January 21, 2021
EIP card: What it is and why you might get one if another stimulus payment is authorized

What is an EIP card and why could you get one instead of a stimulus check?


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

Angela Lang/CNET

What’s an EIP card, and what does it have to do with your second stimulus check? How do you know if you’ll get one, and is there any way to get your next stimulus payment a different way, assuming a new coronavirus relief bill passes?

These are all good questions we’ll answer here, and more. An Economic Impact Payment card was sent as a stimulus payment to about 4 million Americans rather than a physical check or direct deposit. If a second round is approved by Congress, it’s likely that the IRS will make several million payments to eligible Americans using the same method.

To estimate how much money you could get, take a look at our stimulus check calculator, and here’s what to do if you’re missing your first stimulus check. This story updates often.

What is an EIP card anyway?


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

Money Network; screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

An EIP card is a prepaid debit card that the Treasury Department has 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. 

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, you would head to the EIP card website to activate it and learn more about how to use it. 

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Why did some people get stimulus money on an EIP card?

Those 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, but we’ve asked the Treasury for more information.   

If a second stimulus bill does get approved, you may get your payment the same way you did the first time around — so if you received an EIP card, you’ll probably get another one. It may be that if you have new banking information to provide, you could receive your check a different way. 

How much stimulus money would come on the card? 

Getting your payment through an EIP card won’t change anything about that calculation or the amount you could get — just the format of the payment.

Once a final bill is passed, the amount of money you would get 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 stimulus check of their own and the stimulus check situation for older adults, people in the SSDI program, US citizens abroad and people living in US territories.

How fast could I get an EIP card if a second stimulus check is approved?

If another coronavirus relief bill with a second stimulus payment is passed, it could likely take longer to get your EIP card than by direct deposit. When the CARES Act was passed in March, the first EIP cards didn’t start going out until mid-May. But it’s possible that it will be faster this time, since the infrastructure is already in place. We just don’t know yet. 

Once a second stimulus payment is approved, you’ll 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. If you’re still waiting for the first check, here’s how to report your missing payment to the IRS and find possible reasons why your stimulus payment still hasn’t arrived.

How would the EIP card arrive?

If you’re eligible, your EIP card will arrive at the address listed on your last tax return in an unmarked envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” Because it wasn’t clearly marked, some people reportedly threw the letter away without opening it during the first round of stimulus payments.

Payment cards are often sent in plain envelopes to deter fraud and thieves. It’s unclear if the IRS would send a second payment in an unmarked envelope too. 

What if I prefer direct deposit instead of an EIP card?

If you have a bank account, you can try signing up for direct deposit with the IRS now through its Get My Payment portal. That way, if another stimulus package is passed and another payment is issued, the IRS will have your bank account information on hand. That makes it more likely you’d get the payment by direct deposit instead of an EIP card. Direct deposit may not be available for everyone, but the portal did allow me to enter my bank information and sign up (I received my first check through the mail).

Will the IRS notify me if I’m getting an EIP card? 

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 I lost my EIP card or if it’s destroyed?

Don’t worry. 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. 

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 can expect a second stimulus payment

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