It's time for the third batch of monthly child tax credit payments. The first two payments were sent on July 15 and August 13, while the third payment is being sent today (September 15). This third round of monthly payments – totaling about $15 billion – is going out to about 35 million families in the U.S. The IRS will also be sending out additional payments every month through the end of the year.
For parents who received their first child tax credit payment in July, the maximum monthly payment for each child 6 to 17 years old is $250 and $300 for each kid under age 6. That's the most you can get, but families with higher incomes won't receive that much or could be denied the credit altogether. (Use Kiplinger's 2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator for an estimate of your monthly payments if you got your first payment in July.)
If you get your first monthly payment after July, the maximum payment amount is higher. That's because you'll still receive the same amount of money in 2021 (i.e., 50% of your total child tax credit for the year), but it will be paid in fewer installments. For example, the maximum monthly payment for a family that receives its first payment in September is $375-per-child for kids ages 6 through 17 and $450-per-child for kids under age 6. Again, however, wealthier families will get less or nothing at all.
Methods of Payment
In most cases, monthly child tax credit payments are being directly deposited into each family's bank account. That's how you'll get paid if the IRS has bank account information from:
Your 2019 or 2020 tax return;
The IRS's online tool used in 2020 by people who aren't required to file a tax return to get a first-round stimulus check; or
A federal agency that provides you benefits, such as the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Railroad Retirement Board.
If the IRS doesn't have your bank account information, it will send you a paper check or debit card by mail.
You can use the IRS's Child Tax Credit Update Portal to change the bank account information the IRS has on file. It's too late to make bank information changes for today's payment (the deadline was August 30), but you can make changes for the October 15 payment by October 4. Note that your entire monthly payment must be deposited into one bank account – you can't split them between multiple accounts.
Families who are currently scheduled to receive payments by mail can also sign up for direct deposit using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to add their bank account information (again, it's too late to do this for today's payment). You'll be asked to provide your bank routing number and account number and indicate whether it's a savings or checking account. You'll get paid much faster if you switch to direct deposit, plus you won't have to worry about a paper check or debit card getting lost or stolen.
If you're receiving monthly child tax credit payments in the mail, you can use the portal to update your mailing address. This will help families receiving paper checks avoid mailing delays or having your payment returned as undeliverable. Once again, the deadline for changing an address for today's payment has come and gone, but you still have time to revise your address for future payments.
Opting Out of Monthly Payments
Some people would be better off if they didn't receive monthly child tax credit payments. For example, if you want the highest tax refund possible when you file your tax return next year, the monthly payments are going to bring down that refund. If you won't qualify for the 2021 child tax credit – e.g., your 2021 income is too high, someone else (e.g., an ex-spouse) will claim your child as a dependent in 2021, or you live outside the U.S. for more than half of 2021 – you might end up having to pay back some or all the money you received as monthly payments when you file your return next year.
If that's you, you can opt-out through the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. As you may have guessed, it's too late to opt-out of the payment going out today, but you can still opt-out of the remaining monthly payments for the year. For more information on the opt-out process, see How and When to Opt-Out of Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments.