Stimulus checks: What to do if your payment hasn't come

second stimulus check date
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans are still missing their third stimulus payments months after the IRS began distributing checks, and it's not clear why these individuals haven't seen their relief money or when they finally  will. 

As of early June, the IRS and the Treasury Department had distributed more than 169 million payments totaling $395 billion. But according to Fast Company, many individuals have been working to track down their lost stimulus checks, trying everything from calling the IRS (whose representative suggested the delay was due to a "programming error") to contacting their Congressional representatives. Unfortunately, many of the payments remain outstanding.

It's frustrating to have your stimulus relief in limbo, especially if those funds are needed to cover essentials like food and rent. It's even worse to have little recourse and no clear path to receive that money. However, there are a few things you can try to track down your check. 

First, if you haven't done so already, use the IRS' stimulus-check tracking tool to view the status of your payment. This portal can at least tell you if and when your funds were issued. 

If you see "Payment Status Not Available," it's likely that the agency hasn't processed your tax return or you're not eligible for stimulus check 3. If that doesn't seem right, you may need to do some additional digging. 

Say your stimulus check was (supposedly) processed, and you received a letter from the IRS (Notice 1444) about your payment amount, but your money hasn't arrived. You may need to request a payment trace, which can take up to six weeks to process. You can call the IRS at 800-919-9835 to speak to an agent, or you can fill out Form 3911 and send it in. 

If you're willing to wait on hold, calling the IRS may be your best bet to get more information. Hopefully, a representative can help you track down your missing payment or direct you to the next steps to get it reissued, such as contacting the bank that sent out the stimulus-check debit cards. 

Once you're confident your payment is on the way, you can use the USPS Informed Delivery service to get a heads-up on the delivery day. 

If none of these steps yield results, the last resort may be claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2021 tax return next spring. However, that's not so helpful if you need the money now. 

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.