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Where the #%&! is my stimulus check? We'll help you track it

Are you still waiting on your third stimulus check to arrive? Use the Get My Payment tracker to find out where it's at, but note it can be tricky to use.

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There are many reasons to use the IRS online tracker tool to get status details on your 2021 stimulus check.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you haven't received your third stimulus check yet -- or you're waiting on a "plus-up" payment -- you're likely getting nervous about where it's at and if the IRS has sent it yet. Fortunately, you can hunt down your $1,400 payment with the IRS stimulus tracker tool all on your own (the agency doesn't want you to call). You can also use the free US Postal Service tool to track your check to your mailbox.

It's possible you'll experience complications when using the IRS tracking tool -- it could display some complex error messages and doesn't tell you everything you want to know. But it can help flag issues that might be delaying your check. We'll help you understand what it means and how to get through it.

If you use the two tools but your payment never arrives, you may need to file a payment trace. While you're here, catch up on the latest details for a possible fourth stimulus check, as well as the child tax credit payment info if that applies to you. This story was recently updated.

Information Get My Payment can give about your third stimulus payment

To get the status of your third check using Get My Payment, enter your Social Security number, date of birth, street address and ZIP code. The tool will then display a message with information about your payment. You can see things like whether your money was sent or is scheduled to be sent, the payment method (direct deposit, paper check or EIP card) and the date your stimulus money was issued. It may also say it can't yet determine your status -- see more below about error messages.

It is unclear if the IRS payment tool shows the status of your plus-up payment. CNET has contacted the IRS to seek clarification.

Information Get My Payment won't show you

If you're looking for these answers, you won't find them in the tool: How much stimulus money you're getting (calculate here), details about the first two stimulus checks approved in 2020, hourly updates -- the status information is updated once daily and usually overnight. You also won't find steps for what to do if you run into stimulus problems.

The IRS doesn't want you to call if you have payment trouble. The agency says its representatives don't have information beyond what's shown in the tool. Here's what we recommend doing to address a stimulus issue.

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'Payment Status Not Available': Why you see this message

Don't be alarmed if the Get My Payment tool gives you a message that says "Payment Status Not Available." You may see this message until your payment is processed, according to the IRS. So you may not have to do anything.

But it could also mean you're not eligible for a payment, according to the IRS. So you may want to double-check your eligibility and plug your numbers in our stimulus check calculator to see if you're due money.

'Need More Information': Why you're seeing this message

According to the IRS FAQ for the 2021 payment, a "Need More Information" message in the Get My Payment tool means your payment was returned because the US Postal Service wasn't able to deliver it.

The FAQ says you'll be able to have your payment reissued as a direct deposit by providing a routing and account number for a bank account, a prepaid debit card (the card must be reloadable, the IRS said) or a financial service account that has a routing and account number associated with it. The updated FAQ said you can also update your mailing address to receive your payment.

If the tracker tool says your payment was sent, but you haven't got it, this is what to do

If the IRS' online tool said the agency has issued your stimulus money, but you have no record of it in your bank account and it never arrived in your mailbox, you may need to take one of these steps, including possibly filing a stimulus check payment trace. You'll need to have the letter the IRS sent you; it can take 15 days for that letter to arrive in the mail.

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The IRS and US Treasury are sending the third round of stimulus payments.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can also track your check if it's being sent by mail

If your third stimulus check is going out in the mail, the US Postal Service has a free app that notifies you when it's about to deliver your stimulus money from the IRS. Called Informed Delivery, the mail-tracking service automatically scans your letters and alerts you to when they'll be delivered. Here's more on how to set up and use the letter-tracking service from the USPS to keep tabs on your payment.

SSI, SSDI, veterans: Have you got your stimulus payment yet? 

The IRS tracking tool Get My Payment is designed to share the status of your third stimulus check. People who receive Social Security benefits like SSDI and SSI and veterans who don't file taxes can now see their payment status in the tracker tool. Tens of millions of Social Security recipients and veterans have already received their $1,400 payment.

This IRS letter confirms your stimulus check was delivered -- don't lose it

If the IRS issues you a stimulus check, it sends a notice by mail to your last known address within 15 days after making the payment to confirm delivery. The letter contains information on when and how the payment was made and how to report it to the IRS if you didn't receive all the money you're entitled to. You'll need to reference this information if you don't receive your full payment and need to claim your money later. Here's how to recover the information if you lost or tossed the letter.

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If your money is tied up in any way, the IRS Get My Payment tracking tool will indicate a problem.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Still waiting on the 2020 stimulus payments? Here's what to do

The IRS is no longer automatically sending out the first and second payments that were approved in 2020. If you believe you're still owed money from either of those payment rounds, your best chance of claiming those funds is to file for the Recovery Rebate Credit as part of the 2020 tax season

If you're eligible, you'll need to know the amount of money the IRS allotted you, which you can find out online or from the letter the agency mailed. The IRS said the updated Get My Payment tracker won't give you information on the first and second checks. Instead, you need to set up and check your IRS account for information on those payments.

Sorry, you can't add your direct deposit info through the tool

The IRS stopped sending direct deposits for the third payment on March 24 -- unless you're a Social Security recipient -- but even before then, you couldn't use the Get My Payment tool to sign up for a new account or correct details about your payment. Even if the IRS is unable to deliver your payment to a bank account and the money is returned to the government, you won't be able to correct the details online -- the IRS says it will resend the money via the mail.

That's a departure from the first stimulus check, when the IRS encouraged people to register using this tool. 

With the IRS officially extending the 2020 tax filing deadline to May 17 and delaying processing tax returns, trying to register for a new direct deposit account with your 2020 tax return won't get you into the system quickly enough, especially now that the IRS and Treasury have begun sending paper stimulus checks. However, if you haven't submitted your taxes yet, signing up for a new direct deposit account could still get you any tax refund faster, and it could also help you receive other benefits quicker, such as a future child tax credit.

For more stimulus check details, here's everything to know about the third check. Here's every way the March 2021 stimulus bill can benefit you. And this is what we know so far about whether a fourth stimulus check could happen.