IRS sending stimulus checks: When your $1,400 payment could arrive in the mail or your bank

March 16, 2021 0 By boss


$100 bills

How and when will the IRS send your stimulus check, and how are the two connected? Could tax season throw a wrench in the plan? Here’s what you should know.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

If you have direct deposit set up with the IRS, you may have already received your third stimulus check in your bank account. The IRS began making the first batch of bank payments last Friday. But if you are looking for your payment in the mail instead, either as a paper check or an EIP card, your $1,400 payment may not be far behind and could possibly go out later this week.

If new stimulus checks do go out soon through the postal service, they’ll be part of a rush of payments the IRS plans to send by the end of the month, with the goal of 100 million more checks in the next 10 days, President Joe Biden said on Monday. “Shots in arms and money in pockets,” Biden said.  If you want the official word on the status of your check, the IRS stimulus check tracker tool is now live and can give you details about the whereabouts of your payment. However, the online tool can be fussy and may return confusing information. It also can’t tell you the exact date your check will arrive in the mail or how much you will receive — our stimulus check calculator can help with that information and give you a quick idea of how much you could expect.

This first wave of money that’s now hitting bank accounts is aimed squarely at qualified recipients who already have direct deposit accounts on file with the IRS, and it will take weeks or months to finish processing every payment. Meanwhile, the IRS is already knee deep in this year’s tax season, putting an extra burden on the agency. With tax returns due April 15, the IRS will have to process new payments using either 2019 or 2020 taxes (here’s why it matters). Your payment group and personal circumstances are also important in determining if you’ll get paid first or last. This story was recently updated.

When will my third stimulus check actually show up?

Starting last Friday, the IRS and the US Treasury began making electronic transfers to bank accounts. Those who are now seeing direct deposit payments in their bank account as pending or provisional may need to wait until the official payment date of March 17 to access the money.

But some on the r/stimuluscheck Reddit forum are reporting they’ve received word from their banks that checks could start to go out May 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. 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 (semi-final)

Stimulus bill passed Congress March 10
Stimulus bill signed into law March 11
First direct deposit sent March 12 (pending), March 17 (official)
First paper checks sent End of March 15 week reportedly
First EIP cards sent Week of March 29 possible
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?

Yes. The IRS turned on Get My Payment, its online tracking tool for stimulus checks, on Sunday. This tool 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.

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Stimulus check 3: How much money you’ll get


How would my payment group affect my delivery date?

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

  • Direct-deposit recipients: Typically got their stimulus money in the first wave. But both times 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.

Remember, it takes time for the IRS to process the well over 100 million payments expected in this third round of checks. 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.)

What about changing priority groups?

Just because you got your payment by direct deposit the first two times doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it that way again. A lot depends on delivery going smoothly, and on any processing issues the IRS or Treasury could encounter with your case.

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. 


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

The other payment groups we’ve loosely defined include Social Security beneficiaries who received payments a different way the first time if they’re part of the SSI or SSDI programs, and people with more complex scenarios that could lead to potential issues or holdups receiving their money. People in different child support situations are one example we’ve seen, as are people who are incarcerated and people with complex citizenship scenarios.

When is the IRS deadline to send new stimulus checks?

Although the IRS and Treasury are acting fact to send stimulus checks, the agencies have until Dec. 31 to complete sending out the third payments. That’s good news in the sense that they aren’t facing a compressed deadline to send out all the checks. On the other hand, it also means some people may find themselves waiting, for a variety of reasons. There’s still so much we don’t know about how the IRS will deal with any fringe issues that arise. 

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

Taxes are due April 15, and although the IRS has been lobbied to extend the tax due date, that doesn’t appear likely this year. 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 on 2020’s adjusted gross income, not 2020’s, as intended. 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.)


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

If I get a partial check, when could I claim the rest?

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).

Which other stimulus check details do I need to know?

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.

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