Will your child tax credit payment arrive on a debit card? Here's what we know

The IRS will send the monthly payments three different ways, including on a prepaid debit card.

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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How will you get your child tax credit payments?

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If you're eligible, you can expect to get the first child tax credit payment on July 15. But do you know how the IRS will send your payment for up to $300 a month per child? (Calculate your child tax check size here.)

The IRS estimates that 88% of families with children will automatically receive a payment starting July 15 -- unless you opt out of the monthly payments and choose to receive one check in 2022. A pandemic-inspired benefit like the stimulus checks and plus-up payments, the child cash benefit payments will go out each month to families with eligible children, through direct deposits straight to bank accounts, as paper checks in the mail and on debit cards. 

While the majority of parents who qualify will receive their money through direct deposit, details about the debit card payments are still murky. Here's what we do -- and don't -- know about child tax credit debit cards. For more, learn about the two portals the IRS is opening in July to help you manage your payments and what to do if you're still waiting for your stimulus check.

Who might receive their child tax credit money on a debit card?

The IRS on May 17 said debit cards would be one of three ways it will deliver child tax credit payments each month, direct deposits and paper checks being the other two methods. Most of the payments are expected to go straight into bank accounts -- 80% of tax refunds are sent as direct deposit, and the IRS said it is "committed to maximizing the use of direct deposit" for child tax credit payments. As with tax refunds and all three stimulus checks, people who don't have direct deposit information on file with the IRS will receive either a paper check or debit card.

The IRS told CNET it is still working out the details for who gets what, but in general:

  • The IRS sent stimulus payments on Direct Express debit cards -- which the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs use to send benefit payments -- and on prepaid EIP debit cards to some people for all three rounds of payments. It isn't clear if you'll be able to change your payment delivery method in one of the IRS portals when they launch by July 1.
Watch this: Child tax credit: Everything we know

Who qualifies for the child tax credit payments?

The IRS estimated 39 million households are eligible for the advance child tax credit. Children 17 years of age or younger are eligible for $3,000 each. Kids under the age of 6 qualify for $3,600 each. An 18-year-old dependent can qualify for a $500 payment. And a dependent between the age of 19 and 24 who is attending college full time can also qualify for $500.

When will the IRS send the payments?

Half of your child cash benefit will go out this year through monthly payments, starting July 15 through the middle of December. Then, when you file your taxes in 2022, you'll get the remainder of the money you qualify for.

For ways to save money this year through government programs, here's how to claim up to $16,000 in child care expenses and how you could save up to $50,000 through one-time COVID-19 credits and benefits.