Stimulus check money: Everything we know about how big your second payment may be


We help you calculate the maximum amount that could end up in your bank account if another stimulus payment comes your way.

Angela Lang/CNET

A glimmer of good news for people hoping to see a second stimulus check arrive before the Nov. 3 election: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed this week to resume their negotiations to pass new economic relief bill. Alongside this plan to rekindle talks, House Democrats are working on a $2.4 trillion relief plan that could receive a vote on Oct. 2. 

If you followed the first stimulus check, you’ll remember that $1,200 is the maximum amount any one person could receive. But that’s where the simplicity stops. You may find that you could get more than that as a family, or less, depending on your income. And if rules about your dependents change, or your circumstances have altered since March, you might get a different sum than you did the first time around.

If Congress does pass a new stimulus package that includes another check, we can already predict the amount you and your family may qualify to receive under new eligibility requirements. We provide common scenarios below, as well as the different ways the IRS could send your money. CNET’s stimulus calculator can also help estimate the actual amount. And here are the most important facts about stimulus checks. We update this story often.

You could get less than $1,200 — or 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 — that was in the last stimulus bill and two proposals. For most people, calculating the total amount requires you to know your 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. 

How much stimulus money could you get?

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4 Scenario 5
Tax filing status Single Head of household Married Married Married
2018 or 2019 tax AGI $55,000 $80,000 $110,000 $110,000 $200,000
Dependents under 17 (CARES Act) 0 1 2 2 2
Dependents over 17 (HEALS Act) 0 0 0 2 0
Estimated check amount $1,200 $1,700 $3,400 $4,400 $900

How you can prepare for the IRS to send your check

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.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


If you moved, you need to let the Post Office know: A physical check is the most likely way you’ll receive a stimulus check, after direct deposit. If you’re recently moved, 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: About 4 million people received a prepaid economic impact payment card in the mail instead of a paper check. It arrived in an unmarked envelope and  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 your 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

This is how Americans used the first round of stimulus checks

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 checks, 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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