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Stimulus check money: Here's what we know about how big your second relief payment could be

CNET logo CNET 10/1/2020 Clifford Colby
text: We help you estimate the maximum amount that could end up in your bank account if another stimulus payment arrives. Angela Lang/CNET © Provided by CNET We help you estimate the maximum amount that could end up in your bank account if another stimulus payment arrives. Angela Lang/CNET

How much money could you get if you qualify for a second stimulus check? We can begin to count it up given what we know so far, especially now that there's hope that another coronavirus relief bill with a new round of stimulus money could pass before the Nov. 3 election

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are in the thick of further negotiations for bipartisan legislation that includes a check as well as other items like $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits

The first stimulus check was worth up to $1,200 per adult, but a second stimulus check may amount to more or less, especially if the qualifications for dependents are broadened or if your financial circumstances have changed since the first round in March (try CNET's stimulus calculator to estimate your check). These new eligibility rules (among others) will shape the size of a potential payment.

a close up of a book © Angela Lang/CNET

Read on to see how some realistic scenarios could play out -- it may also be helpful to know the key facts about stimulus checks. This story updates often.

You might get less than $1,200 -- or possibly more

If another stimulus bill passes and you get an extra stimulus check, it's likely that $1,200 will remain the maximum for individuals, as it was in the last stimulus bill and two proposals. For most people, calculating the total amount requires them to know their adjusted gross income, or AGI.

That's just the start. Family circumstances, like if you file taxes jointly with your spouse, and a range of other eligibility requirements also play a role. A new change to let dependents of any age qualify could bring in more money, too. Here are some potential scenarios based on our stimulus check calculator, which you can also use to get a more specific estimate for your particular situation. 

Best ways to prepare for the IRS to send your second check


Video: Millions could be at risk of losing their stimulus checks due to private debt (CBS News)

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The IRS will send your check automatically, if you're eligible, but there may be some things you can do to help make sure you receive your money quickly, if another direct payment occurs.

Register for direct deposit to your bank account: Direct deposit will be the fastest way to get your money. The IRS already has a system in place to electronically transfer the funds into your checking account. That is, if you already provided those details if you registered for direct deposit with your first check or as part of filing your IRS tax return. 

Look for the registration tool to reopen if another check passes. If you don't have a bank account, read on for other ways to prepare.

If you moved, you need to let the post office know: A physical check is the most likely way, after direct deposit, that you'll receive a stimulus check. If you've moved recently, you'll need to file a change of address with the US Postal Service, since the IRS will mail your check to your last known address.

Keep an eye on the mail: Instead of a paper check, about 4 million people received a prepaid economic impact payment card in the mail. This is money you can spend like cash on a debit card. The cards came in plain, unmarked envelopes that were prone to being tossed. When and if the time comes, you can sign up for a free USPS service to track your mail all the way to your mailbox, so there are no surprises -- or disappointments.

Beware of scams: Stimulus check fraud is real, and it's still ongoing as millions of people continue to wait for their first checks. Fraudsters prey on people they consider vulnerable. Knowing common attacks can help you recognize and avoid them. There's no second stimulus check right now, but that won't stop a scammer from trying to take advantage.

If you're still waiting for your first stimulus check, follow these steps.

The amount of stimulus money you could get in a second round of checks is still undecided. James Martin/CNET © Provided by CNET The amount of stimulus money you could get in a second round of checks is still undecided. James Martin/CNET

Here's how the first round of stimulus checks was used

A recent survey looked at how Americans are using their stimulus checks. According to research from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

  • 15% of recipients said they spent or would spend most of their checks.

  • 33% said they mostly saved.

  • 52% said they paid down debt.

In general, the report found that lower-income households were significantly more likely to spend their stimulus check, higher-income individuals were more likely to save it and those with mortgages or who were renters were much more likely to pay off debt.

According to the US Census Bureau, here's the breakout for households that spent their stimulus checks on items other than savings or paying down debt.

  • 80% of those who spent their checks reported using it on food.
  • 77.9% spent it on rent, mortgage and utilities.
  • 58.2% bought household supplies and personal care products.
  • 20.5% purchased clothing.
  • 8.1% spent it on household goods -- such as TVs, electronics, furniture and appliances -- or recreational goods, including fitness equipment, toys and games.

Looking for more stimulus check information? Read up on all the finer points of the stimulus payment here. If you're still waiting for your first stimulus check, here are 10 possible reasons for a delaywhat you can do if you think your payment was lost or has fallen through the cracks and if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.

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