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You may get your second stimulus check by mail instead of direct deposit: Here's what's going on

"The checks were the easiest surefire way to get the money out without having to wait."

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to reporters a day after supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump occupied the Capitol, during a news conference in Washington, January 7, 2021.
Erin Scott | Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department has already sent out about two-thirds of the second round of stimulus payments, or more than $112 billion, as of Tuesday, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Even as people await their $600 checks, many are encountering problems. And some Americans who got their first stimulus check by direct deposit are finding out the second check will arrive by mail instead.

If you're getting your check by mail even though you expected to get the money via direct deposit, it may be because your banking info with the IRS isn't up to date.

The IRS is using the latest banking information it has on file for people to send them their checks. If you've changed, closed, or merged bank accounts since receiving your first stimulus payment, the bank routing numbers the IRS has on file for you "may not match anymore," says Tim Gagnon, an associate professor of accounting at Northeastern University.

In that case, the organization would opt to mail you the check instead.

Suze Orman on how to use a second stimulus check

Video by Helen Zhao

The "last stimulus was based, for many, on the 2018 tax return information," says Gagnon, as an example. If you filed your 2019 tax return after the July 2020 deadline, the IRS may still be processing your return and hasn't yet updated your bank information.

If there's a chance you may be receiving your check by mail, take steps to find out which address the IRS will be using by logging onto its Get My Payment tool. If it has the wrong mailing address on file, update your address with the organization and submit a permanent change of address with USPS.

'There was just such a pressure to get the money out'

Even if the IRS does have your most up to date banking information, a technical issue may have forced the change in distribution methods.

When the IRS is sending out money via direct deposit, "there's some sort of test deposit they have to do," says Anthony Santoro, wealth management advisor at Arista Wealth Advisors. But "there was just such a pressure to get the money out to folks" that if there was any issue or even some sort of lag in making sure the deposit worked, "the checks were the easiest surefire way to get the money out without having to wait for any reason with the banks."

By law, the IRS has until January 15 to send out the payments.

Instead of waiting to see if that initial deposit worked or touching base with your bank, the IRS may have opted to get the check out to you in the second fastest way it could: mail.

Among other common stimulus check problems: The IRS may be depositing your money in your tax preparer's account. Here's some advice for how to troubleshoot issues around your payment.

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