How to Cash a Stimulus Check for Someone in Jail

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) started the release of a COVID-19 relief aid called economic impact payment or “stimulus checks” in 2020. Your loved one behind bars can be eligible for this pandemic relief aid even while incarcerated.

However, some people don’t know what a stimulus check is. Others can’t determine if an inmate is eligible to get this aid and how to cash it, especially if the inmate doesn’t have a bank account. And what about inmates who don’t receive this government aid? What should they do?

This article discusses the stimulus check provided by the U.S. government as support to people, including prisoners, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here you’ll understand the purpose of stimulus checks and if inmates can receive such aid.

Also, you’ll have information on methods to cash this check once received and alternative ways to cash a stimulus check, even without a bank account.

Inmates need the help of their families to process the requirements for the government to approve their stimulus checks. The filing procedure requires coordination with your area’s departments and facilities to process this payment. provides a vast database of facility information needed when processing the stimulus check for your incarcerated loved one. You can access information from more than 7,000 correctional facilities in New York, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states.

A General Understanding of Inmates and Bank Account Access

Inmates, upon incarceration, get all their money confiscated and deposited into a trust account. Inmates have limited access to money and can only purchase items from a commissary.

They will not have access to their bank accounts when incarcerated. The only account they can access is the inmate account used inside their prison facilities.

Relatives who want to send money to their incarcerated family members can deposit funds into the inmate’s account. So, though stimulus checks can be cashed outside the facility, they must still be deposited into the trust account for the inmate to use.

What Is a Stimulus Check?

A stimulus check is an initiative that is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act. The Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offer this relief aid, which includes the distribution of the economic impact payment or “stimulus check,” to all eligible recipients.

This relief initiative comes in three rounds, intending to help people bounce back from the problems caused by the pandemic. Inmates are also eligible for this relief aid if they have the requirements stated by the government.

General Requirements for a Stimulus Check

Here are the general requirements set by the government to claim the three stimulus check released to help people, including individuals behind bars, during the pandemic.

Federal Government Requirements for the First Stimulus Check

The first round of stimulus checks was rolled out in 2020, with most adults getting $1,200 and an additional $500 for each dependent (16 years and younger). Shortly after, the second round was $600 for adults and for each dependent (16 years and younger), and the third was $1,400 per adult and dependents of any age.

Permanent American Residency

Your loved one behind bars is eligible for the stimulus check if they’re either a U.S. citizen, a green card holder with a lawful permanent U.S. residency, or a qualified alien resident living in the country.

Social Security Number and Taxpayer Identification Number or TIN

You’ll need the inmate’s valid Social Security number (SSN) and taxpayer identification number (TIN) to be eligible to receive the first and second stimulus checks. If you’re in the military, you only need an SSN for you and your loved one to qualify.

Dependent Requirements

You are eligible if you’re not claimed as a dependent in another individual’s tax returns.

Income Requirements

You or your loved one behind bars are qualified to receive the first stimulus check if your 2018 and 2019 income is under $99,000 for single or married and filing separately or $198,000 if married and filing jointly.

Here Is What Is Different for the Second Stimulus Payment; There Are a Few Things That Have Changed for the Third Stimulus Check

The second stimulus check came with a change of requirements for eligibility. Note that these changes are retroactive.

Social Security Number and Tax Identification Requirements

For the second stimulus check, if you are married and filing jointly, but only your spouse has an individual taxpayer identification number (TIN) and Social Security number (SSN), they can still receive the stimulus. Alternatively, their children with SSN or Adoption Taxpayer Identification numbers (ATIN) can receive the stimulus check.

However, for couples with at least one spouse in the military, as long as one has an SSN, both spouses can apply for a stimulus check. Children under 17 are also eligible for stimulus checks.

Income Requirements

You’re qualified for the second stimulus check if your adjusted gross income is up to $75,000 for individuals, up to $150,000 for married couples filing jointly, and up to $112,500 if you’re the head of a household.

You’re ineligible for the second stimulus check if your salary is within the following criteria:

  • Single earners making more than $87,000
  • Married couples earning $174,000 and filing jointly
  • Head of a household with an income of $124,500

Can Imprisoned People Get Stimulus Checks?

Imprisoned individuals can still receive their stimulus checks as long as they fit the requirements for eligibility.

