Your stimulus check needs to be mailed by Jan. 15 — how to make sure you get yours

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The IRS has begun distributing stimulus check 2 — the $600-per-person payment authorized by lawmakers late last month — and direct deposits should be appearing in bank accounts as early as today (Jan. 4). 

But the window for sending out relief payments is narrow, and those who don’t receive a check in the next two weeks will need to claim their missing payments on their 2020 tax returns. The legislation approved by Congress gives the Treasury Department only until Jan. 15 to distribute this second round of checks. 

While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that relief will likely go out much more quickly now than it did last spring, in part because the IRS now has more information about eligible recipients on file, it is possible that some Americans will be left hanging after the last checks are mailed out Jan. 15. 

If that happens, you’ll have to take a few extra steps to get your second stimulus check — and you may not see those funds until February at the earliest

How to claim a missing check

Americans who are eligible for stimulus check 2 but whose payment isn't processed before Jan. 15 will have to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return using Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Those who received less money than they think they should have qualified for in either stimulus payment can also claim this credit. 

While tax season begins sometime this month (the IRS has not yet posted a specific date when its free filing programs are expected to become available), refunds generally take three weeks to be processed and sent out. So even if you claim your Recovery Rebate Credit on the first filing day and submit your return electronically, you may not see a deposit immediately.  

Track your stimulus payment

You can see the status of your second stimulus check using the Get My Payment tool on, including the date(s) of your first and second payments as well as payment method (either paper check or direct deposit). 

But keep in mind that the income ceilings are lower this time around: If you make more than $87,000 as an individual, you won't get anything, as opposed to $99,000 the last time around. (Those numbers double for spouses filing jointly.) 

Emily Long

Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers consumer technology, privacy and personal finance for Tom's Guide. She has been reporting and writing for nearly 10 years, and her work has appeared in Wirecutter, Lifehacker, NBC BETTER and CN Traveler, among others. When she's not working, you can find her trail running, teaching and practicing yoga, or studying for grad school — all fueled by coffee, obviously.