16/09/2021

Still waiting for your child tax credit payment? Here’s what to do

Check your bank account for a deposit labeled “CHILDCTC” for child tax credit payments. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Millions of families have received the first of six early child tax credit payments. Usually, families must wait until tax time to claim up to $2,000 with the child tax credit. But the 2021 expansion means that eligible families can get as much as $300 for each qualifying dependent (up to $3,600 total) in recurring monthly payments through December. Parents will receive half of the total amount in 2021, with the other half included in their tax refund in 2022. The extra cash can help cover any expenses, like food or daycare — a big financial relief for many families amid the pandemic. 

Advanced child tax credit payments came to most families automatically via direct deposit if the IRS had their banking information on file. Others will have a check mailed. But the payment rollout might not be as smooth for some who haven’t received a check yet. Many families expected the money because of their eligibility, but are encountering service errors and messages that they are no longer eligible. And despite the confusion, some families are still getting the advanced checks. The IRS has an online Update Portal to help you view your payments through their processing dates. If you need to make any changes to get the early payments, the portal will let you update your mailing address, income and the number of children later this year. 

What happens if you didn’t get a check or got less than expected? We’ll share what you could do to get upcoming checks and how to opt out of the advance credit this year, which you can still do before the next monthly installment on Aug. 13. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to manage your account and get the correct amount for your family. We have recently updated this story. 

How can I see my child tax credit payment history online?

Except for households that unenrolled from the advance payment schedule, the majority will have seen the July 15 portion of the credit in their bank account through direct deposit. Going forward, you can expect recurring monthly payments to hit your bank account on the 15th of every month (except for August when it’s scheduled on the 13th — see chart below). According to the IRS, you can use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to see your processed monthly payment history. It’ll be a good way to track payments that haven’t hit your bank account yet but should have. 

To check on your payments online, you’ll need to register with your IRS username and ID.me account information. First-time users will need to have a photo ID (it’s one of the ways the IRS is trying to protect your information from identity theft). It’s unknown right now if the portal will display other payment details, such as banking information, amount, the check’s processing date or what could be causing a delay in the payment. 

If you’re checking your bank account, look for the deposit labeled “CHILDCTC.” If your bank has not received the deposit from the IRS, it won’t have any processing information for you if you’re trying to locate your check. 

If you think there’s an error, start by using the Update Portal to double-check the bank details the IRS has on file, including your account information and routing numbers. 

Child tax credit payment schedule

Monthly  Maximum payment per child 5 and younger  Maximum payment for each child; 6 to 17
July 15 $300 $250
Aug. 13 $300 $250
Sept. 15 $300 $250
Oct. 15 $300 $250
Nov. 15 $300 $250
Dec. 15 $300 $250
April 2022: Second half of payment  $1,800 $1,500

How did the IRS send the July child tax credit payment? 

Eligible parents that have banking information on file from stimulus checks or tax refunds with the IRS should have received their money via direct deposit on July 15. If the IRS doesn’t have your account information, you can submit it using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal for the August payment, which you have to do before the Aug. 2 deadline. The IRS recommends using direct deposit to get future payments quicker. 

If you didn’t add your banking information in time for July’s payment, look out for a mailed check to the address that the IRS has on file for you — just as you would get with mailed tax refunds. If you need to update your mailing address for your check, you won’t be able to do that through the Update Portal quite yet. The IRS plans to continue expanding the functionality of that portal so you’ll be able to update your address, income and number of kids. 

In the meantime, if you’ve moved or don’t have banking information on file, you may need to do a payment trace in the meantime. We’ll explain below. 

What if I still don’t have a child tax credit deposit?

Even though child tax credit payments are scheduled to arrive on certain dates, you may not get the money when expected for a few reasons. You may be going to receive a mailed check, or the payment may still be being processed for direct deposit. 

It’s also important to note that if you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, you won’t receive child tax credit payments until the issues have been resolved with the IRS. If the issues aren’t resolved this year, while early payments are disbursed, you’ll get the full amount when you file your taxes next year. And keep in mind that if you are eligible for child tax credit payments, you should still receive them, even if you have unpaid state or federal debt.

