Parents: It’s time to trace your child tax credit payment. We’ll show you how

The deadline to unenroll from child tax credit payments is Aug. 2. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Still waiting for your July 15 child tax credit check? Whether you’re banking on the extra money for financial relief or planning to save it for a rainy day, it may be time to figure out the reason for the holdup. You can also do a payment trace to figure out where your money is.  The advance child tax credit payments could be up to $300 every month for each eligible child, depending on age and household income qualifications. 

First, make sure your banking information and address are up to date, especially if you switched banks or moved. You’ll need to use the IRS online Update Portal to make changes to your direct deposit details and check to see when a payment was sent, which could give you clues if it might’ve gotten lost. But if you need to update your income, address or number of dependents, you’ll need to wait until later this year to make these changes using the portal. We’ll keep you posted. 

What if your payment is still pending? Has your check been processed, but you still don’t have it? What should you do next? What if your tax or household information has changed drastically in the last year? A lot has changed with the child tax credit, but I’ll help answer your questions, share possible reasons for delays and what you can do about it all. You may need to opt out of the advance monthly checks if you received a check, but are ineligible. Or if you’d rather get the total amount next year in one payout. We’ve recently updated this story. 

How can I track my child tax credit check online?

You can generally 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 the chart below for more.) 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 watch for pending payments that haven’t gone through your bank account yet. 

If you still 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.   

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). We don’t know yet 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 per child age 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

Why is there a delay with my child tax credit payment?

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. The IRS may not have an up-to-date mailing address or banking information to send your check. The mailed check may be held up by the USPS, or the direct deposit payment may still be being processed. 

It’s also important to note that if you’re 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 cleared up this year while early payments are disbursed, you’ll get the full amount when you file taxes in 2022. And keep in mind that even if you have unpaid state or federal debt, you should still receive child tax credit payments if you’re eligible. 

Another possible reason your check may be delayed is that your 2020 return is still processing. The IRS is currently working through a backlog of returns. If your information has changed or you had a baby recently, the IRS may not know that they owe you the credit, especially if the tax agency is basing the credit on your 2019 tax return while the latest one is processing. 


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How can I do a payment trace? 

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 (PDF) 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

How can I update my banking information? 

Eligible parents that have banking information on file from stimulus checks or tax refunds with the IRS should have received money via direct deposit for the July payment. 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 opt-out 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 like a mailed tax refund. 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. 

A commenter in a recent Reddit thread says they were told the IRS is having a few issues with the child tax credit checks, but is working to resolve them. If you’re waiting on your payment and the portal says it’s “Pending,” keep holding on. A check should be coming your way soon via direct deposit or mail. After a week, you can try to contact the IRS, but there’s more you need to know (see below) before you call. You can also do a payment trace. 

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You’ll have to wait until later this year to update your mailing address using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Can the IRS help with my child tax credit problems?

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 still 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 separate phone number for child tax credit questions. 

What if I got less child tax 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. 

Why should I opt out of advance child tax credit checks? 

The child tax credit requirements are different from previous years. 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. 

If you or your spouse unenrolled from the child tax credit program but still got the money, it’s possible you didn’t opt out in time. You need to do so at least three days before the first Thursday of the month because it takes up to seven calendar days to process the request. The deadline to opt out of future checks is Aug. 2. 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. 

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. If you received the first child tax credit but are ineligible, it’s best to opt out before next week’s deadline, Aug. 2. 

How can I unenroll from monthly payments?

You can use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal 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 for unenrolling.

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

We’ll continue to update this story with new information about tool updates, 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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