What to Do If You Haven't Received Your Stimulus Check or It's for the Wrong Amount

As the IRS sends out its third batch of stimulus payments, many people wonder where their second stimulus payments are.

Millions of people have already received their third stimulus checks, many of them by direct deposit. But many individuals haven't even received their second stimulus payments, nevermind their third payment. While some can expect to receive a prepaid debit card or paper check in the next few weeks, others won't receive a check this time at all. (Fewer households are expected to receive a third stimulus check because of the lower income phaseouts. Read about eligibility in our article on the income phaseouts for the third stimulus check). Here are some answers for those who haven't received their second or third stimulus payment.

Check the Get My Payment Tool

The IRS website has been uploading data for your third stimulus payment into a tool on its website called Get My Payment. If your information has been updated, you'll be able to see the date you can expect to receive your stimulus payment, or the date it was deposited or mailed. You should also be able to see whether your money was direct deposited or whether you'll be receiving the payment by mail.

Many people are seeing a message that says either the IRS doesn't have enough information yet or you aren't eligible for the payment. This message doesn't necessarily mean you aren't eligible for the payment. This information may be updated this coming weekend.

Here are some of the issues people are seeing, either with their actual deposit or with the Get My Payment tool.

My Stimulus Payment Went to the Wrong Bank Account

If the Get My Payment tool tells you your check will be direct-deposited, it will also provide the last four digits of the number of the bank account into which your stimulus payment will be deposited. For the initial checks, some individuals saw that their deposit was going to an old bank account, or they even saw bank account numbers that they didn't recognize. Here's what to do:

  • If the tool says that your payment was deposited into your bank account but you haven't seen it yet, your bank may still be processing it.
  • You won't necessarily get the third check direct deposited, even if the first or second one was direct deposited.
  • If your third stimulus payment is sent to a closed bank account, the bank is required to transfer the money back to the IRS. The IRS will not redeposit it to you or mail you a paper check. Instead, you will have to file your 2021 tax return (by April 15, 2022) to claim your "Recovery Rebate Credit." See below for instructions on claiming the rebate on your tax return.
  • If H&R Block submitted your last tax return and you signed up for a "refund transfer," the IRS might deposit your stimulus payment with H&R Block (so you may see its account number instead of yours). H&R Block should transfer the money to your bank account within 24 hours.
  • Those who submitted their last tax return with Turbo Tax should receive their payments in the same bank accounts through which they received their tax refunds.

My Third Stimulus Payment Was Too Low

Many individuals and families will find that their third stimulus checks are lower than they thought. That could be because people who make over a certain amount have part of the $1,400 payment taken away. For example, single people who make over $75,000 in adjusted gross income will have their second stimulus checks reduced by 28% of the income over $75,000. Married people filing jointly and heads of household will have their payments reduced by a similar amount.

The third stimulus payment is technically based on your 2021 income, but the IRS is using your 2020 tax return (or 2019 tax return if that's the last one you filed) to estimate it. If your income goes down in 2021, making you eligible for a payment, or a higher payment, you'll be able to file a tax return for your 2021 taxes (by April 15, 2021) and you'll receive the stimulus money you didn't get—it's called a recovery rebate credit.

(Estimate the amount you may get with our stimulus check calculator.)

Why Did We Get Only Half the Amount?

Many couples are finding that they are getting direct deposits for only a portion of what they think their stimulus payment should be. Some have gotten half of their payment deposited one week and half the next, and other couples are finding that their dependents' share of the stimulus money is split between the two parents.

The IRS has explained that the first payment made might be based on a taxpayer's 2019 tax return, and the second payment is a "plus-up" payment that is based on the taxpayer's 2020 tax return.

The IRS has also said that part of the problem may be with "injured spouse" claims on a tax return. (If the IRS takes part of a joint refund to settle the tax debt (or past due child support) of only one spouse, the "injured" spouse can request a refund.) The IRS says that these couples will get their payments as two separate payments.

If you haven't received the full amount, wait until you get your Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, from the IRS. That letter should have the correct amount of your stimulus payment. If you don't receive deposits or checks in that amount, you may have to file a Recovery Rebate Credit (see below). You can also read the IRS's press release from April 1, which contains a lot of helpful details.

I had a Problem With the First or Second Payment

Some individuals had too much income in 2019 to qualify for the first or second stimulus payment (since the IRS based eligibility on 2019 income), but their income decreased enough in 2020 for them to qualify. If you fall into this category, you can file a tax return for your 2020 taxes (by May 17, 2021) and you'll receive a recovery rebate credit as part of your refund (more on this below).

In other cases, families received stimulus payments by direct deposit but the IRS neglected to add money for one or more of their children. Sometimes there didn't seem to be a reason for this (the family e-filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 claiming the child tax credit for all of their children). For other families, it seems the IRS did not update the number of children that taxpayers have, even for families who claimed new children on their 2019 tax returns. You'll be able to claim the rest of the stimulus payment when you file your next tax return.

