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Stimulus checks: Last day for direct deposit payment before the IRS mails your $1,400

If your stimulus check doesn't arrive by direct deposit by the end of today, the IRS says you'll get a paper check or EIP card -- even if there's been a direct deposit error.

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There's a direct deadline for stimulus checks. Here's what you need to know.

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If you don't get a stimulus check by the end of Wednesday, that means your payment will arrive in the mail as either a paper check or EIP debit card, the IRS said. In the past, problems with direct deposits being mistakenly transferred to temporary or closed accounts often let the recipient correct the mistake, but with the third check for up to $1,400 apiece, you'll need to look to your mailbox. (Here's how to tell the IRS and USPS if you moved.)

An estimated 17 million stimulus checks were being processed and sent this week through direct deposit, The Washington Post reported, with 20 million headed for the USPS. That doesn't include roughly 9 million stimulus payments for SSI, SSDI and other Social Security beneficiaries. Millions more payments are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

But the story may not be over for people who have already received their direct deposit stimulus checks, or who may still see a payment trickle in. We'll explain why people in this group need to keep a confirmation letter the IRS sends, are encouraged to double-check their payment total with our calculator and what to do if there's a problem with a payment. (P.S. Here's the word on a fourth stimulus check.)

The IRS has my banking information on file. Why didn't I get my stimulus check through direct deposit?

While we can't say for certain what went wrong in your case, there are some common reasons the transaction didn't go through as you expected, including:

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I already got my third stimulus check through direct deposit. Why do I need to keep the IRS letter?

The IRS sends a letter -- notice 1444 -- to every stimulus check recipient. You want to keep this letter. It confirms that you got a payment and the payment amount. Your check total won't be available on the IRS tracking tool.

This notice is also the easiest way to file an adjustment with the IRS at a later date if it turns out that part of your allotted stimulus funds are missing. The agency recommends keeping the letter with your tax records. You can recover the information online if you lose this notice, but it's a rather involved process that could take a couple days.

Why should I double check my payment total with the stimulus check calculator?

Delivering a third stimulus check in the middle of tax season (May 17 is the new tax deadline) has complicated matters. If you filed your taxes early and the IRS processed your 2020 return, it may use that information to calculate your stimulus total. If not, your third check will be based on 2019 totals, or other information the agency has (for example, if you're a nonfiler).

If your estimated total from the stimulus calculator differs greatly from what you received through direct deposit, it may signal that the IRS owes you money for dependents that were unaccounted for, or a different life circumstance, like if your adjusted gross income from 2020 is lower than from 2019. Again, we recommend holding on to that IRS confirmation letter to file a future claim.

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You may want to set up direct deposit with the IRS if you don't have it already in place.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What do I do if there's a problem with direct deposit? Should I call the IRS?

The IRS has made it extremely clear: It does not want you to call. We recommend some steps you can take to confirm and address problems with direct deposit, including how to request a payment trace if either the IRS tracker tool or the confirmation letter tells you the IRS sent you stimulus money to your bank account that you didn't receive.

Why won't the IRS let me sign up to receive the third payment as a direct deposit?

Good question, and we don't have an answer. The IRS opened up direct deposit registration for the first stimulus check in April 2020 and shut down the feature on May 15 that year. The tool wasn't turned back on for the second checks, when the agency had just over two weeks to complete making payments. 

This time, the IRS said it'll "use data already in its systems to send the third stimulus payments. Taxpayers with direct deposit information on file will receive the payment that way. Those without current direct deposit information on file will receive the payment as a check or debit card in the mail."

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In general, you'll get your money faster through direct deposit than with a paper check.

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How many people got stimulus check money through direct deposit with the third check?

By March 17, more than 90 million of the $1,400 stimulus payments were made through direct deposit, the IRS said, with 17 million more estimated to go out by March 24, The Washington Post reported. Over 75% of the first round of payments and more than 80% of the second payments were distributed via direct deposit. 

How would the IRS have gotten my banking details for the third check?

The IRS has several ways to find your banking information:

  • You filed a tax return in 2019 or 2020 and received a refund by direct deposit.
  • You already filed your tax forms this year and provided the IRS with your banking information.
  • You registered your banking information for the first check through the IRS' Get My Payment online tool.
  • You provided bank information through the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool if you don't typically file taxes.
  • From another federal agency that issues benefits to you, such as the Social Security Administration, Veteran Affairs or Railroad Retirement Board.

For more on the checks, here's when the IRS will start sending the third checks, how much you could qualify for with this payment and how to track your payment with the IRS.