Second stimulus check sending in 2 phases: Will your payment make it before the deadline?

Laveta Brigham

The IRS is sending $600 stimulus checks now, but if you don’t get yours soon, you may have to wait. Angela Lang/CNET The IRS has only four days left to send out the second stimulus checks to those who are eligible. After Friday, Jan. 15, anyone who didn’t automatically get […]


The IRS is sending $600 stimulus checks now, but if you don’t get yours soon, you may have to wait.

Angela Lang/CNET

The IRS has only four days left to send out the second stimulus checks to those who are eligible. After Friday, Jan. 15, anyone who didn’t automatically get their $600 check will need to claim their money on their taxes later this year. As of late last week, the IRS is about 80% of the way to sending out all the relief money Congress allocated for this round of payments, using the two primary ways the IRS has sorted payments: to bank accounts through direct deposit and in the mail as a paper check or an EIP debit card.

But with the Jan. 15 deadline approaching quick, the IRS still has around 20% of the payments to make and is working through a major electronic-transfer problem, so there’s a chance that the delivery of your second stimulus check could slip into the days past the cutoff. If it doesn’t show up, you’ll have to claim a make-up payment, called the Recovery Rebate Credit, for all or part of the second stimulus check.

After confirming you qualify for a $600 check, the next step is to work out which payment group the IRS has sorted you into. This will give you an idea of where to look for your check and what to do if you don’t receive it before the start of the tax season. Read on for details about IRS payment groups below, and here’s where things stand with a third stimulus check for $2,000. This story is updated regularly with new information.

Direct deposit payments straight into your bank account

As of last week, the IRS had reportedly sent out four-fifths 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.)

There are two things to know, however. 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 there are 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 the way — will they make it in time?

EIP debit cards are prepaid Visa cards the Treasury may send you instead of a paper check. There are twice as many going out this time compared to the first round — 8 million instead of 4 million, the IRS told CNET in an email — though it isn’t clear how an EIP card helps deliver money faster than a paper check would.

In fact, the IRS said it began sending EIP cards after it started sending paper checks. Overall, the process is quicker this time around. With the first stimulus checks, it took the IRS and Treasury a month to send this type of payment.

If you receive an EIP card in the mail, the envelope will display the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal, but be careful to not toss your mail without carefully checking first (this free tracking tool can help). The same cutoff rules apply to 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 you could expect 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.

Complicated 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’s 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 the first or second 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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