Stimulus check coming in 2 phases: Will your check arrive before or after the deadline?


It’s true, whichever payment group you’re in could affect when you get your second stimulus check.

Angela Lang/CNET

Calls to impeach President Donald Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment as a result of Wednesday’s breach of the US Capitol by Trump supporters has overshadowed the second stimulus checks. But as far as we know, delivery of the $600 per person stimulus payment to tens of millions of bank accounts and mailboxes has not been affected. In fact, the IRS on Thursday confirmed to CNET that the Treasury will send around 8 million EIP debit cards as part of its distribution of stimulus money, twice as many as in the spring.

The IRS and US Treasury have only seven days left to complete sending out payments before a Jan. 15 deadline baked into the stimulus bill. Despite the payments’ quick release, it’s unlikely everyone who qualifies for more stimulus money will receive it by then, especially if your second stimulus check trips over hurdles that could hold up its delivery. (Here’s how to calculate the size of your payment and how to track it.) 

Knowing how the IRS groups people together may not be as precise as tracking your paper check or EIP card to your mailbox. It can help give you an idea of your place in the scrimmage for a check paying up to $600 per person, however, and let you know if you could expect your check before that deadline or as part of tax season 2020. Remember that not everyone will qualify for the $600 payment. Read on for details about IRS payment groups below, and here’s why things are looking more hopeful for a third stimulus check for $2,000. This story updates with new information.

Direct deposit payments to your bank account

The IRS has reportedly sent out two-thirds of its $600 stimulus payments through direct deposit, which demonstrates a clear advantage to people who receive an electronic transfer of funds. Direct deposit is a quicker, more efficient mode of delivery than a mailed check, which means the IRS can process many more people faster. Here’s how to track your second stimulus check online.)

However, there are two things to know. First, some reported problems with checks being sent to the wrong bank account mean that millions of people haven’t been able to receive their stimulus payments through direct deposit after all. And the IRS’ tracking tool won’t let you sign up for or change your direct deposit information this time around. 

If the IRS does not already have your banking information, you’ll have no choice but to wait for the mail. If there’s a problem with your payment, you’ll need to wait to file a claim.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


Paper checks: Incoming, but two things to know

Paper checks are on their way, at a much faster clip than the first time around — here’s how you can track your stimulus check to your mailbox. There are still two major limitations you need to know. First, the US Treasury can process between 5 million and 7 million paper stimulus checks a week in addition to checks for other federal programs, according to a Government Accountability Office report from June, which means some people will have to wait.

Second, there’s that same Jan. 15 that affects all the payments. So anyone who doesn’t receive their check around the middle of the month will have to claim it this year during tax season. If you’ve recently moved, be sure to tell the IRS and USPS so you can get your stimulus check, and your confirmation letter from the IRS (you’ll need this if you have to file a claim.)

After the cutoff, the timing of your stimulus check delivery then becomes a matter of how soon you submit your taxes for 2020 and how quickly the IRS will be able to process your return. People who file their returns in February would likely receive their stimulus check money — in the form of a Recovery Rebate Credit — months before people who wait until the April 15 deadline or file an extension.


When you get your stimulus money could depend on who you are.

Sarah Tew/CNET

8 million EIP cards are on their way

EIP debit cards are prepaid Visa cards the IRS may send you instead of a paper check — the envelope will look unmarked, so be careful not to toss out your mail without carefully checking first (this free tracking tool can help). The IRS and Treasury have reportedly begun sending around 8 million EIP cards, a change from the one-month delay in sending this type of payment the first time. The same rules apply as paper checks. If you don’t get yours around Jan. 15, you’ll need to claim it as a Recovery Rebate Credit as part of filing your taxes this year.

Social Security beneficiaries: When will you get your check?

With the first stimulus payment, many people who receive Social Security disbursements who also had direct deposit information on file with the federal government received checks in the first week, though not always the first day.

For the second check, the IRS will automatically send the money through how you regularly receive your benefits, such as direct deposit, Direct Express card or paper check.

More complex situations are already delaying payments

For the first check, this category includes people who received a check after June, still haven’t received their full stimulus payment or who didn’t know they needed to complete an extra step.

For the second stimulus payment, people who may fall into this category could include those who have a banking issue with direct deposit, people who moved and still need to tell the IRS and USPS and calculation errors, like people whose estimated payment didn’t match up with what the IRS sent. 

It also isn’t clear what would happen if there was a problem during the Recovery Rebate Credit process and the payment was further delayed. It’s likely the IRS would set a different, later deadline to address clerical errors, like missing stimulus money, and other scenarios. Here are 10 things that could hold up your stimulus check.

What if you’re missing money from either stimulus check?

It isn’t always clear how much money the IRS might owe you in the event of an error. We suggest starting with our second stimulus check calculator or the calculator for the first stimulus check and this introduction to how the IRS tabulates your total sum. If the numbers seem lower than they should be, you might want to investigate further.

See if any of these situations could apply to you: Are you missing $500 allotted for your child dependents, or do you pay or receive child support? Are you a tax nonfiler who may be owed a stimulus check (including older adults and people who receive SSI or SSDI)?

If you’re a US citizen abroad or live in a US territory and didn’t receive a check as expected, you may also need to read up on the rules. And a court ruling has made it possible for millions of people who are incarcerated to get a check, even after the IRS changed its interpretation to exclude this group.


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