EIP card: What it is and why the IRS may send you a debit card with your second stimulus check starting this week


The IRS has three ways to distribute stimulus money to you.

Angela Lang/CNET

With President Donald Trump on Sunday signing off on the second round of stimulus payments as part of the larger COVID-relief legislation, the IRS said it will start sending out payments as soon as Tuesday night through direct deposit and in the mail on Wednesday, either as a paper check or as an Economic Impact Payment card (or EIP).

About 4 million Americans received their first round of stimulus money on an EIP card, and the IRS said it will use the same method for some of the payments this time to speed the delivery of the money to those who are eligible.

Read on to find out what an EIP prepaid debit card is, if you might receive your next round of stimulus money through an EIP card and how to identify it (and which IRS priority group that puts you into). This story was recently updated.

Read more: Not everyone will qualify for a second stimulus check. Here’s why

What’s an EIP card?


About 4 million people received their stimulus payment on a prepaid debit card called an EIP card, which looks like this. 

Money Network/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

An economic impact payment card is a prepaid debit card that the Treasury Department used to distribute some stimulus payments under the CARES Act, instead of an electronic monetary transfer or paper checks. The cards were provided to some eligible US residents for whom the government didn’t have banking information.

The IRS said it will use the cards to distribute stimulus payments this time too.

These Visa debit cards can be used to make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs and transfer funds to your personal bank account without a fee. 

If you’re sent one, after the card arrives, head to the EIP card website to activate it and learn more about how to use it. 

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Why would I get an EIP card instead of a stimulus check?

For the first round of payments, who were eligible received the first stimulus payment by EIP card instead of by check if they filed their taxes but the IRS didn’t have their bank account information on hand, and if the tax return was processed by IRS service centers in either Andover, Massachusetts, or Austin, Texas, according to a Treasury press release. It isn’t clear what the significance is of those particular service centers, and the Treasury did not return our request for more information.   

For the second round of payments starting to go out this week, the IRS said it will send either paper checks or a debit card in the mail if it doesn’t have banking information on hand. The IRS said 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.

How much stimulus money can be loaded onto an EIP card? 

Getting your payment via an EIP card wouldn’t change anything about the amount you’d get — it’s just a different format of the same payment.

The amount of money you’re allotted in a second stimulus payment (whether it comes in the form of direct deposit, mailed check or EIP card) depends on your AGI, or adjusted gross income, from your tax filings, along with your filing status (single versus joint) and how many dependents you have. The maximum amount a single taxpayer could get is $1,200. 

Find out how to calculate how much you could get on a second stimulus payment here. You can also find out who counts as a dependent on your taxes and what that means for a stimulus payment. Here’s how old a dependent has to be to get a separate stimulus payment and the stimulus check situation for older adults, people in the SSDI program, US citizens abroad and people living in US territories.

How long could it take to get an EIP card once a second stimulus check is approved?

When the CARES Act was passed in March, the first EIP cards didn’t start going out until mid-May. But the IRS said it expects to start sending EIP cards in the mail starting Wednesday.

The IRS said you’ll also be able to track your money (in whatever form it will take) using the same IRS tool you can use to track the status of your stimulus payment, later this week.

How would my EIP card get delivered?

If you’re eligible, the IRS said your EIP card will arrive at the address listed on your last tax return in a white envelope that displays the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal. The card will have the Visa name on the front and the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A., on the back. Information included with the card will explain that this is your Economic Impact Payment.

Because the envelope containing the first EIP card wasn’t clearly marked, some people reportedly threw the letter away without opening it during the first round of stimulus payments. The IRS said for eligible people who don’t receive a direct deposit to watch their mail carefully for the card.

Note, if you moved, you’ll need to inform the IRS and USPS of your new address.

What if I’d rather get direct deposit instead?

If the IRS has your bank account information on hand, it’s more likely you’d get the payment by direct deposit instead of an EIP card. Since the first stimulus checks were sent, there has been greater effort to help people who don’t have bank accounts get one for this purpose. Here are ways you might be able to help get a second check faster.

Will the IRS notify me that an EIP card is coming? 

With the first stimulus payments, the IRS sent a letter about your money to your last known address within 15 days after the payment was made. The letter included information on how you got the money (check or direct deposit or EIP card), and how to report it if you didn’t receive the payment. But watch out: There have been a lot of stimulus check scams going around. Visit IRS.gov before giving anyone your information to make sure your letter is legitimate. 

What should I do if my EIP gets destroyed or lost?

With the first cards, if you’ve lost or destroyed your EIP card, you can request a free replacement through MetaBank Customer Service. The replacement fee will be waived the first time. We expect the IRS do to something similar this time.

You don’t need to know your card number to request a replacement. Just call 800-240-8100, and choose the second option from the main menu, according to the IRS website. 

For more, find out if you’re qualified for a second stimulus check and when you could expect a second stimulus payment

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