Every way the new $1,400 stimulus check compares to the $600, $1,200 payments

The now-ready third stimulus check is pretty different from the first two direct payments. Here's what we know.

Clifford Colby Managing Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
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Clifford Colby
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The three stimulus checks follow different paths.

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President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion relief bill into law Thursday, making the third stimulus checks official. The IRS and Treasury will start sending the $1,400 payments out to eligible individuals and families starting this weekend via direct deposit -- here's how to track your payment if you qualify.

This is the third set of coronavirus relief checks issued by the federal government since the start of the pandemic. And while each check has had different rules, the new check is especially different this time. For instance, the new payment is more than twice as much as the second check per person and also brings eligible families more money in other ways. However, it also adds the strictest income limits yet, resulting in fewer people qualifying for a check (here's who is qualified).

Below, we compare the first $1,200second $600 payments and the third check of $1,400, which includes a massive change to the definition of dependents. This story has been updated with new information. 

Watch this: Stimulus check 3: How much money you'll get

All the differences between the three stimulus checks and how they affect you

Each round of stimulus payments has varied on the maximum amount per person and how many people qualify to receive the check. The second check was the least generous on both counts, and took 9 months to become law. However, it also made some groups of people eligible who weren't before, while sticking with the status quo on other provisions that more-progressive lawmakers wanted to revise. 

The new check changes the game again, becoming more generous in some spheres, as with dependents and families with mixed-status citizenship, while also finding its way to fewer people than perhaps even the second check -- at least based on the new stimulus check formula.

Read on to see how the three checks stack up. For more information, here's what you need to know about stimulus checks today, including how to claim any missing stimulus money on your 2020 tax return, how tax season affects the third check, if you can set up direct deposit and how to track your tax refund online.

Three stimulus checks, compared

Third checkSecond checkFirst check
Maximum total (per adult) $1,400$600$1,200
Dependents (flat rate) $1,400 (any age)$600 (16 and younger)$500 (16 and younger)
Income to receive maximum amount Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married)Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married)Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married)
Single taxpayer upper limit $80,000
Head of household upper limit $120,000$124,500$146,000
Filing jointly upper limit $160,000$174,000$198,000
Citizenship Mixed-status families, where one member has a Social Security numberCitizens and noncitizens with a Social Security numberCitizens and noncitizens with a Social Security number
Date approved March 11Dec. 27, 2020March 27, 2020
First payments sent Scheduled to start March 13Dec. 29, 2020April 13, 2020
Final payments issued Dec. 31, 2021Feb. 16, 2021Feb. 16, 2021
Number of payments made To be determinedOver 147 millionOver 160 million
Total dollar amount distributed To be determined$142 billion$270 billion