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Still waiting on a stimulus check? You might get yours as a prepaid debit card

Published May 18th, 2020 11:47PM EDT
Stimulus check
Image: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
  • Some of the millions of Americans who are still waiting to receive their coronavirus stimulus payment will be getting theirs in a format that’s different from the paper checks and direct-deposited payments that have been sent out so far.
  • The Treasury Dept. announced on Monday that it will begin mailing out almost 4 million stimulus payments this week in the form of free, prepaid debit cards.
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If you caught our report from earlier today, then you’re aware that the deadline has now passed for you to give the IRS your direct deposit banking information so that the tax agency can quickly send out your coronavirus stimulus check. Last Wednesday was the deadline to give the IRS that information, which means that going forward the agency will deposit funds into the accounts of everyone remaining who’s already shared their bank details, in addition to sending out paper checks to most everybody else.

We say “most everybody else,” because on Monday the Treasury Dept. also announced a third way that some of you will be receiving your stimulus payment, which will be as much as $1,200 for individuals and up to $2,400 for married couples (along with an extra $500 for each eligible child). Starting this week, Treasury and the IRS are sending out almost 4 million coronavirus stimulus payments in the form of prepaid debit cards in lieu of paper checks. For some people, this will no doubt be a relief, since it collapses the time between receiving the money and being able to use it. You don’t have to drive to your bank to deposit the check or use a mobile app to scan it and wait for it to show up in your account. The debit card is essentially money in your hand, ready to be spent immediately — in-person, or online.

According to the Treasury Department, this free card can be used online, at ATMs, or at any retail location where Visa is accepted, and it comes with consumer protections available to traditional bank account owners, including protections against issues like fraud and loss.

Who won’t be getting one: If you did give the IRS your direct deposit bank information and are still waiting on your payment, you will not be getting one of these cards. MetaBank, the financial agent for the Treasury Dept., will include instructions on how to activate and use the cards when they’re mailed out over the coming days. “Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly,” US Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin said in a press release. “Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely.”

This process of sending out direct payments to Americans is a product of the $2.2 trillion emergency stimulus legislation Congress passed at the end of March to help offset at least some of the catastrophic financial blow of the coronavirus pandemic. To date, more than 140 million of these payments have been sent out, totaling around $239 billion. Meanwhile, House Democrats in recent days passed an all-new stimulus relief package, appropriating funding for yet another round of stimulus checks.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.