We help you estimate the maximum amount that could end up in your bank account if another stimulus payment is approved.

Angela Lang/CNET

The good news is that the Washington powers that be overwhelmingly want to get you a second stimulus check. And while negotiations may be all over the place at the moment, the conversation is growing increasingly urgent in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election just 21 days away.

White House and Democratic negotiators have made a handful of attempts at crafting another coronavirus relief bill, from the administration’s latest $1.8 trillion pitch to the House’s $2.2 trillion reworked Heroes Act. And the Senate may also vote Oct. 19 on a standalone bill to renew payroll protections. An injection of more stimulus money into the economy is considered crucial by both sides of the aisle as the coronavirus recession and steep unemployment lurch on.

One constant through all these proposals is the cap of $1,200 for individual eligible Americans and $2,400 for married couples filing jointly. What’s a lot more convoluted is how much money you’d actually get, with or without your dependents.

 Below, we walk you through the math. And here are the roughly five priority groups used by the IRS to help determine when your payment might actually arrive. We regularly update this story.

A second payment could bring you way more than the first

The second stimulus check is expected to largely follow the first stimulus check, but also take cues from previous proposals, possibly even the latest White House offering. For most people, calculating the total amount requires them to know their adjusted gross income, or AGI, and other eligibility requirements

The biggest variable is expected to be a change to the status of dependents in the final bill. One approach would let you claim a dependent of any age for $500 apiece being added to your total. Another is would keep the age restriction, but give you $1,000 per child dependent. The latter would benefit parents and guardians with younger kids, even if the parents are relatively high earners. The former benefits those with older dependents, including a college student or grandparent.

Here are some potential scenarios for how the two different approaches could play out for families. You can use our stimulus check calculator to get a more specific estimate for your particular situation. 

Stimulus check calculations with dependents

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
Tax filing status Single Head of household Married Married
2018 or 2019 tax AGI $45,000 $60,000 $160,000 $190,000
1 dependent under 17 ($1,000 total) $2,200 $2,200 $2,900 $1,400
3 dependents under 17 ($3,000 total) $4,200 $4,200 $4,900 $3,400
1 dependent of any age ($500 total) $1,700 $1,700 $2,400 $900
3 dependents of any age ($1,500 total) $2,700 $2,700 $3,400 $1,900

What do you need to do before the IRS sends a second check?

The IRS will send your check automatically, if there’s another stimulus payment and if you’re eligible, but there may be some things you can do to help make sure you receive your money quickly.

Register for direct deposit to your bank account: Direct deposit will be the fastest way to get your money. The IRS already has a system in place to electronically transfer the funds into your checking account, if you already provided those details and registered for direct deposit for your first check or as part of filing your IRS tax return. 

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Look for the registration tool to reopen if another stimulus check is issued. If you don’t have a bank account, read on for other ways to prepare.

If you moved, you need to let the post office know: If you don’t have direct deposit, a physical check is the most likely way that you’ll receive a stimulus check. The IRS will mail your check to your last known address, so If you’ve moved recently, you’ll need to file a change of address with the US Postal Service.

Keep an eye on the mail: For the first stimulus payment, instead of a paper check, about 4 million people received a prepaid economic impact payment card in the mail. This is money you can spend like cash on a debit card. The cards came in plain, unmarked envelopes that were prone to being tossed by mistake. When and if the time comes, you can sign up for a free USPS service to track your mail all the way to your mailbox, so there are no surprises — or disappointments.

Beware of scams: Stimulus check fraud is real, and it’s still ongoing as millions of people continue to wait for their first checks. Fraudsters prey on people they consider vulnerable. Knowing common attacks can help you recognize and avoid them. There’s no second stimulus check scheduled right now, but that won’t stop a scammer from trying to take advantage.

If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus check, follow these steps.


The amount of stimulus money you could get in a second round of checks is still undecided. 

James Martin/CNET

How did people spend the first round of stimulus checks?

A recent survey looked at how Americans are using their stimulus checks. According to research from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

  • 15% of recipients said they had spent or would spend most of their check.
  • 33% said they mostly saved.
  • 52% said they paid down debt.

In general, the report found that lower-income households were significantly more likely to spend their stimulus check, higher-income individuals were more likely to save it and those with mortgages or who were renters were much more likely to pay off debt.

According to the US Census Bureau, here’s the breakout for households that spent their stimulus checks on items rather than keeping it as savings or paying down debt.

  • 80% of those who spent their checks reported using it on food.
  • 77.9% spent it on rent, mortgage and utilities.
  • 58.2% bought household supplies and personal care products.
  • 20.5% purchased clothing.
  • 8.1% spent it on household goods — such as TVs, electronics, furniture and appliances — or recreational goods, including fitness equipment, toys and games.

Looking for more stimulus check information? Read up on all the finer points of the stimulus payment here. If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus check, here are 10 possible reasons for a delaywhat you can do if you think your payment was lost or has fallen through the cracks and whether you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.



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