Stimulus check status — why your $1,400 check may be delayed

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Many recipients of the third stimulus check were happy to see their $1,400 (or more) directly deposited into their bank accounts over the weekend, only to be told they couldn't access it until Wednesday, March 17.

Anger erupted on social media, with customers accusing big banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo of milking the deposited stimulus money for interest. "Criminal" and "unethical practices" were some of the nicer phrases tossed around. Others were asking why customers of smaller banks and credit unions were getting their money.

But, say the big banks and the system that handles electronic bank transfers, the reason is simple: The stimulus-check deposits are still pending because the government money hasn't yet been moved to the banks. 

"Regardless of when payment files were sent and received, settlement of the funds for the payments will occur at 8:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, March 17, exactly as instructed by the IRS," states a post on the website of the National Automated Clearing House Association, or Nacha. 

"This is literally the moment in time when the money will be transferred from the government to banks' and credit unions' settlement accounts at the Federal Reserve," the post continued. 

"There is no mystery where the money is from the time the first payment file was transmitted on Friday, March 12 to when all recipients will have access to the money on Wednesday — it is still with the government."

Confusion and delay

Like a post-dated check, the money will not be legally released until the "settlement date" on the electronic transfer of funds, explained the Nacha post. March 17 is the date the IRS chose.

It didn't help clarify matters that the Biden administration and IRS implied that the stimulus money would be available to some people as early as this past weekend.

"Some Americans may see the direct deposit payments as pending or as provisional payments in their accounts before the official payment date of March 17," the IRS mentioned halfway down the page of a statement announcing the third stimulus payments.

Wells Fargo and Chase each have pages on their websites explaining the situation. 

"March 17, 2021 is the first official payment date for eligible customers to receive a direct deposit of their stimulus payment," says Wells Fargo's page, "and customers may see a direct deposit as early as that morning."

The banks that are letting customers access the money before Wednesday, one bank executive in Virginia told WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, are probably using their own funds to cover the withdrawals until the government money comes in.

"Typically, the process is you pay based on the effective date, and it's an automated process," Bill Callaghan, chief operating officer of Blue Ridge Bank, said. "You know, quite honestly, it's not something that we like to tinker with."

How to track your payment

To see the status of your stimulus payment, you can use the IRS's online Get My Payment tool. And here's how to check whether you're eligible to get stimulus money, and how much you'll receive, 

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.