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EIP card: Why the IRS could send your second stimulus check through a debit card this month – CNET

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The IRS has three ways to distribute stimulus money to you.

Angela Lang/CNET

The IRS and US Treasury started sending out the second stimulus checks last week as part of a larger COVID relief package that became law on Dec. 27. The payments are going out through direct deposit and through the mail, either in the form of a paper check or an Economic Impact Payment card, also called an EIP card. (Here’s how to track your second stimulus check in the mail.) 

About 4 million Americans received their money on an EIP card in the first round of stimulus payments. The IRS said it is using the same debit card delivery method for some of the second stimulus checks, in order to get them out faster (here’s how to find out which priority group you’re in for the second payment).

Here are the answers to some common questions about stimulus checks in the form of an EIP card, including how to use it if one arrives for you in the mail. Here are the main second stimulus check facts you need to know, what happened to the $2,000 check, how to calculate your second stimulus total and everything to know about stimulus check money. We recently updated this story.

What is an EIP card?

An economic impact payment card is a prepaid debit card that the Treasury Department used to distribute some stimulus payments under the March CARES Act, instead of direct deposit or a paper check. The cards were provided to some eligible US residents for whom the government didn’t have banking information.

The IRS said it will use the cards to distribute second stimulus checks this time too. Some people who received a paper check last time might receive an EIP card this time, and vice versa, to try to speed up the delivery of payments, the IRS said. It isn’t clear how this would help hasten the process.

These Visa debit cards can be used to make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs and transfer funds to your personal bank account without a fee. If you’re sent one, after the card arrives, head to the EIP card website to activate it and learn more about how to use it. 

Read more: Not everyone will qualify for a second stimulus check. Here’s why

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Why would I get an EIP card instead of a paper stimulus check or a direct deposit?

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About 4 million people received their stimulus payment on a prepaid debit card called an EIP card, which looks like this. 

Money Network/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

For the first round of payments, those who were eligible received the first stimulus payment by EIP card instead of by check if they filed their taxes but the IRS didn’t have their bank account information on hand, and if the tax return was processed by IRS service centers in either Andover, Massachusetts, or Austin, Texas, according to a Treasury press release

It isn’t clear what the significance is of those particular service centers, and the Treasury did not return our request for more information.   

For the second round of payments that started going out in late December, the IRS said it will send either paper checks or a debit card in the mail if it doesn’t have banking information on hand. The IRS said some people who received a paper check last time might receive a debit card this time, and some people who received a debit card last time may receive a paper check.

Read more: Is a third stimulus check happening? Biden says yes

How much stimulus money can be loaded on my EIP card? 

Getting your payment via an EIP card wouldn’t change anything about the amount you’d get — it’s just a different format of the same payment.

The amount of money you’re allotted in any second stimulus check depends on your AGI, or adjusted gross income, from your tax filings, along with your filing status (single versus joint) and how many dependents you have. The maximum amount a single taxpayer (with no children) could get is $600. You can calculate your second stimulus check total here.

You can also find out who counts as a dependent on your taxes, how old a dependent has to be to get a separate stimulus payment and the stimulus check situation for older adults, people in the SSDI program, US citizens abroad and people living in US territories.

When will I get my EIP card now that a second stimulus check is being sent?

When the CARES Act was passed in March, the first EIP cards didn’t start going out until mid-May. But the IRS began mailing second stimulus checks on Dec. 30 and will continue through Jan. 15, a cutoff specified in December’s stimulus bill. The IRS said you’ll also soon be able to track your money (in whatever form it will take) using the same IRS tool you could use to track the status of your first stimulus payment

Wait, what happens if I don’t get my EIP card by Jan. 15?

Any second stimulus check payment that doesn’t reach its intended recipient by the Jan. 15 cutoff will have to claim it with a Recovery Rebate Credit as part of tax season.

How would my EIP card be delivered?

If you’re eligible for a second stimulus check, the IRS said your EIP card will arrive at the address listed on your last tax return in a white envelope marked with the US Department of the Treasury seal. The card will have the Visa name on the front and the issuing bank, MetaBank, N.A., on the back. Some literature will identify the card as the economic impact payment.

Because the envelope containing the first EIP card wasn’t clearly marked, some people reportedly threw the letter away without opening it during the first round of stimulus payments. The IRS said for eligible people who don’t receive a direct deposit to watch their mail for the card in the coming weeks — but it might be easier to sign up for this free USPS service.

Note, if you moved, you’ll need to inform the IRS and USPS of your new address.

Can I get my stimulus money through direct deposit instead?

If the IRS has your bank account information on hand, it’s more likely you’d get the payment by direct deposit instead of an EIP card. Since the first stimulus checks were sent, there has been greater effort to help people who don’t have bank accounts get one for this purpose. Here are ways you might be able to help get a second check faster.

Will the IRS notify me that an EIP card is coming? 

With the first stimulus payments, the IRS sent a letter about your money to your last known address within 15 days after the payment was made. The letter included information on how you got the money (check or direct deposit or EIP card), and how to report it if you didn’t receive the payment. But watch out: There have been a lot of stimulus check scams going around. Visit IRS.gov before giving anyone your information to make sure your letter is legitimate. 

What happens if my EIP card gets lost or destroyed?

With the first cards, if you’ve lost or destroyed your EIP card, you can request a free replacement through MetaBank Customer Service. The replacement fee will be waived the first time. We expect the IRS do to something similar this time.

You don’t need to know your card number to request a replacement. Just call 800-240-8100, and choose the second option from the main menu, according to the IRS website

For more, find out if you’re qualified for a second stimulus check and everything we know about a third stimulus check