Unemployment Benefit Debit Cards in Illinois

Illinois is one of the states that uses prepaid debit cards to distribute unemployment benefits. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) distributes the card to you right after it approves your benefits. After you activate the card, you can access your benefits by using the card to make purchases or withdrawing money at an ATM. If you misplace your card or it’s stolen, you can replace it at no charge.


In the past, the default benefit disbursement method has been a check in the mail. Like many states, Illinois moved away from the checks due to cost and security concerns. Now, the IDES uses the prepaid debit card method because it provides a secure, reliable way to send your benefits. You don’t have to worry about lost checks in the mail, weather delaying mail service and having to cash your check at a bank.


You receive your prepaid debit card by mail seven to 10 days after your claim is approved if you haven’t already signed up for direct deposit. You have to call the number on the back of the card to activate it before you can use it. You also setup a personal identification number (PIN) that you can use to make withdrawals and complete debit card transactions. Shortly thereafter, you receive your first biweekly payment sent directly to the prepaid card’s account.

Accessing Money

Once the IDES starts distributing your payments to you via prepaid card, you can access it one of three ways. The first way is to go to an ATM and withdraw funds, although there is a 95-cent charge each time. There also may be a fee from the ATM owner. You also can use your card in credit card transactions with merchants or online. Finally, you can use your card in debit transactions by entering your PIN.

Lost or Stolen

If your card is lost or stolen, you must report your card missing immediately. Call 800-627-2069 as soon as you realized the card is missing, and select the lost or stolen card option. You should receive a new one in a week to 10 days by mail. You can replace your card up to four times a year with no fee. After that, it’s $25 for each replacement card.