IRS now sending stimulus checks to banks, in the mail: When your $1,400 payment could arrive

March 20, 2021 0 By boss


$100 bills

How and when will the IRS send your stimulus check? Could tax season throw a wrench in the schedule? Here’s what you need to know.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

The IRS has already sent the third stimulus check to over 90 million people, either through direct deposit or in the mail as a paper check (here’s how to track your stimulus payment, and calculate your total). There are still waves of stimulus payments to go, including people who will get EIP cards and payments for Social Security recipients.

Since the IRS and Treasury send the checks in batches, the exact date your check will arrive in the mail (you can track it here) isn’t always clear. There may also be different rules for different groups of people, for example, if you’re in a child support situation, if you’re an older adult, a nonfiler, someone in a mixed-status citizenship family and people who live in US territories, to name a few. 

It could still take weeks or months in some cases, for the IRS to finish processing every payment. With the IRS pushing the 2020 tax deadline to May 17, the IRS will have to process new payments using mostly 2019 and in some cases, 2020 taxes, which could make a difference on whether you receive a full payment now or have to wait for the rest of your stimulus check later in 2021 or even 2022. Your payment group and personal circumstances could also make a difference if you’ll get paid first or last. Here’s what to know. This story was recently updated with new information.

When will I get my new stimulus check?

For the last week, the IRS and the US Treasury have been making electronic transfers to bank accounts — worth up to $242 billion in direct deposit payments to bank accounts, the IRS said March 17. In addition, the Treasury said it has sent out 150,000 paper checks, worth approximately $442 million.

Some on the r/stimuluscheck Reddit forum are reporting they’ve received word from their banks that paper checks could arrive by March 19 and that the IRS could start showing payment status as soon as this week on its Get My Payment tracker for a mailed physical check or EIP card.

The Treasury said additional batches and payments will go out through all three payment methods: direct deposit, a paper check or debit card. It could still take days or weeks for a payment to be processed and scheduled before it actually appears on your doorstep. Any additional complications could also delay your payment. If you moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS.

Stimulus check delivery dates

Stimulus bill passed Congress March 10
Stimulus bill signed into law March 11
First direct deposit sent March 12 (provisional), March 17 (official)
First paper checks sent Week of May 15
First EIP cards sent Week of March 22 possible
SSI and SSDI checks sent Not yet announced
IRS deadline to finish sending checks Dec. 31, 2021 (mandated by the bill)
Last date to receive a check January 2022 (if checks sent late December)
Claims for missing stimulus money open 2021 tax season likely (in 2022)

Can I track my payment status online right now?

Yes. The IRS updates its Get My Payment tracker tool for stimulus checks daily. This online app shows you the status of your payment, such as when a check is scheduled for delivery. The portal can also flag if there’s a problem with your payment that you may need to address, but does not tell you the amount you’ll receive. You can use a free tool from the USPS to track your mailed stimulus payment.

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Stimulus check 3: How much money you’ll get


How could my payment group affect my delivery date?

The IRS identifies three payment groups based on how your money is sent:

  • Direct-deposit recipients: This group gets its stimulus money in the first wave. For the first two check, there were issues involving deposits going to temporary accounts that were rejected by banks. In some cases, these people got paper checks or EIP cards instead, or had to wait for the issue to resolve.
  • Paper checks: This is the payment type the IRS sent out second. A physical check can take weeks to arrive by mail, but the check can be deposited or cashed right away once it arrives.
  • EIP cards: This payment type arrives as a prepaid debit card you must activate online to use. The IRS issued EIP cards last, delaying the payment’s arrival for this recipient group by weeks.

Just because you got your payment by direct deposit the first two times doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it that way again. The IRS told CNET in January that some people who received their first stimulus payment as a physical check or EIP card may have been paid by the other method the second time around. And, anecdotally, we learned of people who received direct deposit payments the first time finally getting an EIP card in the mail — and not an electronic bank transfer — weeks after the IRS tool said the payment was issued. 

Even tiny errors could cause a delay in you receiving your full or partial payment. (Here’s more information for SSDI and SSI recipients, and other nonfilers.)


How you get your stimulus check could influence how soon your payment arrives.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Will the IRS use my 2019 or 2020 tax return to determine my payment total?

Taxes are now due May 17. So how will the IRS figure out how much it owes you? It will calculate your total (you can also do that here) based on the most recent tax filing it’s processed by the time it’s ready to tabulate your check.

If you filed your 2020 taxes early and you know your tax return was already processed, your total would likely be based on 2020’s adjusted gross income, not on the 2019 AGI. That presents complications if the difference between the two years disqualifies you from getting a third stimulus check. (Learn more about some of the stimulus check exceptions and catches here.)

If I get a partial check, when can I claim the rest of my money?

There are several reasons the IRS could owe you stimulus money for the third round of checks. Maybe the agency processed your 2019 tax return instead of 2020 and there was a discrepancy. Or you had a baby in 2020 you still need to claim as a dependent. Or a clerical error accidentally left out a new dependent. Maybe your payment never arrived or was accidentally garnished

Whatever the reason, the IRS may provide a way to file for missing stimulus money before the Dec. 31 deadline. If not, you might have to wait a year to claim it, until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022 (even if you’re a nonfiler who isn’t typically required to file taxes).


The first two stimulus checks were nominally sorted by different payment groups, and one had a clear advantage over the others.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How long will the IRS send new stimulus checks?

Although the IRS and Treasury are sending stimulus checks now, the agencies have until Dec. 31 to complete distributing the third payments. That’s good news in the sense that they aren’t facing a compressed deadline to send out all the checks, as they did with the second stimulus check, which only provided a 17-day window. On the other hand, the nearly 9-month total delivery window also means some people may find themselves waiting, for a variety of reasons. We’ll have to see how the IRS will deal with any fringe issues that arise. 

Which other stimulus check details should I know right now?

Stimulus checks aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are additional guides for:

Here’s everything you need to know about the third stimulus check, how to calculate your stimulus total and every other way the stimulus bill can bring you more money.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.


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