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Looking for your stimulus check? You might have to wait for your tax return—how to get by until then

The IRS will be issuing Recovery Rebate tax credits this spring for qualifying taxpayers who never got their stimulus money. Here's what you need to know.

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington, D.C.
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If you're still expecting a second stimulus check, you might have to be patient.

After months of waiting for Congress to agree on $600 direct payments to individuals (and up to $2,400 for families of four), millions of Americans might be stuck waiting even longer due to at least three administrative hang-ups detailed on the IRS website.

Taxpayers who've already checked the status of their stimulus check with the IRS Get My Payment tool and received the "Payment Status #2 – Not Available" message will not automatically receive a second check. Instead, they must wait until they file their 2020 tax returns to get the payment.

According to the IRS, this status could apply to you if:

  • You're required to file a tax return, but the IRS hasn't finished processing your 2019 return 
  • You don't usually file a return, and you used "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here" but the IRS hasn't processed your entry yet
  • You're not eligible for a payment (see EIP Eligibility and General Information)

Your check may have also been sent to the wrong bank, according to the IRS:

Because of the speed at which the law required the IRS to issue the second round of Economic Impact Payments, some payments may have been sent to an account that may be closed, or is [closed], or [is] no longer active or unfamiliar.

The IRS also states that "due to the compressed timeline, the IRS is unable to reissue and mail checks" in the event that your check was one of the millions sent to the wrong bank account.

Last, those who aren't required to file a tax return may run into some additional issues. The IRS' Non-Filer tool is no longer available as of November 22, 2020. If you did not enter your information into the tool before then, at the moment you are out of luck.

What to do if you're still waiting for a stimulus check

The IRS has created a specific tax credit for eligible taxpayers who didn't get the stimulus money that was owed to them according to legislation that passed in 2020 (both the $1,200 and $600 payments). It's called the Recovery Rebate Credit. You'll find it on line 30 of your 2020 tax return.

For the fastest processing, the IRS encourages citizens to file 2020 tax returns electronically. The agency has not yet announced when you can start filing 2020 tax returns. As the situation unfolds, more information may become available.

How to stretch your money until the spring

While many Americans might have to wait until the spring to get their tax refunds including the stimulus rebate, there could be additional federal help on the horizon.

President-elect Joe Biden made campaign promises to enact sweeping coronavirus relief measures, and Democrats have spoken optimistically about the possibility of $2,000 direct payments now that they've regained control of the Senate.

But some people need money immediately to help with everyday expenses. While it might seem like overly simplistic advice, it's really important to review what resources you have at your immediate disposal to shore up your finances. That might include asking a friend or family member for support, doing research into forbearance programs for any loans, credit cards or mortgages, and/or seeking out ways to make some extra cash quickly.

For consumers with good credit, consider opening a 0% APR credit card so you can pay for essentials while not racking up interest charges. Depending on your expenses, you might be able to pay off the balance with your tax refunds before the intro period ends.

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers an introductory 0% interest for the first 20 billing cycles on both balance transfers and new purchases (after, 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR). That's a long grace period for making the purchases you need now then paying them back later.

Note that balance transfer credit cards require good to excellent credit to qualify.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Information about the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 20 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2% to 3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

If you have steady income, you might also consider using a personal loan to make ends meet if your finances are tight or you have an unexpected bill.

LightStream, the online lending arm of SunTrust Bank, offers low-interest loans with flexible terms for people with good credit or higher. You could get a LightStream personal loan to cover daily expenses, as long as you are in a good enough financial situation to start making payments within 30 days of receiving the money.

Interested in a loan? Ask these 10 questions before you apply

Loans and credit cards are not always available to all consumers, and you should be careful to review all terms and conditions in order to avoid sub-prime products with steep interest rates.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.