Here's how to make sure you get your next stimulus check

Illustration of hundred-dollar bills and a check from the U.S. Treasury poking out of a manila envelope against the backdrop of the American flag.
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Some families who received their advance child tax credit payments by direct deposit in July may still be waiting for their August payments thanks to a distribution hiccup, according to the IRS

The second round of the advance child-tax-credit payments was processed last Friday (Aug. 13), but nearly 15% of recipients who were expecting a direct deposit on that day have yet to see their benefits. Instead, close to 5.4 million families should get their funds by paper check sometime this month — even though they were paid by direct deposit in July. 

Mailed checks can take an extra week or two to arrive compared to deposits made electronically to recipients' bank accounts. The IRS has said this issue will likely be resolved by the next payment date on Sept. 15.  

As a reminder, these advance payments are part of a provision in the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan Act, which expanded the existing child tax-credit eligibility requirements and increased the credit amount for the year 2021. 

Qualifying families also have the option to get up to half of their child tax credit in advance monthly cash payments from July to December of this year. 

Monthly payouts total up to $300 for each child under age 6 and up to $250 for each child age 6 through 17 for taxpayers making less than $75,000 (single filers) or $150,000 (married filers) per year. These payments phase out above those income levels. 

Higher-income families who earn up to $400,000 per year and have dependent children will still qualify for the regular child tax credit of $2,000 for each child under age 17. 

What you need to do

If you haven't received either the July or August payment as a direct deposit and want to, or if you need to make changes to your bank-account information, now is the time. 

Families receiving the advance child-tax-credit payments have until Aug. 30 to edit their information in the Child Tax Credit Update Portal if they want their  Sept.15 payout to be direct-deposited. 

Plus, if you didn't receive a child-tax-credit payment in July but believe you're eligible, it's possible that the IRS hadn't processed your tax return or that there was a mismatch between your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and your child(ren)'s Social Security number

You'll still get the full credit amount as the IRS resolves these issues — each monthly payment will be slightly larger than the normal amount, as the cash will be distributed over fewer months. 

Bottom line: File your 2020 tax return and check to make sure your direct-deposit information is up-to-date with the IRS. 

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.