How fast your stimulus check arrives depends on 3 things. What to know, including key dates – CNET

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More stimulus money could be headed your way before the end of March. Here’s everything we know right now.


Sarah Tew/CNET

In the grand scheme of things, the path to a third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per person is happening at lightning speed. That is, when you compare progress made on the $1.9 trillion stimulus package to the nine months — to the day — it took to approve a second check. But although you could see significantly more money in a new stimulus payment, even one that changes the formula to become more “targeted,” the date that you could personally expect a third stimulus payment is still a little squishy. (Here’s who might not qualify.)

We know on Monday, the House of Representatives plans to mark up the proposal it has so far, to bring the bill to a vote by the end of next week. The complicated plan in place requires a little ping-pong between the House and Senate, but would lob the stimulus package past Republican opposition for faster approval.

March 14 is the goal to pass the overarching bill, but that’s only one part of the timeline deciding when you’d see your check. Another is how long it could take the IRS to begin calculating the stimulus payments, and a third is which payment group you’d be in to receive it — that’s changed before and could change again. Below, we map out possible dates and explore questions about the arrival of a third check during 2020 tax season, so read on for more details. This story was recently updated.

Stimulus check timeline: When your check could come

If a stimulus bill passes by March 14, we can take an educated guess when the IRS could start sending the very first payments — based on how quickly the IRS turned around the previous check. However, many uncertainties remain. 

For example, it’s possible negotiations could slip a week while finalizing the bill. If the Senate makes changes, it would have to go back to the House for a vote, and the timeline to hit March 14 is already tight for the pace of legislation. In addition, the IRS is also dealing with tax returns, and it isn’t clear how the agency and new Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen would prioritize delivering the third check and tax returns.

We also expect the IRS would follow the same priority release by payment group as it did with the first two checks: people who receive a stimulus check through direct depositphysical checks or EIP cards. Keep reading below to see why yours could change and what, if anything, you could do about it. It could take weeks for the IRS to process every group’s funds, so consider these possible dates below a starting point. We’ll refresh these dates as the situation evolves.

When could the next stimulus check possibly arrive?

Stimulus check passes Congress Friday, March 12 Monday, March 22
Stimulus bill signed into law Sunday, March 14 Tuesday, March 23
First direct deposit check sent Week of March 22 Week of March 29
First paper checks sent Week of March 29 Week of April 5
First EIP cards sent Week of April 5 Week of April 12
Claims for missing stimulus money open May 3 May 3

Which stimulus payment group you could be in, and why it could change

When you get your stimulus money could depend on how you get it. That was largely true with the first two checks (there are always some exceptions) and would likely play out this third time around as well. Direct deposit recipients typically get their stimulus checks faster, as evidenced by the first two rounds of payments. But both times there have been issues involving deposits going to temporary accounts, which were rejected by banks.

The IRS told CNET in January that some people who received a physical check or EIP card the first time may get paid by the other method the second time around. And, anecdotally, we’ve heard 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. 


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Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know

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While you won’t have a final say in how you get your payment, we recommend signing up for direct deposit with the IRS as part of your 2020 tax return, if you ordinarily file taxes. If you already have an account, make sure your details are correct. We also suggest you attempt to file them quickly. While you can file an extension to submit your taxes later (you’d still have to pay what you owe,) whether that will help or hurt you may get a little complicated.

The other payment groups loosely defined (by us) 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 have been one example, and so have people who are incarcerated, as well as those with complex citizenship scenarios.

How tax season could complicate your third stimulus payment

Since the third stimulus check is likely to drop in the middle of tax season (taxes are due April 15), the IRS may have to calculate your total based on the most recent tax filing it has. That would be your 2020 taxes if you file early, or 2019 if the check is ready before your tax return is. This could also disqualify some from getting a third stimulus payment. (Learn more about some of the stimulus check exceptions and catches here.)

If you’re owed money, you might have to wait a year to claim it, until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022, according to the latest proposal.

By mid-March, tens of millions of Americans may have already received their tax refunds, which could make it tricky for the IRS to straighten out problems or redact refunds after issuing. 

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

Can you make your own $1,400 arrive faster?

There may be a few things you can do to help speed up receipt of a third payment, assuming it happens. For example, signing up for direct deposit with your 2020 tax return would put you in the priority category for a third stimulus payment. 

And if you’ve moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS. Here are our other suggestions for how people can make it more likely to get their second checks faster. Note that there could be some changes to qualifications that may not apply to a possible third stimulus check.

Would the IRS use another deadline for sending out payments?

The Jan. 15 deadline set for the second stimulus check was written into the text of the bill without explanation. It isn’t immediately clear if the bill text would adopt another cutoff in the future, or if that was a one-time consideration that took into account the IRS’s overlapping need to process stimulus checks and prepare for the 2020 tax season. Last year, the April 15 tax date was extended to July 15.

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

The two overlap with the second stimulus check in that anyone who didn’t receive all or part of their second payment must claim it as part of the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return — even if they have nonfiler status and aren’t typically required to file taxes.

Some groups of people need to know more about stimulus checks

Stimulus checks aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are our guides for:

Here’s everything you need to know about stimulus checks, including what to do if you run into problems with either of the first two payments.

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