Challenges

Many service requests do not require a call to a live agent and can be resolved more quickly and effectively via the IVR, DX℠ Mobile App, or the cardholder web portal. Many users of the call center do so to check balances (the reason for most calls), review deposits or make other basic inquiries regarding their account.

Some circumstances, however, require the cardholder to call the helpline and speak to a CSR. These include circumstances when a cardholder receives a charge on their account that they believe they did not make, or when a fraud suspension may have been applied to the card and funds cannot be accessed. Cardholders should call if they believe their card is lost, stolen, or is being used by someone not authorized to use the card. The ability to immediately lock their card prior to calling is available through the web portal or mobile app.

A significant number of CSR calls result from when a cardholder doesn’t recognize a charge on their account. CSRs can provide more information about the charge which usually satisfies the cardholder. In the event the charge is erroneous, or there is a disagreement between the cardholder and the vendor over the goods/services rendered, the representative assists the cardholder with navigating the process of filing a dispute.

Delicate Conversations

On occasion, CSRs must have delicate conversations with cardholders. This is the case in serious situations, such as “family fraud” – when a family member or friend with access to the beneficiary’s card uses it without permission to secure goods or to steal money.

These conversations are also necessary in cases where the cardholder is improperly using their card and incurring unnecessary fees and inconvenience – repetitive reordering of new cards, for example. All these conversations are handled tactfully and with compassion.

The Direct Express® Financial Education Center (DEFEC) has a module for cardholders to learn more about protection from fraud.

Understanding Regulation E Protections

An important security feature of the card is that it provides limited liability for cardholders in the event of unauthorized use.  This protection is provided through federal regulation, Regulation E (12 CFR 1005) (“Reg E”). CSRs are responsible for explaining this to cardholders in cases in which Reg E applies.

Reg E protects cardholders from unauthorized card use, subject to certain limitations, and establishes cardholder responsibilities for reporting unauthorized Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) activity, typically involving a stolen or missing card.

Much of Reg E outlines the procedures consumers must follow in reporting errors with EFTs, as well as the steps a bank must take to provide recourse. Direct Express® cardholder liability for unauthorized transactions is limited if a card is reported as lost or stolen within 120 days from the date the transaction was posted. Cardholders can do this by calling the Direct Express® card toll-free Customer Service number on the back of the card. Failure to do so within the 120-day (four month) timeframe, may mean that cardholders do not get their money back.

It is important to note that Reg E only applies in cases where unauthorized EFTs have been detected — generally when a card has been lost or stolen and has been used without cardholder authorization. It does not apply in cases where mistakes have been made in making a transaction, where merchants receiving cardholder transactions fail to meet expectations, or where confusion between a cardholder and, say, their representative payee, has resulted in transactions that are not in keeping with the cardholders wishes. CSRs are responsible for explaining this to cardholders.

Additional Protections

CSRs are also able to advise cardholders that funds deposited to an individual’s Direct Express® card are FDIC-insured up to the maximum legal limit. In addition, MasterCard® Zero Liability (exceptions may apply), provides additional protection against unauthorized use of a Direct Express® card. Finally, if a Direct Express® card is lost or stolen, it is replaced upon request.

The Direct Express® Financial Education Center (DEFEC) has a module for cardholders to learn more about their card’s inbuilt protections.

The Role of DEFEC

The Direct Express® Financial Education Center (DEFEC) provides cardholders with the tools and knowledge necessary to make informed financial decisions. This valuable resource complements the customer service function, offering a library of topics organized into short micro-learning moments within broader topic areas such as budgeting and saving, privacy and security and elder financial fraud prevention. They are designed with engaging content and interactive exercises that allow cardholders to practice what they learn.

DEFEC is currently developing a module for cardholders to learn more about how to use the mobile app and web portal, to be made available to cardholders later this year.

SOURCE: Direct Express®

Advice for Direct Express® Cardholders Utilizing the Call Center

Cardholder outcomes when using the call center (888-741-1115) are significantly improved when the cardholder is prepared properly.
– Before calling, the cardholder should have ample information available to confirm their identity, including the card number and information only the cardholder would know so that the call center can verify identity. There are many bad actors involved in the financial space who can only be stopped by good authentication.
– If a cardholder needs the assistance from a friend or family member throughout the call, they should have them nearby during the call.
– After the cardholder is authenticated, they may authorize this friend or family member to speak on their behalf to explain the issue.
[It is important to note that the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) cannot speak to anyone other than the cardholder unless that cardholder authorizes a third party to speak on their behalf. These rules are in place to protect all cardholders from fraud that can be perpetrated by bad actors pretending to be someone else.]
– Cardholders should be prepared to provide documentation (in the form of statements, etc.). as evidence for their claims. This information can be provided by mail or fax, and soon, by email.
– Cardholders should take careful note of the timeframes for resolution of their issues, especially those under Regulation E; the CSR will explain the process of investigation, provisional credit (after 10 days) and full resolution under Regulation E.
– Finally, cardholders should be sure to save their case number, provided by their CSR, to refer to in any future interactions.