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Tracking your third stimulus check: When you can do it, why it’s so important this time

The IRS is preparing to send the third stimulus check. Here’s the first step if you want to track its status.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Now that President Joe Biden has officially made the nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill law, the third check for $1,400 (calculate your total here) is a reality and the first batch of payments are now being sent to eligible Americans. So how long will you have to wait now that IRS is releasing the first funds to start tracking your payment? And does it matter? It does — significantly.

With the first check, the IRS quickly opened up an online tracking portal. With the second, the US Treasury had already sent out checks before activating the tool. While you may anticipate repeatedly checking your bank account for a direct deposit or chasing after the mail carrier, the stimulus check tracking tool is your only real communication and confirmation that the IRS processed your payment, if you’re getting mailed a paper check or EIP card and when it might arrive.

The tool also flags if there’s a problem, which could lead to a delay in receiving your stimulus payment. You may need to provide more information to the IRS to fix it. And because the third check comes in the midst of tax season, the details could indicate if the IRS used your 2019 or 2020 taxes and if it counted all your dependents correctly. If not, that’s a sign you may have to file for a catch-up payment later on. Here’s what you need to know. 

IRS Get My Payment: When will it officially go online? What to know

Now that the first payments are going out to bank accounts, the US Treasury on Friday said the IRS tracking tool, called Get My Payment, will be available shortly. “Beginning next week, individuals can check the “Get My Payment” tool on to see the payment status of these payments,” the Treasury said in a statement.

We expect the information to update once a day, as it did with the first two payments. Once the tracking app is live for the third check, plug in your Social Security number, date of birth, street address and ZIP code. Then the tool will display a message with information about your check — whether the payment was sent, the payment method (direct deposit or by mail) and the date it was issued. It’ll also let you know if the service can’t yet determine your status — more below on error messages.

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Why is there a Need More Information message?

Based on the first two checks, 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 (expect that in the first few days). 

If the Get My Payment tool gives you a payment date but you still haven’t received your money, the IRS may need more details from you. The error could also indicate that your check has been returned because the post office was unable to deliver it.

After the IRS starts sending checks, the online tool may let you enter your banking information to receive your payment straight to your bank account, as it did with the first payment, or it may hold your payment until it receives a current mailing address.

What should I do if I see a Payment Status Not Available message?

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. So, you don’t have to do anything.

If Get My Payment says the IRS sent a stimulus check, but you never get it, do this

If the IRS’ online tool said the agency has issued your stimulus money, but you have no record of it in the mail or in your bank account, and it never arrived in your mailbox, you may need to file a stimulus check payment trace. It’s handy if you also have the letter the IRS may have sent you.

What if you threw away the IRS letter confirming your stimulus payment?

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 your check. The letter is helpful if you didn’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.


The IRS and US Treasury are ready to send the third round of stimulus payments.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You might still be able to prepare for a third stimulus check

Now that the IRS is about to send the third stimulus check, you’ll likely get it fastest if you have a direct deposit account set up. If you don’t, it may not be too late, but you will need to act soon. The IRS didn’t let people register new direct deposit accounts or change their banking information for the second stimulus check and we have no way of knowing at this time if the agency would allow direct deposit adjustments for the third stimulus payment.

What we do know is that you can register for a new direct deposit account (in fact, up to three) as part of filing your 2020 tax return. If the IRS receives your banking information before it processes your third payment, it’s likely it will use that information to send your money.

You can track your mailed stimulus check to your mailbox. Here’s how

If your third stimulus check is going out in the 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.

What if you’re still owed money from the first and/or second stimulus payments?

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