Second stimulus check has 2 payment phases. Will your money make the deadline?

The IRS is sending $600 stimulus checks now, but if you don’t get yours by next week, you may have to wait. Angela Lang/CNET Unrest in the US Capitol and the impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump (here’s how to watch the House vote) are dominating headlines, but despite the […]


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

Angela Lang/CNET

Unrest in the US Capitol and the impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump (here’s how to watch the House vote) are dominating headlines, but despite the turmoil among the nation’s top leadership, a critical deadline to send out second stimulus checks to tens of millions of eligible Americans is just two days away. After Friday, Jan. 15, anyone who’s left without a stimulus payment will still have a chance to get it, but in a far less organized, far more haphazard way that ties into your 2020 taxes (a complication if you don’t normally file taxes).

The IRS already has a method in place to claim your missing money, called the Recovery Rebate Credit, but there’s much we don’t know about how it works and what complications might arise. What we do know is that the IRS and US Treasury have jointly sent out most of the second stimulus checks through direct depositpaper checks and EIP debit cards. However, there may be as many as 20% of the payments still to go.

We also know the IRS is working through a major electronic-transfer problem, so there’s a chance that the delivery of your payment could slip for weeks or months. We’ll explain everything we know about which payment group you might fall into and what it means for your $600 stimulus check. In addition, here’s where things stand with a third stimulus check for up to $2,000. This story is updated regularly with new information.

The good and bad of direct deposit transfers

As of last week, the IRS had reportedly sent out about 80% of its $600 stimulus payments through direct deposit, giving a clear advantage to people who receive an electronic transfer of funds. Direct deposit is a faster, more efficient mode of delivery than a mailed check, which means the IRS can process many more payments faster. (Here’s how to track your second stimulus check online.)

However, the IRS’ tracking tool didn’t let people sign up for or change your direct deposit information this time around. And some people reported problems with checks being sent to the wrong bank account, which means millions haven’t been able to receive their stimulus payments that way. 

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 file a claim during tax time.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


Paper checks are still coming, but two things to know

As with all the stimulus check payments, physical checks are being delivered 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 that could affect when you get your money. 

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. Given the 17 day window the IRS and Treasury have had to ship out payments, it seems inevitable that not everyone’s will get posted before the deadline.

That brings us to the second point, that Jan. 15 cutoff that affects all the payments. If yours doesn’t arrive by the end of next week (to pick an arbitrary date), count on needing 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 longer, if they file an extension.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

8 million EIP cards are in transit. Will they make it in time?

This time around, the US Treasury is issuing twice as many stimulus payments through EIP debit cards than with the first check: 8 million instead of 4 million, the IRS told CNET in an email. It isn’t clear how an EIP card helps deliver money faster than a paper check would. These are prepaid Visa cards that you have to activate before using. 

It may be possible for most of these to be mailed before Friday’s deadline, since there are relatively so few, though the IRS said it began sending EIP cards after it started mailing 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 recipients: When your payment could arrive

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 a paper check.

Complex situations could delay your payment

For the first check, anyone who had a personal circumstance that didn’t neatly fall into the IRS’ five or so categories for payment typically received their checks last, even going into June all the way through December, for a check that was first delivered April 15. Some of these people still haven’t received their full stimulus payment or hadn’t known they needed to complete an extra step.

For the second stimulus check, 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 people at the wrong end of a calculation error, like if your 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.

Does your check total seem incomplete? What to know and do about missing money

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.

Do any of these situations 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.

For more information, here are the most important stimulus check details to know, here’s how a third stimulus check might happen, all the ways it could bring you more money and how to calculate your share of a $2,000 check.

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