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Stimulus payments will begin to arrive ‘tonight’: When the IRS will send your second check

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Timing is critical in delivering a second stimulus check to as many as 160 million Americans.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Starting tonight, those who have direct deposit set up with the IRS can start looking for their second stimulus payments, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “These payments may begin to arrive in some accounts by direct deposit as early as tonight and will continue into next week,” Mnuchin tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

Mnuchin said checks going out through the mail will start to go out on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump signed the new COVID-19 relief bill that includes a second stimulus check for up to $600 per person on Sunday, and the IRS is on a tight schedule to send out this new round of direct payments, following rules that may result in some people having to wait weeks or even months to get paid.

The IRS and US Treasury planned to begin sending the second stimulus payments to those who qualify within a week after the bill was signed — first through direct deposit, followed by paper checks and EIP cards, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (We created a calculator to generate a personalized estimate for your stimulus payment, and here’s what could happen with a third stimulus check in 2021.)

Here’s when to start looking for second stimulus check, and what you can do to check on the status of your payment. This story was recently updated.

Direct deposit payments begin arriving Tuesday night

On Tuesday, the IRS said, “The initial direct deposit payments may begin arriving as early as tonight for some and will continue into next week.” The IRS said eligible individuals do not need to take any action to receive this second payment, and the IRS will use the direct deposit information it has on file to make the payment.

The IRS cautioned that some “may see the direct deposit payments as pending or as provisional payments in their accounts before the official payment date of January 4, 2021.”

Stimulus checks in the mail starting Wednesday

The IRS said for those without current direct deposit information on file with the the government, the IRS will will send the payment as a check or debit card in the mail. Those payments will begin to be mailed starting Wednesday, Dec. 30, the IRS said. For those who don’t receive a direct deposit by early January

How to check the status of your stimulus payment

The IRS said it is updating its Get My Payment tool for the second round of payments and anticipates those receiving checks will be able to check the status of both the first and second payments in a few days. The Get My Payment portal is available in English and Spanish.

What about prepaid debit cards?

The IRS said that to speed delivery of the payments, it will be send a limited number of payments out by Economic Impact Payment prepaid debit card and notes that some people who received a paper check last time might receive a debit card this time, and some people who received a debit card last time may receive a paper check.

The IRS cautions that those who are eligible but don’t receive a direct deposit should watch their mail for a check or EIP debit card. The cards will arrive in a white envelope that displays the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal, the IRS said.

Why is Jan. 15, 2021, an important date to know?

Jan. 15 is the cutoff date in the $900 billion stimulus bill by which time the IRS and US Treasury must stop sending checks as part of this round of delivery. If you don’t receive your full second stimulus check money by Jan. 15, you will need to claim all or part of the missing amount when you file your federal tax returns in 2021 through the Recovery Rebate Credit. You’ll also be able to claim any money the IRS still owes you from the first round of payments.

People who receive their stimulus payment through direct deposit are unlikely to be affected. But there is potentially a distinct disadvantage for people who don’t have direct deposit set up with the IRS.

Tying the delivery of a second stimulus check to the 2020 tax return will almost certainly delay delivery for many people, since a wide variance in circumstances will cause some people to file taxes as early as January and others as late as April 15, or even later if they need to request an extension. It also isn’t clear how quickly the IRS would process the payments.


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How quickly could the IRS deliver my second direct payment?

Now that Trump has relented and signed the new stimulus bill into law, the IRS and Treasury are ready to send the first batch of payments via direct deposit this week, compared with the 19 days it took to set up the online tools and schedule distribution of the first stimulus check.

“Most of these will be direct deposits. We call them ‘checks in the mail,’ but most will be direct deposits,” Mnuchin said Dec. 21. “It will be within three weeks. We are determined to get money in people’s pockets immediately. So that will be within three weeks.” 

As of last summer, 75% of the first round of stimulus payments were sent straight to people’s bank accounts using direct deposit, the Treasury said, which brings hope for the majority of people to receive their second payment before Jan. 15.

In the chart below, we map out the payment schedule for the second round of checks, plus a projection if Congress approves a third stimulus check next year, after Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Possible dates a second and third stimulus check could go out

Dates for second check Dates for possible third check?
House passes final bill Dec. 21 April 5
Senate passes final bill Dec. 21 April 6
President signs Dec. 27 April 7
First direct deposits issued Dec. 29 Week of April 12
First paper checks sent Dec. 30 Week of April 12
First EIP cards sent Dec. 30 Week of April 12
Recovery Rebate Credit After filing 2020 tax returns Unknown

How long could it take to get your second stimulus check through the mail?

Since the new stimulus bill sets a Jan. 15 deadline for the IRS to send out payments, people who will receive their second stimulus check in the mail — either as a paper check or a prepaid debit card — should look for a payment in the first three weeks of January, Mnuchin said on Dec. 21. According to the Treasury, 22% of the payments as of last summer were made by paper checks and another 3% by prepaid debit cards

However, after Jan. 15, you will have to claim any money the IRS owes you with your tax filing in 2021. That could further delay your stimulus check, since the timing would hinge on:

  • When you file your 2020 taxes — the deadline could be April 15, unless you file for an extension.
  • How long it takes the IRS to process your tax return, which may also include your second stimulus check.
  • If there are any complications that arise in your specific scenario that could further delay your check.

We’ll keep our eye on the situation, which is constantly evolving. Here are the latest second stimulus check updates and here’s how you can calculate your estimated total now for a $600 per person maximum.



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