Key findings

  • The government has been aggressively pushing seniors, veterans and others who collect federal benefits to sign up for Direct Express, a payment card subsidized by taxpayers and issued by Comerica bank.
  • Comerica received $22 million in taxpayer money for offering the cards as of August 2012. It also collects millions in fees that are deducted directly from people‚Äôs benefits.
  • The contracting process lacked transparency, critics say. Comerica initially offered to provide the service at no cost to the government, then reversed course, saying it couldn't make a profit. The government agreed to give the bank millions of dollars without reopening bidding.
  • Call center workers were trained to get people to enroll in Direct Express, even if direct deposit was an option. More than a quarter of the people enrolled already have bank accounts and are probably paying more in fees than if they used the direct deposit option.