Still looking for your third stimulus check? 7 possible reasons for the delay

The IRS has so far distributed at least 165 million of the pandemic's third stimulus checks, worth up to $1,400 each. The tax agency says Americans have received roughly $388 billion in direct relief payments from the $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package that President Joe Biden signed into law in mid-March.

But none of that means a whole lot if you're still stuck in an agonizing wait for your money — and are eager to use it to pay bills, reduce your debt, save or invest.

Speculation is heating up over a possible fourth stimulus check, but that also doesn't mean much if you still haven't gotten No. 3. Here are seven potential reasons for your frustrating delay.

1. The stimulus checks are going out in 'batches'William Sawalich / Shutterstock

The IRS has been doing a colossal bit of multitasking — up to its eyeballs in both tax returns and the millions of stimulus checks.

Rather than completely overwhelm itself and risk creating an ugly backlog of payments, the tax agency has opted to deliver the stimulus funds in batches.

The ninth batch, totaling $1.8 billion, were officially paid out to Americans on May 12. This latest wave of payments included nearly half a million direct deposits, plus approximately 460,000 paper checks that had to be mailed. Which takes more time.

2. You’re getting an actual check, or a debit card

Americans in line for direct deposits will almost surely receive their payments before those slated to get debit cards or good ol’ paper checks, which can take weeks to reach their intended recipients.

Not sure how your payment will be distributed? You can use the IRS "Get My Payment" tool to see how your money is being delivered and whether it has been sent.

If the tax people have you down to receive a check or debit card, be careful you don't accidentally throw away your envelope from the IRS. When the first $1,200 stimulus checks went out last year, some recipients mistook their mailed checks or debit cards for junk mail — and tossed them.

Story continues3. You moved or changed your bank accountJohn Abbate / Shutterstock

Moving can be a hectic time. Notifying the IRS of your new whereabouts may not have been at the top of your list of priorities when you were packing, but if you still haven’t updated your address with the agency, it will send your check to wherever it used to send your tax refunds.

And if the IRS has indeed sent your payment to an old address, the check will need to be reissued. Which will mean a longer wait.

Or, if you recently switched bank accounts, the IRS won’t have your new account information on file until you provide it. When you’re scheduled to receive a direct deposit and the IRS doesn’t know where to send it, you'll have to wait for a paper check or debit card to show up in the mail. And that could take weeks.

4. A debt collector snatched your money

If you haven't seen your stimulus money, it could mean someone else has beaten you to the punch. The previous two relief payments were off limits to debt collectors, but not the most recent one.

Because Biden's relief bill was fast-tracked through Congress using a convoluted budget process, a legislative loophole allows creditors to garnish your stimulus check. The cash can be seized to pay several kinds of debt, though not tax debt or back child support.

If you're at risk of losing your stimulus payment because of overwhelming debt, a lower-interest debt consolidation loan can help you take better control over what you owe — and pay it off more quickly.

5. Your bank is holding up your paymentkonstantinos69 / Shutterstock

In at least some cases, the IRS is apparently "future dating" the payments, similar to the way a consumer might post-date a check. And, your bank may not make your stimulus check money available to you until the tax agency's official payment date.

That was the case for customers of JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, who didn't receive the cash in their accounts until days after it was distributed. The banks said they were observing the IRS "effective date" for the payments, but some people threatened to close their accounts in protest.

Speculation is heating up over whether there will be a fourth stimulus check, but don't count on it. So use your $1,400 wisely — maybe by putting it to work using one of today's popular investing apps.

6. You don't usually file tax returns

Not everyone is required to file federal income taxes every year. For example, if someone brings in less than $12,400 a year, doesn’t have additional self-employment income, is single and under age 65, they didn't have to file a tax return for 2020.

But if you haven’t gotten yourself onto the IRS' books recently, and you’re not a Social Security or railroad retirement beneficiary, the tax agency won’t have any record to show you're eligible for a stimulus check.

You can use a reliable tax software program to get yourself on the IRS' radar. When you've got money coming, thatt’s not a bad place to be.

7. You don’t qualify for a stimulus check anymorechase4concept / Shutterstock

After already spending trillions of dollars on propping up the U.S. economy during COVID-19, Congress took a more measured approach when debating what should be included in this latest round of stimulus.

This time around, individuals making more than $80,000 and couples earning over $160,000 get bupkus. Eligibility is based on adjusted gross income, which is a household's taxable income before subtracting the standard deduction or itemized deductions.

The previous thresholds for getting a stimulus check were $100,000 for single taxpayers and $200,000 for couples who file jointly.

What if your money is missing — and you need it now?Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

If it appears your stimulus check will be delayed, or if the new income guidelines mean there isn't any cash for you, there are several options if you seriously need the $1,400.

  • Slash your insurance bills. Car insurance companies have been handing out discounts to drivers who are on the road less through the pandemic. Not yours? Sounds like it’s time to shop around for a better deal from a more flexible provider. And while you’re at it, you could save hundreds on homeowners insurance by comparing rates to find a lower price.

  • Reduce your mortgage payments by refinancing. Mortgage rates remain historically low, and refinancing your existing mortgage could reap big savings. The mortgage technology and data provider Black Knight has reported that 13 million homeowners are still good refi candidates, meaning they could cut their monthly payments by hundreds of dollars with a new loan.

  • Trim your budget and “make your own” stimulus check. By finding a few creative ways to cut back, you might rearrange your budget to find another $1,400. Have a hobby or special talent? Turn it into a side income. And, download a free browser extension that will automatically hunt for better prices and coupons when you shop online.

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