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How to get your stimulus check faster

Most Americans will soon receive another direct payment from the federal government. Here's how you can speed yours up

Summary

Congress recently passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and President Joe Biden signed it into law on March 11. A key provision is $1,400 payments for most U.S. adults and children. Here’s how you can get your payment faster if you’re among the eligible.

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Most Americans will soon receive another direct payment from the federal government, the third in a series of COVID-19 relief measures. Congress recently passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and President Joe Biden signed it into law on March 11. A key provision is $1,400 payments for most U.S. adults and children.

The IRS says it has already distributed 127 million of these third round of stimulus payments. Many of those started appearing in consumers’ bank accounts on March 17. The fastest way to receive yours is via direct deposit. Hopefully the IRS already has your information via a previous tax return or an earlier round of stimulus. If you’re running into trouble, follow the instructions on their Get My Payment website. You can use this to check the status of your payment if it has not yet arrived. And you can also update your direct deposit information if needed.

If you’re among the 7.1 million unbanked American households (according to the FDIC), you should know that some prepaid debit cards have routing numbers and account numbers that can be used for this purpose. One such example, the Walmart MoneyCard, is offering a special welcome bonus worth up to $30 when new cardholders deposit their stimulus funds onto the card.

The Netspend Liberty Tax Prepaid Mastercard is another possibility. In addition to potentially getting your stimulus funds faster, this card is offering 30% off tax preparation services and up to $30 when new customers receive their tax refunds on the card.

Don’t confuse these prepaid cards with the prepaid debit cards that the IRS has used to distribute some previous stimulus payments. If you don’t have direct deposit information on file, the IRS can send you a paper check or a prepaid card (it’s their choice – and a drawback is both options take a lot longer than a direct deposit). If you enter your own prepaid card information, you could get the payment much sooner, just like a direct bank deposit.

It’s also possible to get your stimulus directly deposited into an account offered by PayPal, Venmo, Cash App and other similar financial apps. The IRS is simply looking for a routing number and account number and it doesn’t have to be from a bank in the literal sense. Still, you should be aware that these services do not always include federal deposit insurance. An FDIC-insured bank account or a credit union account backed by the National Credit Union Administration is much safer from that perspective.

Other important considerations

If you haven’t received one or both of your 2020 stimulus payments, the only remaining way to receive those funds is to claim them on your 2020 tax return via the Recovery Rebate Credit. The IRS has stated that it’s finished sending those direct deposits, paper checks and prepaid cards.

The $1,400 payments authorized by the American Rescue Plan have an income cutoff: an adjusted gross income of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. For heads of household, it’s $112,500. There’s a sharp drop-off after those amounts (every $100 you make over those thresholds reduces your stimulus payment by $28). For example, that means individuals earning more than $80,000 and married couples earning more than $160,000 won’t receive payments at all.

The IRS will use the adjusted gross income from your most recent tax return (2019 or 2020, most likely). If you were above the income cutoff in 2019 and below it in 2020 and you haven’t already filed your 2020 tax return, you have added incentive to get it in as quickly as possible.

How to spend your stimulus smartly

Between the January stimulus payments, the March stimulus payments and the average tax refund, the typical family of four will end up with a windfall of approximately $11,000 in the first quarter of 2021.

Put it to good use!

In one of our recent surveys we found that most people will use the bulk of their tax refunds to boost savings (28%), pay off debt (25%) and cover day-to-day expenses (17%). They’re all solid choices, and the best move for many households is probably a mix of all three.

Since we’re a credit card site, I feel compelled to point out that paying down credit card debt is particularly impactful, since cards charge an average interest rate of about 16%. Of course, you need to have some money set aside for emergency savings and day-to-day necessities, so don’t put it all toward your debt if your savings or cash flow needs a boost.

Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at ted.rossman@creditcards.com and I’d be happy to help.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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