Get My Payment Says Payment Issued But I Haven't Received It

The IRS says that it may take three to four weeks to receive a check after it's mailed. If it has been weeks since the Get My Payment tool says the payment was mailed, and you haven't received it, you can request a payment trace. The IRS will research what happened to your check; if the check wasn't cashed, you will need to claim the "Recovery Rebate Credit" (RRC) on your next tax return. (See below for instructions on claiming the rebate on your tax return.) If the IRS finds that the check was cashed, you'll receive a claim package from the Treasury Department with a copy of the cashed check and instructions on filing a claim.

Similarly, if the Get My Payment tool says your payment was direct-deposited, but the money doesn't show in your bank account after five days, first check with your bank. If the bank says it hasn't received a payment, you can request a payment trace.

To request a payment trace, call 800-919-9835 or fill out IRS Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund.

Why Did I Receive a Debit Card?

The IRS issued millions of debit cards to taxpayers in lieu of second stimulus checks, but will be sending out fewer debit cards out for the third payment. The prepaid Visa debit cards, issued by MetaBank, are called Economic Impact Payment (EIP) cards. Your EIP card will arrive in a white envelope with "Economic Impact Payment Card" in the return address. You'll need to activate the card by calling the phone number that comes with the card and choosing a 4-digit PIN number. (For cards with more than one name, only the person listed first on the card can activate it.)

You can use your EIP card for purchases or use it to withdraw cash (subject to a daily limit). You can also transfer the funds from your EIP card directly into your own bank account, after you register for online access. (The card will come with instructions on setting up online access.)

If you use the card wisely, it will be free, but there are some fees to be aware of. If you use an out-of-network ATM or a bank teller to withdraw cash, you may need to pay a fee, and if you check the balance of the debit card, at either an in-network ATM or an out-of-network ATM, you will be charged a small fee. (Instead, you can use your Web browser or a free mobile app to check your balance.)

The IRS has announced that the vast majority of taxpayers should receive their third stimulus payment by direct deposit this time.

I Got a "Payment Status Not Available" Message

Many checking on their second stimulus check were seeing a message that said "Payment Status #2 - Not Available." The IRS has indicated that these individuals will not receive a stimulus check by direct deposit or mail and they will have to file their 2020 tax return (by April 15, 2021) to claim their "Recovery Rebate Credit." See below for instructions on claiming the rebate on your tax return.

These messages have now disappeared and will be replaced by information about the third payment.

I Received a Second Payment But My Spouse Didn't

There have been cases where a couple submit their tax returns as "married filing jointly," and both spouses are eligible for a $1,400 stimulus check, but one spouse received a payment and the other did not (and the "Get My Payment" tool says no information is available for the spouse who did not receive a check). This is an error on the IRS's part. Unfortunately, the spouse who didn't receive a check will have to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on his or her 2020 tax return. See below for instructions on claiming the rebate on your tax return.

How to Claim the Recovery Rebate Credit

If you did not receive your first or second stimulus payment, or if it was for the wrong amount, you'll need to file a tax return for the 2020 tax year (by May 17, 2021 unless you request an extension). You'll file Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR (tax return for seniors). You'll need your Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment from the IRS when you file. You should have gotten your first Notice 1444 (in the form of a letter) sometime last spring or summer, and you should have gotten your second one (called Notice 1444b) in February 2021. You'll need the amount of the payment in the letter when you file your tax return in 2021.

If you don't receive your third stimulus payment, or if it was for the wrong amount, you'll need to file a tax return for the 2021 tax year (by April 15, 2022 unless you request an extension). You'll file Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR (tax return for seniors). You'll need your Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment from the IRS when you file. You'll need the amount of the payment in the letter when you file your tax return in 2021.

You can take the Recovery Rebate Credit for any rebate amount that is more than the economic impact payment that you received by completing line 30 of Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR. The instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR include a worksheet you can use to calculate the amount of the credit you are eligible for.

My Stimulus Payment Was Too High

Some individuals whose income increased too much in 2019 were not eligible for a full stimulus payment, but they got one anyway since the IRS based the payment on their 2018 taxes. Those individuals will not have to pay back the payment.

In other cases, families were paid an extra $500 or $600 for children who were 17 or older (families are supposed to get $500 for each child who are under 17). This could happen if the IRS took the number of children who qualified for the child tax credit in 2018 without updating children's ages for 2019. But in other cases, it looks like the IRS took the number of dependents from a family's 2018 tax return, without regard to their age. The IRS has said that those who received such overpayments will not have to pay them back.

The Non-Filer Tool Is No Longer Available

Those who earned little income and didn't need to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 taxes had until November 21, 2020 to submit "non-filer" information to the IRS. If they did not, they may have to wait until 2021 to get their stimulus "recovery rebate credit" by filing a tax return for 2020 taxes. With the second and third round of stimulus payments, there is no option to add or change your bank account information.

If you are in this situation, you can file a free tax return with the IRS. Go to its free file page, where you'll be asked to create an account and provide your Social Security number and bank information for direct deposit.

How Can You Correct Mistakes?

The IRS sends out Notice 1444 by mail within 15 days of making a direct deposit or sending a paper check. That letter will tell you the amount of your stimulus payment and how it was made. The letter also provides instructions on fixing issues with your payment.

Updated April 5, 2021