There is a new wrinkle in the long-running saga of government COVID-19 stimulus payments — debit cards. The government was planning on issuing stimulus payments to more than four million Americans in the form of paper checks. Many of these people don’t have bank accounts, and many banks are still closed to walk-in customers. Also, many banks charge non-customers a fee to cash a government check. This was less than ideal.

A new solution has been reached. Now, the government says it will issue prepaid debit cards to people who are still awaiting their stimulus payments. The cards will be mailed soon and are preloaded with the entire amount of the stimulus payment. The cards can be used just like cash to make payments or used to withdraw cash from an ATM.

It is a Treasury-sponsored, VISA-branded, prepaid debit card issued by MetaBank.

If you get an official-looking letter in the mail containing one of these debit cards, you must follow the instructions included with the card to activate it. If you don’t activate it, you can’t use it.

Once you activate the card, you can use it to make purchases anywhere that Visa debit cards are accepted. You can also get cash back at the register when you make a purchase.

There is no fee to activate the card or use it at any cash register. You can also withdraw cash at any ATM, although you may have to pay a fee at some ATMs.

Be careful. Scammers won’t be far behind. If you get an official-looking card in the mail that requires you to pay an activation fee, you can bet it is a scam. Just throw it out.