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Stimulus checks will go to direct deposit accounts first. Can you sign up with the IRS?

If you don’t have a direct deposit account on file with the IRS, we’ll help you get started.


Angela Lang/CNET

The IRS was looking for the go-ahead from President Joe Biden to begin sending out the third stimulus check as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. With Biden’s signing the relief legislation on Thursday, the IRS and Treasury Department can now start delivering the first wave of $1,400 payments to Americans’ bank accounts as soon Saturday or Sunday (here’s how you’ll be able to track your stimulus check). 

With the first two rounds of payments, the IRS and US Treasury prioritized payments to people with direct deposit information on file. (Here’s how to calculate your new payment.) What happens if you’re qualified for a check, but don’t have direct deposit set up?

If the IRS doesn’t already have your banking information on file, the agency built an online tool (for the first check) to help you add it. However, as of Friday morning, the tool was not accepting new submissions. The IRS didn’t reopen that portal with the second check, with the agency having a little over two weeks to send over 100 million payments. With the third stimulus check starting to arrive this weekend, here’s what to we expect to happen, and everything you should know about direct deposit payments. This story updated with new information.

Will the IRS let me sign up for direct deposit with the third payment?

You can already register for direct deposit when you submit federal taxes, but if you just signed up and the IRS doesn’t use your 2020 tax return as the basis of your third check, it isn’t clear if it will use your account for an electronic funds transfer. 

For the first check, the IRS created an online Get My Payment tool to let those who were eligible provide banking information to receive their payments straight to their bank accounts. The IRS shut down the direct deposit registration feature on May 15, 2020, and didn’t turn it back on for the second checks, when the IRS had just over two weeks to complete making payments. 

It isn’t clear when and if the IRS will turn the tool back on this time around, but the agency has until Dec. 31, 2021, to send the payments, so isn’t working under such a tight deadline this round.

The new bill tasks the IRS and US Treasury with sending the new stimulus checks out “electronically” as appropriate, but as of Thursday, the IRS said it is “reviewing implementation plans” and to “check back soon for information.” Without guidance from the IRS, we don’t know if the IRS will let those who qualify for a payment either set up direct deposit with the agency or change out-of-date banking details.


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Stimulus check 3: How much money you’ll get



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Why would I want to use direct deposit to get my stimulus check money?

Over 75% with the first round and more than 80% with the second payments were distributed through direct deposit. During the first stimulus check round, the IRS encouraged people who didn’t have direct deposit on file with the agency to sign up for direct deposit anyway. The agency said these people could still receive their checks faster even if they signed up “late” compared to waiting for a mailed check.

What information does the IRS need to set up a new direct deposit account?

If the IRS does accept new banking information for the third check through its Get My Payment tool, you’ll want to have on hand your bank account type and routing and account numbers. You have several ways to find this banking information.

Banking website: Your bank’s website may show your routing and account numbers. Log in to the account you want to use and look around for the numbers you need.

Banking app: If your bank has an app, it may show you your account and routing numbers. In the app, tap the account you want to use to see the account and routing numbers.

Printed check: At the bottom of your check you most likely will see three sets of numbers: The first set of nine numbers is your routing number. The second set of 8 to 12 numbers is your account number. The third set is the one you don’t need for direct deposit, as it’s the number of the individual check.

Check this IRS page for more help with locating your routing and account numbers.

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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

Am I guaranteed to get my stimulus check through direct deposit?

If you already have direct deposit set up with the IRS, the agency said it will use that information to make your payment. For the first and second checks, however, some reported receiving their payments in the mail, either as a paper check or EIP card through the mail, even if the IRS did have their bank details. The vast majority of the first and second payments did go out via electronic transfer. You can track your payment using the IRS payment status tool.

If you needed any motivation to send in your tax returns early, the IRS said it will use your most recent federal tax forms it’s processed when determining the amount of your third payment. If you’ve included your banking information when you filed, the IRS may use that when sending your payment. It’s a gamble that the IRS will process your new filing by the time it gets to your name, but that’s still a possibility.

What if there’s a problem with direct deposit?

This could happen. With the earlier payments, the IRS experienced problems sending stimulus payments for millions of people who use tax preparation software like TurboTax and Jackson Hewitt. Now that the IRS is sending the third checks in the middle of tax season, this could become an issue again.

How would the IRS would 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 who issues benefits to you, such as Social Security Administration, Veteran Affairs or Railroad Retirement Board.
$100 bills

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


Stephen Shankland/CNET

What happens if my banking details have changed for direct deposit?

With the first stimulus checks, you could use the Get My Payment and Non-Filers tools to provide the IRS with your banking information. The IRS had said, however, it does not allow people to change the direct deposit information for a stimulus payment it has on file. This is a safeguard against fraud. 

With the second checks, the IRS did not accepting new or changed banking information. If the IRS attempts to make a payment to now-closed bank account, the financial institution must return the payment to the IRS, the agency said. The agency has not said how it will handle banking changes with the third check.

If you’ve moved, you can provide the IRS with your new mailing address.

Do I need to have a bank account to get my check by direct deposit?

According to the Urban Institute, people with bank accounts and direct deposit (who are disproportionately white) were more likely to get their first stimulus check by the end of May than people who identify as Black, Hispanic or were below the poverty line. This was directly tied to groups who were more likely to have banking accounts and who filed that information with the IRS to facilitate direct deposit tax returns.

Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and several other large banks now offer more affordable checkless bank accounts as part of a program to make it easier for people to get bank accounts. 

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.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

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