What You Should Know If You Receive Your Stimulus Money As A Debit Card

Millions of people received their $600 direct payments provided by the $900 billion stimulus package this week. While most can expect direct deposits in their bank account or a physical check in the mail, others will receive a prepaid debit card.

According to the IRS, the government is issuing debit cards to hasten the process since it only has until January 15 to distribute tens of millions of stimulus checks. Additionally, it noted some people could receive a different form of payment than they did last spring. 

The IRS has yet to update its site with more information for who will receive their second stimulus check as a debit card, but according to CNBC, it will probably use a similar framework as they did last year.

CNBC explains what you need to know if you receive a debit card.

You Will Have To Activate It

Last spring, debit card recipients received Visa cards. These work like standard debit or credit cards, so you will need to call the phone number on the back to activate and use it. When you call, you will create a PIN and check your balance.

Using Your Card

You can use the stimulus money on your card the same as any other prepaid card. You can pay for purchases online, through the phone, and in-person. Since you can use your card at participating merchants (which includes most places), you can use your money to cover rent, groceries, utilities, and other expenses.

In addition, you will probably be able to use your card at in-network ATMs or move the balance to a checking or savings account without paying additional charges.

Be Wary Of Expiration Dates

Your stimulus money doesn’t expire, but the card it’s on could (most debit and credit cards have expiration dates). The IRS notes that even if your card expires before you use the full amount, you can ask for a check with the remaining balance after contacting customer service.

Watch For Hidden Or Additional Fees

Last year’s debit cards came with several extra costs, which their accompanying fee schedule explained. Chances are, the second round of cards will also come with miscellaneous expenses such as:


  • Withdrawal fees: Last year’s cards did not have an initial withdrawal fee for using an out-of-network ATM but charged for anything after that. Cardholders could also pay when they check their balance at ATMs or request cash withdrawals at the bank.


  • Foreign transaction fees: If you live or travel abroad and use your card, you could be charged foreign transaction fees. Also, the cost to replace your card if it is lost or stolen is waived after the first incident, but after that, you will be subject to replacement and shipping charges.


As with other debit cards, the best way to prevent unnecessary charges like these is by avoiding out-of-network ATMs. Look up in-network ATMs so you can withdraw funds without a penalty. Additionally, when you want to see how much money you have left, you can check for free on eipcard.com or contacting customer service.

Of course, some details might not stay the same. If your stimulus money arrives as a debit card, make sure you read the fine print and review the terms and conditions, so you are aware of any additional expenses associated with the card.

If You Don’t Receive Your Money Or The Amount Is Less Than You Qualify For

The recent relief measure offers stimulus checks worth $600 for qualifying Americans, plus an additional $600 for each dependent. This means a four-person household could get up to $2,400.

If your 2019 income was less than $75,000 as a single filer or $150,000 as a married couple filing jointly, you qualify for the full benefit. If your income exceeded this threshold, you would receive a smaller payment. However, individuals who made $87,000 and joint-filers who earned $174,000 in 2019 are ineligible. 

There is a possibility that the amount you receive might be different. That’s because lawmakers are still negotiating to raise the stimulus checks to $2,000. According to the IRS, if the measure passes, it will issue more payments for the difference. 

If you don’t receive your second stimulus check, you can claim it in 2021 when you file your 2020 taxes.


  • Reinicke, Carmen. “$600 Stimulus Checks Are Officially on the Way. Here’s Who Will Get Them First.” CNBC, CNBC, 30 Dec. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/12/29/600-stimulus-checks-are-on-the-way-heres-who-will-get-them-first.html.
  • Reinicke, Carmen. “Some People Will Get Debit Cards for Their $600 Stimulus Payment. Here’s What You Need to Know.” CNBC, CNBC, 4 Jan. 2021, www.cnbc.com/2021/01/04/some-people-will-get-debit-cards-for-that-600-stimulus-payment.html.



Ian Schindler