December 4, 2020
What's an EIP card and will you get one instead of a second stimulus check or direct deposit?

How fast could you get a second stimulus check? Our best guess at the timeline now


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The IRS sent the first stimulus check to different groups first.


Angela Lang/CNET

It’s been over seven months since Congress approved the first stimulus check, but the timeline to receive a second check of up to $1,200 per qualified adult is still undetermined. (P.S. Here’s who the IRS consider an adult.) Democratic and Republican lawmakers are expected to restart negotiations on a stimulus relief bill as soon as this week, with the Senate gaveling in on Monday and the House of Representatives following on Nov. 16.

On Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th US president, but we still don’t know what that could mean for Congress’ timeline to pass and send out a second stimulus checkBiden has his own stimulus plan that includes direct payments as well, but at this point it doesn’t specify how many or for how much, or if any of the qualifications would change.

Once a final bill is approved, the way that your spending (or savings) cash comes to you — direct deposit, paper check or via an EIP card — may play a role in how long you have to wait for it. Some people may have to wait weeks or even months, and some people won’t get a payment at all.

We map out different payment timelines for the IRS’ de-facto priority groups. You can also use our stimulus calculator to estimate your possible future payment. We update this story frequently.

When might a new stimulus check arrive: Our current guesses 

These dates, which are speculative, show you when you might see a check — if a bill becomes law after the Nov. 3 election and before or after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, including Dec. 11, the deadline for Congress to pass the next federal budget.

Read moreNobody can take your stimulus check away, right? Not quite

One important note is the speed at which the first checks might arrive. In August, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it would take about a week to process the first payments. “I can get out 50 million payments really quickly. A lot of it into people’s direct accounts,” he said

But that doesn’t necessarily mean your stimulus money will arrive a week after a bill goes live.

Possible dates a second stimulus check could go out

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
House passes final bill Dec. 11 Feb. 1 Mar. 1 Apr. 5
Senate passes final bill Dec. 12 Feb. 2 Mar. 2 Apr. 6
President signs Dec. 13 Feb. 3 Mar. 3 Apr. 7
First direct deposits issued Week of Dec. 28 Week of Feb. 8 Week of Mar. 8 Week of Apr. 12
First paper checks sent Week of Jan. 11 Week of Feb. 16 (Feb. 15 is President’s Day) Week of Mar. 15 Week of Apr. 19
First EIP cards sent Week of Feb. 8 Week of Mar. 15 Week of Apr. 12 Week of May 10

Why can’t the IRS just deliver all stimulus checks at once?

The IRS has so far sent money to at least 160 million people three ways, starting with people the federal government has direct deposit information for. Some people with more complicated personal situations are still waiting for their checks or even for catch-up payments. This creates a de facto priority order that could result in some Americans receiving their checks days or even weeks before others. 

Read moreEstimate the size of your check with our stimulus calculator

The IRS has said it can deliver 5 million to 7 million paper stimulus checks a week, starting with people whose AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) is less than $20,000 and then moving to people whose AGIs are progressively larger, according to the Government Accountability Office.

We expect the IRS will adopt roughly the same system for sending out a second stimulus check in 2020 or 2021 as it did with the first stimulus check, which was approved in March as part of the CARES Act.


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Next stimulus checks: What to expect



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Direct deposit recipients: People who already have their direct deposit information on file with the IRS or who provide that info when and if registration opens again should be first in line to receive a stimulus check. An electronic transfer of funds is faster and more efficient, which is why this group largely got their first payment faster.

Social Security beneficiaries: With the first stimulus payment, many Social Security beneficiaries who had direct deposit information on file with the federal government received checks in the first week, though not always the first day.

People who get paper checks: The IRS began to mail checks about a week later to those without direct deposit data on file. 

EIP card recipients: Economic Impact Payment debit cards are prepaid Visa cards the IRS sent to about 4 million people starting in mid-May. If the IRS follows the same payment priority order, this group could begin to see their checks weeks after the first direct deposit transfers go out.

People with more complex situations: This category includes people who received a check after June, are still waiting to receive their stimulus payment or who didn’t know they need to complete an extra step. Direct payments will continue through the end of 2020 for some individuals who weren’t part of the previous groups. Here’s what could be holding up the stimulus check delivery for some and how to contact the IRS to report a missing, lost or stolen check.

Millions of people are still waiting to get their first check  

While over 160 million Americans have received their stimulus checks, the IRS is still trying to track down millions of people who may be owed money, including for dependents.

If you think this situation applies to you, you may be able to claim your missing check by Nov. 21. This includes people who didn’t receive $500 allotted for their dependents, some people who are involved in child-support situations and non-filers who may be owed a stimulus check (including older adults or people who receive SSI or SSDI). Otherwise, you may need to claim a catch-up payment or error adjustment as part of your 2020 federal tax return.

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There’s hope that the IRS could speed up delivery of a second check, if it’s authorized.


Angela Lang/CNET

If you’re a US citizen abroad or live in a US territory and didn’t receive a check as expected, you may also need to investigate. And a new ruling in California may bring hope for people who are incarcerated and didn’t receive the first stimulus check — or who received it and were compelled to return the money.

If you’re still waiting on the first round of payments, you can track the status of your stimulus check, learn how to report your no-show check to the IRS and find possible reasons why your stimulus check still hasn’t arrived. The IRS has said it will continue to send payments through Dec. 10, 2020, according to the GAO.



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