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Where's your stimulus check? Here are tips to hunt down your payment with this IRS tool

With the deadline now passed for the IRS to automatically send your second stimulus check, a free, online tool from the agency can show you more information about your payment status.

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If your second stimulus check hasn't arrived yet, here's the first step to tracking it down.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With Joe Biden now president and already talking about a third stimulus check, are you out of luck if you've not received your second stimulus payment yet? Maybe not. There may still be a sliver of hope your $600 second payment made it out the door right at the IRS' Jan. 15 deadline and your paper check or EIP card is still in transit to your mailbox. In addition, an IRS delivery error with direct deposit could also cause a holdup with payments.

If you don't receive your second stimulus check by the end of this week, it's likely you'll need to claim your money next month on your 2020 tax returns (you may even need to file a payment trace with the IRS). To help work out your next steps, you can first use an IRS online app called Get My Payment to find out how much your total second stimulus check should be and when it was sent. The second, a USPS service, can also track your mailed check to your house. In some cases, you may need to reach out to the IRS directly.

Responses from the Get My Payment tool can at times be confusing, like if an error message highlights an issue that might postpone your check's arrival. Here are tips for using the tool. (Plus, here's the latest with a third stimulus check, when it could come and how much money the next payment could bring.) This story updated recently.

IRS Get My Payment: What to know before using the tool

The IRS' payment-tracking tool, called Get My Payment, requires a bit of explanation:

  • The IRS has been updating its status tracking information overnight, once a day. It isn't clear if that will continue now that the Jan. 15 deadline has passed.
  • If you try to access the tool during a busy period, you may wait in a queue before you can enter your information.
  • You'll need to plug in your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, date of birth, street address and ZIP or postal code -- so have those handy.
  • The portal may show your payment status, whether it's been scheduled, the payment method (direct deposit or by mail) and date. It'll also let you know if the service can't yet determine your status -- more below on error messages.
  • The IRS has been sending payments on a schedule and in batches. If your check was issued, the Get My Payment tool will show you the date it was sent.
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Why do I keep getting a 'Need More Information' message?

You may see an error if the tool can't determine your eligibility -- or if you're completely ineligible -- if your payment status isn't available, or if a lot of people are trying to access the tool at once. Here are some initial reasons why Get My Payment may not be able to track your payment status, though the IRS has since said it's improved its tool. 

If the Get My Payment tool gave you a payment date but you still haven't received your money, the IRS may need more details from you. Check the Get My Payment tool again -- if it reports "Need More Information," this could indicate that your check has been returned because the post office was unable to deliver it, an IRS representative told CNET.

After you see the "Need More Information" message, the online tool will let you enter your banking information to receive your payment straight to your bank account. The IRS said If you don't provide your bank account information, the agency will hold your payment till it receives a current mailing address. Head to the IRS change-address page for how to update your address with the IRS. You'll also want to inform the USPS of your new residence.

A 'Payment Status Not Available' message keeps showing. What can I do?

It's normal for the Get My Payment tool to give you a message that says "Payment Status Not Available" until the payment is scheduled to be issued, according to the IRS. This message does not mean you're ineligible or that you won't receive a payment -- you'll likely just have to wait for the IRS to process your refund or credit with the Recovery Rebate Credit as part of tax season 2020

What if Get My Payment says the IRS sent a stimulus check, but I never received it?

If the IRS' online tool issued your stimulus money but you have no record of it in the mail or in your bank account, you may need to report the missing payment to the IRS and take the extra step of filing a stimulus check payment trace.

Important reminder: Don't throw away the IRS letter confirming it sent your payment

With the first check, the IRS sent mail to a taxpayer's last known address within 15 days after sending the payment to confirm delivery. The letter contained information on when and how the payment was made and how to report to the IRS if you didn't receive your check. The IRS said it is sending a letter for the second checks as well. Hold on to the letter in case you don't receive your full payment and need to claim your money later.

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The IRS and US Treasury are now making the second round of stimulus payments.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's too late to change or add your direct deposit account information until tax-filing season starts

For the first round of stimulus checks, you could use the Get My Payment tool to give the IRS your banking information to have your check sent via direct deposit. According to the IRS' FAQ, for the second check, this option is no longer available: "Your payment information cannot be changed. If you don't get a payment and you are eligible to receive one, it may be claimed on your 2020 tax return as the Recovery Rebate Credit."

For the second checks, the IRS said it is using banking information it gathered from your 2019 tax return, from the now-closed Non-Filers tool if you used it prior to Dec. 22, 2020, or from a federal agency that issued benefits to you, such as the Social Security Administration. Here are three reasons you may want to sign up for direct deposit on your 2020 taxes.

The US Treasury and IRS have not responded to our requests for additional clarification.

Next possible step: Track your stimulus check until it arrives in your mailbox

If your second stimulus check has just been sent by mail, the US Postal Service has a free app that can notify 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 can alert you 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.

For more information, here's everything to know about a second stimulus check, how the IRS actually decides how much money you get and here's what we know about a third stimulus check.