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You definitely want direct deposit with your second stimulus check. Here’s why

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More stimulus check money could arrive quickly now that it’s been signed into law.


Angela Lang/CNET

Almost a week after Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill to deliver a second stimulus check of up to $600 per person, President Donald Trump signed it into law, setting off a chain reaction that will culminate in tens of millions of Americans receiving their second direct payment. And now that the House of Representatives passed another bill — called the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help (CASH) Act of 2020 — to increase the amount of the second stimulus check to a maximum $2,000 per person, those checks might end up being for a whole lot more. The Senate will likely take up the measure this week and, if passed by both chambers, Trump could sign it into law as soon as this week. 

Whether your household’s total check winds up being less than $600 or far more, there’s one thing that every recipient is expected to have in common: getting their second stimulus check sooner if they have direct deposit set up with the IRS than if they don’t. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the IRS would send the first wave of stimulus payments the very next week. But Trump’s delayed approval means delivery of the second stimulus check has also hit a delay that could determine whether those $600 check rises to a $2,000 per person ceiling instead.

It isn’t clear if the US Treasury and IRS will start orchestrating delivery of $600 stimulus checks or wait to see if Congress approves an amendment to a $2,000 direct payment instead before sending out the money. Either way, the first and potentially largest group of people will be receiving their funds through direct deposit to their bank accounts. Those who don’t would receive a paper check or EIP card through the mail — but there’s a major catch that’s written into the language of the $900 billion stimulus portion of the bill, one that could mean your stimulus money arrives weeks or months after someone else’s. 

We’ll tell you about that, as well as what we know about signing up for direct deposit with the IRS and changes to your banking information on file. For more details, here’s how to calculate your second stimulus check total under the current bill, and here’s who might not qualify for another payment. This story is updated frequently with new information.

If you don’t do direct deposit, you may have a big wait

Since the first check, the benefits of giving your banking information to the IRS for a direct deposit have been clear. Roughly 80 million people received their stimulus payment within the first week, out of an estimated 170 million who received a first stimulus payment. So, there’s a clear advantage to setting up direct deposit if you don’t already have it (more on this below).

But while there may be a benefit if you do sign up, there is also an enormous disadvantage if you don’t. The language of the bill specifies a Jan. 15, 2021, cutoff for the IRS to send stimulus checks. Assuming the bill was approved the first chance Trump got to sign it, the Treasury and IRS would still have only about three weeks to send all the checks it could. At a rate of 5 million to 7 million paper checks the IRS can process in a week, according to a GAO report from June, it seems clear that the IRS wouldn’t be able to get to tens of millions of people by Jan. 15.

So what then? Anyone who doesn’t get a second stimulus check sorted by that date would have to take the extra step of claiming it as a Recovery Rebate Credit as part of the 2020 tax season, presumably with exceptions for people not typically required to file taxes

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That means the timing for getting paid would vary wildly depending on when you’re able to complete your taxes and how quickly the IRS would process your tax return. For example, people who file in February would receive their second stimulus money months before people who file in April. It isn’t clear if applying for a tax extension would further delay matters.

The disadvantage to people who don’t have direct deposit set up or quickly does so, is clear.

What if I don’t have a bank account?

According to the Urban Institute, people with bank accounts and direct deposit (disproportionately white) were more likely to get their first stimulus check by the end of May than people who identify as Black, Hispanic or below the poverty line. This was directly tied to groups who were more likely to have banking accounts and who filed that information with the IRS to facilitate direct deposit tax returns.

Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and several other large banks now offer more affordable checkless bank accounts as part of a program to make it easier for people to get bank accounts. 

Read moreSorry, not everyone will get a second stimulus payment. What we know so far

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You may need to set up direct deposit with the IRS if you don’t have it already in place.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How the IRS gets your banking information for stimulus checks

For the first round of payments, the IRS used direct deposit information from one of a few places:

  • Your most recently filed tax return if you received a refund by direct deposit in 2018 or 2019.
  • The bank information you provided through the Get My Payment online tool.
  • The bank information you provided through the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool.

What bank account info does the IRS need to set up direct deposit?

The IRS hasn’t opened up its Get My Payment tool to new direct deposit submissions yet, but when it’s time to provide your banking information, you’ll want to have on hand your bank account type and routing and account numbers. You have several ways to find this banking information.

Banking website: Your bank’s website may show your routing and account numbers. Log in to the account you want to use, and look around for the numbers you need.

Banking app: If your bank has an app, it may show you your account and routing numbers. In the app, tap the account you want to use to see the account and routing numbers.

Printed check: At the bottom of your check you most likely will see three sets of numbers: The first set of nine numbers is your routing number. The second set of 8 to 12 numbers is your account number. The third set is the one you don’t need for direct deposit, as it’s the number of the individual check.

Check this IRS page for more help with locating your routing and account numbers.

Can I change or correct my banking details with the IRS?

While you could use the Get My Payment and Non-Filers tools to provide the IRS with your banking information, the IRS has said it does not allow people to change the direct deposit information for a stimulus payment it has on file. This is a safeguard against fraud. 

The IRS said if your banking information has changed or is incorrect or the bank account is closed, the bank will reject the deposit and the federal bureau will then mail the payment to the address it has on file. For help, you could attempt to call the IRS assistance phone number at 800-829-1040. For specific questions on stimulus payments, call here’s the number for the IRS help line: 800-919-9835.

If you’ve moved, you can provide the IRS with your new mailing address.

Is there a deadline to provide my banking information to the IRS?

For the first check, the IRS set a May 13 deadline to provide the agency with your banking information — this was about a month after the first direct deposits were made. If you missed the deadline, you got your check in the payment either in the mail or as a prepaid debit card. We might expect a similar cutoff from the IRS, but we haven’t heard details yet.

For more on the checks, here’s how quickly the IRS could send your payment, how to calculate how much money you might get in a second stimulus check and everything you should know about stimulus qualifications now.



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