In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Government has announced a $2 trillion stimulus package, set to include economic impact payments sent directly to Americans. But not everyone will be able to access these funds as quickly and easily as others.
We spoke with VSoft’s SVP of Payments Solutions, Kevin Olsen, to discover the best ways to access your stimulus payment while limiting your exposure to others and avoiding costly fees.
Receiving your stimulus payment
The best way to get your stimulus check would be by a direct transfer of funds into your bank account. If you have filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and included your banking information to receive your refund, the IRS will be able to send money directly to the same account.
“If you are set up electronically, you get your money first and fast and efficiently and securely,” says Olsen.
If you don’t have your direct deposit set up but you have a bank account you would like to route the money to, the IRS is developing an online portal that will allow you to enter your banking information where you would like to receive your payment.
TurboTax has already released a free stimulus registration tool “for non-tax filers to give the IRS your up-to-date mailing address and direct deposit banking info.”
If you haven’t used direct deposit for your previous tax returns and don’t submit your bank account information to the IRS, you will receive a check in the mail.
The IRS will use your most recent address so if you have moved, you should make sure the IRS is aware of your change of address.
How to deposit your stimulus check
Deposit virtually with your smartphone
With shelter-in-place orders in effect across the country, the best way to deposit your check would be through a mobile check deposit. Many financial institutions offer an app that allows you to simply take a photo of your check to make your deposit. Funds are often available in a matter of minutes, and at most within a few days.
Deposit using an ATM
Bringing your check to your local ATM can also help avoid unnecessary exposure if you are careful to disinfect after your interaction. Like a mobile deposit, a portion of funds are typically available immediately and the remainder is available within a few days.
Create a bank account for your deposit
If you are expecting your economic impact payment but don’t currently hold an account with a bank, you are still able to create an account to take advantage of the benefits of an electronic fund transfer once your check arrives.
Olsen strongly recommends doing your research to find the best financial institution for you and signing up for an account. You may be able to open an account online, but if you’re required to come into a location, Olsen says the institution can likely “take you by appointment and they are practicing social distancing in their offices.“
How to cash your stimulus check
Physical cash is not an ideal form of currency during the COVID-19 crisis because of its ability to transfer germs, but if you need access to cash there are options available to cash your check.
Take physical distancing precautions
Financial institutions are taking measures to keep customers and employees safe at this critical time, so if your bank’s local branch is open, your best option is to visit your bank to access your money. It may even be possible to cash your check at an ATM.
Without a bank account, you can cash your check at a large retail store which is likely to remain open and will charge relatively modest fees, Walmart lists a maximum fee of $8 for checks greater than $1000.
Beware of high fees
Check-cashing companies are in the business of providing cash in exchange for a customer’s check (that could potentially be fraudulent) and they charge a fee for that service.
“From what I’ve seen of those fees, they’re absurd,” Olsen warns. “[People] shouldn’t be having to pay that much to get access to their money.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found one company charging fees as high as 3% on government-issued checks, the least risky type of check to cash. That’s $36 of a $1200 stimulus payment for a service that your financial institution would provide for free.
While the best option to access your money from the coming stimulus checks is to receive a direct deposit from the IRS, if you are mailed a check you can virtually deposit your using your bank’s app. If you’re looking to cash your stimulus payment, working with your bank is the best option to avoid high fees.
At the Simple Dollar, we have been following COVID-19 since the start. Check out the articles below for resources and the latest news on financial relief from the coronavirus.