Want your stimulus check faster? Get these things in order now

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You can try to speed up your payment by making sure you have everything in order before the new stimulus bill goes to a vote.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re waiting for stimulus money that was missing from your first or second payment, or you’re anticipating getting a third stimulus check in the coming weeks, you’ll want to tune into these tips that could help you get your payment faster. 

On the one hand, the IRS is bundling this upcoming tax season with paying out missing stimulus check money as a Recovery Rebate Credit. On the other hand, the timeline to get a third stimulus check for as much as $1,400 per person is revving up, after Congress made some decisive moves that set up the next COVID-19 stimulus bill for fast approval, even in the face of opposition

Knowing what to expect and addressing any potential future obstacles could help you receive both quicker — our recommendations are below. We’ve also got more information on every way a third check could become more “targeted” and how much money you could possibly get in a third stimulus check. (We can also help if you need to figure out common issues that caused delays for millions of individuals and families, including a change of address or setting up a bank account.) This story is frequently updated.

File your taxes ASAP if you’re claiming missing stimulus money

If you’re one of the millions of people who didn’t receive the stimulus money you were eligible for in the first or second round of payments, you can claim that money on your 2020 federal tax return as a Recovery Rebate Credit (estimate how much you might be owed by using CNET’s stimulus check calculators for the second and first payments). The IRS said it will start processing returns on Feb. 12, and estimates that the first refunds will be sent out via direct deposit the first week of March. The deadline to file your federal income tax is April 15.

We recommend filing your taxes as early as you can, and setting up direct deposit with the IRS when you do (more on that below). Not only will doing both of those things help you get your tax refund with that missing stimulus money faster, but it will also make you more likely to receive your third stimulus check sooner, especially if it gets passed during tax season


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Set up or correct direct deposit details when you file your tax return 

Setting up a direct deposit account that links directly to your bank account when you file your 2020 tax return will benefit you in two ways. You’ll get your tax return (with your Recovery Rebate Credit for your missing stimulus money added in) faster. The IRS has said the best and quickest way to get your tax refund is to have it electronically deposited for free into your bank account. You can set up direct deposit to up to three different bank accounts if you’d like to split your tax refund between them. 

If you set up a direct deposit and file your return electronically with tax software like TurboTax, you can also expect a faster return than if you printed your return out and mailed it in. The IRS said it expects nine out of 10 taxpayers to receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit, if there are no issues with their tax return.

Including your direct deposit information on your tax return has another benefit: If and when a third stimulus check is approved, people with direct deposit set up through the IRS are typically among the first in line to get their money, as opposed to those who are mailed a check or an EIP card. Here’s how much stimulus money you could get with a $1,400 check.

Make sure the IRS knows your current address (the USPS, too)

If you moved after filing your 2019 tax return (or any time during the coronavirus pandemic), you need to do two things to make sure your stimulus check and other important information about the payment can reach you: Tell the USPS and IRS where you went

You need to tell them your new address even if your new location is temporary — you can always update your details if you move again. Even if your first or second payment came via direct deposit (which means a potential third payment likely would, too), you still want to make sure your address is current so that you receive the IRS’ letter verifying when it sent your payment. If the letter arrives, but your funds do not, you won’t know you have an issue to resolve, which you’ll likely do by requesting an IRS payment trace. (If you lose the letter, here’s how to get the information it contains.)

Here’s how to change your address with the USPS and IRS.

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Have you gotten everything ready before a new check is decided on? Now’s the time to act.


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Make sure your bank account details are updated

If your banking status changes, or if you closed the bank account the IRS has on file for you, it could hold up receipt of your stimulus payment — possibly returning the payment before it ever reaches you. 

The IRS said it has a number of ways to find your banking information. That includes obtaining it from your 2019 tax return (and likely your 2020 return when you submit it), from the IRS’ Get My Payment app or Non-Filers tool if you used it last year or from another federal agency that uses your banking details to issue benefits, such as the Social Security Administration (if you receive SSDI or SSI benefits). But if that information is out of date, the bank will return the payment to the government, leading you to have to file for a Recovery Rebate Credit to get that money back with your tax refund. 

If you don’t have a bank account, would like one and aren’t sure where to get started, several large banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, now offer more affordable checkless bank accounts as part of a government-backed effort to help people enter the banking system. 

For the first and second check, confirm you’re qualified to receive the payment

This applies to the second stimulus check at the moment. Not everyone qualified for a second stimulus check, as some of the eligibility rules changed after the first round. It’s likely the rules will change again if a third check is approved

Here’s who qualified for the second round, based on your total income on your 2018 or 2019 taxes:

  • If you’re a single filer and earn less than $87,000
  • If you file as the head of a household and earn under $124,500
  • If you file jointly with your spouse and earn less than $174,000

However, there were a lot of exceptions and rules depending on your situation, and the same will probably be true of a future third check (you can find a more detailed list of stimulus check qualifications here). 

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Your second check could not be garnished to pay overdue child support.


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Will my stimulus check be garnished for any debt I owe?

For the most part, your stimulus money is yours to use as you please. But there are certain exceptions, especially for anyone claiming money as a tax credit.

Under the CARES Act (that’s what set up the first stimulus check in March), if you owed more than $150 in overdue child support (called arrears), your state may have reserved the right to garnish some or all of your first stimulus check based on how much you owed. However, the second stimulus check, approved in December, couldn’t be taken for overdue child support. This change was widely understood across federal and state agencies. Find out more about how child support impacts stimulus checks here

With the first stimulus check, private banks and creditors were able to seize a payment to cover an outstanding debt. However, some states, such as California, issued orders forbidding banks and creditors from garnishing your stimulus check. With the second stimulus check, your payment was protected from bank garnishment and from private creditors and debt collectors, according to the text of the law. However, individual banks could choose to take that money to cover overdraft fees, and these protections do not apply to the Recovery Rebate Credit.

Again, we don’t yet know if this would change with a third stimulus check

For more, find out what your stimulus check could look like if you receive SSI or SSDIif you have dependentsif you’re a young adult or if you’re over age 65 or retired.



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