But if time has passed and you haven’t received the money you’re owed, see if the Processed Payments section of the Update Portal has any information. If the payment was delivered, make sure your address and banking information are correct — especially if you’ve moved or changed banks.

The IRS also offers a payment trace as a way to find your funds, including from missing stimulus checks. You can request a trace — which means filing an inquiry into the location of your IRS money — by mailing or faxing Form 3911 to the tax agency. Even if the IRS says you’re ineligible for early payments, it’s best to submit a payment trace in case there’s a portal error. 

Your payment will be traceable if it has been at least five days since the deposit date and the bank hasn’t received the money. Or four weeks since the check was mailed, or six weeks if it’s mailed to a forwarded address listed by the post office. If the check was mailed to a foreign address you can ask for a payment trace after nine weeks.

When to request a payment trace

Method of payment Time passed since IRS sent your payment
Direct deposit 5 days
Check mailed to standard address 4 weeks
Check mailed to a forwarded address 6 weeks
Check mailed to a foreign address 9 weeks
cash-money-stimulus-child-tax-credit-2021-piggy-bank-savings-july-15-payment-calendar-30

You may be able to do a payment trace for your child tax credit money this week. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Can I call the IRS if I didn’t get my payment?

If you haven’t received your child tax credit after a few days, you can try to contact the IRS. (We recommend waiting a few days past the payment date to see if your check will arrive in the mail.) The IRS has limited live assistance due to a tax return backlog, and is also held up sending out stimulus checks and unemployment tax refunds. You can find answers to frequently asked questions, check eligibility and see if you have a processed payment on the IRS website. Right now, the IRS doesn’t have a phone number for child tax credit questions. 

What if I unenrolled from advance payments but received the monthly credit anyway? 

If you or your spouse unenrolled from the child tax credit program but still got the money today, make sure you opted out in time. You’ll need to do so at least three days before the first Thursday of each month because it takes up to seven calendar days to process the request. The deadline to opt out of July’s payment passed, but you have until Aug. 2 to opt out of future checks. 

Note that if you file jointly, each parent needs to unenroll. Otherwise, the spouse who doesn’t opt out will receive half of the joint payment.

You can use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to check your payments online and or to opt out of the program anytime. You’ll only need to unenroll once. It’s important to note that you cannot re-enroll until late September. Here are the deadlines to unenroll.

Child tax credit opt-out deadline

Payment date Unenrollment deadline 
July 15 June 28 
Aug. 13 Aug. 2
Sept. 15 Aug. 30 
Oct. 15 Oct. 4 
Nov. 15 Nov. 1
Dec. 15 Nov. 29

What if I got less money than I expected?

If you meet all of the child tax credit requirements but track your monthly payments online and find that you’re receiving less or more money than expected, there are a few steps you can take. Start by checking your eligibility based on your most recent tax return using the IRS Eligibility Assistant

Note that the IRS said that it may use your 2019 tax return to determine your eligibility. Once the IRS processes your 2020 tax return, it will automatically adjust your advance monthly payments by increasing or decreasing how much you get. 

If you didn’t file your taxes, use the Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool to add your information and determine eligibility. It’s unclear if the IRS will make up any differences in remaining payments or if the difference will be included in next year’s tax refund. 

One reason parents may get less money is if they fall out of the income bracket for the maximum amount for monthly payments. Married couples filing jointly earning up to $150,000 and single filers earning up to $75,000 can qualify for the full amount. If you make more, the monthly check is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 over the income bracket. So, if you earn $80,000 as a single filer, you may only be eligible for up to $200 per month — depending on other eligibility factors. 

On the other hand, if you received more money than you’re eligible for, you may have to pay the IRS back. That’s why it’ll be important to use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to inform the IRS of any changes to your household circumstances so adjustments can be made. 

The IRS will send a notice (Letter 6419) closer to tax time next year with the adjusted credit amount based on the advance payments already disbursed to you. Hold on to this letter because you’ll need it when you file your 2021 income tax return if you need to return part of your payment.

We’ll continue to update this story with new information and tool updates for the child tax credit program and tracking your payments. Take a look at how joint child custody affects the child tax credit as well.


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