The Answer

United States District Judge Phyllis Hamilton from the 9th Circuit in California ruled that inmates can receive the stimulus check provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

What We Found

If your incarcerated loved one hasn’t claimed the previous stimulus checks, you can still receive them by filing your 2020 or 2021 tax return. Also, you can receive unclaimed stimulus checks through

The website helps tax filers with their stimulus checks and offers other services related to tax refunds and tax credits.

How Does Someone Behind Bars Request a Check?

An incarcerated individual must complete the IRS Form 1040 or U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, which has “EIP 2020” at the top. You’ll then mail it to the IRS and wait for the approval.

Where Are Their Stimulus Checks?

The Treasury Department, Bureau of the Fiscal Service, and the IRS have issued Economic Impact Payments (EIP) or stimulus checks since 2020. Inmates can request this aid from the agencies mentioned.

Can Another Person Request a Stimulus Payment for the Incarcerated Individual?

In most cases, prisons and jails limit or prohibit inmates’ access to the internet and email, making filing and requesting a stimulus payment difficult.

An attorney of an inmate can fill out the necessary IRS forms for them through power of attorney.

What if a Spouse Who’s Not Behind Bars Got a Stimulus Check?

Couples filing a joint return can still be eligible for the stimulus check, even if one is currently incarcerated. Note that incarcerated people can receive this relief from the government.

How Inmates Receive CARES Stimulus Payments While Incarcerated

Inmates can receive stimulus payments after filling out their 1040 tax return for 2020 and requesting a “recovery rebate.” However, even after filing a request for aid, incarcerated people should expect deductions, especially for back taxes, restitution, and child support.

Things to Know Before Cashing Your Stimulus Check

Stimulus checks can be cashed through checks, debit cards, or direct deposits. However, it’s an entirely different case for incarcerated individuals.

If you need to cash a stimulus check for your loved one behind bars, you should choose the option where you’ll get the most out of this economic impact payment.

Options to Cash a Stimulus Check for Someone Who Is in Jail

Here are your options when you want to cash a stimulus check for someone behind bars:

Depositing the Check Into a Shared Bank Account and Then Taking Out Cash

If you have a joint account with an inmate, you can deposit the stimulus check into your joint bank account. You can then use the money through your debit card.

Depositing the Check and Using the Incarcerated Person’s Debit Card to Get Cash

You can deposit the stimulus check into your loved one’s bank account. You’ll need their debit card and 4-digit PIN. Once the check clears, you can withdraw the amount in cash using their card.

A Stimulus Check Cashes Without a Bank Account

If your incarcerated loved one does not have a bank account, you can wait for their release so they can cash it themselves.

When they cash the check, they can seek help from different financial institutions that allow them to open low- to no-cost bank accounts. They can visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and look for FDIC-insured banks where they can open an account.

Even if they don’t have a bank account, they can still receive a stimulus check or EIP if eligible. They just need to file a 2020 tax return.

Where Can Inmates Without a Bank Account Cash Their Stimulus Check?

Inmates qualified to receive a stimulus check may face many hurdles, like having no bank account where they can deposit the check. The methods to cash a check without a bank account will be discussed in the following sections of the article.

How to Cash a Stimulus Check Without an ID if Someone Is in Jail

Despite an incarcerated person’s limitations due to their situation, they have alternatives if they have no ID. Pertinent documents, such as utility bills and credit cards, may be used.

Methods of Cashing the Stimulus Check of a Prisoner Without an ID

There are cases where essential documents get lost, damaged, or stolen. There are many ways to cash a stimulus check without an ID, and here are some of these methods:

Alternatives to an Identity Card

The United States has no national identification card, unlike other countries. Most U.S. citizens have more than one ID for everyday transactions like the ones listed below.

Use of Passport

A passport can be used for identification purposes with the IRS, and a passport can be used to cash a check.

Driving License

A driving license is one of the valid ID cards in the United States. Incarcerated individuals don’t get their driver’s license revoked, but it can expire.

Military Identification Card

Incarcerated individuals who were previously military personnel have an ID that they can use for identification. Military IDs are powerful, as they allow access to military bases and give discounts for veterans in businesses, stores, and restaurants.

Utility Bill and Credit Card

Inmates can use their utility bills or credit card as proof of identification in certain situations. This type of identification comes under non-photo identification.

Electronic Method

Most prison facilities limit inmate access to the internet. Hence, electronic methods to cash a stimulus check for an inmate may not exactly be the easiest solution to your incarcerated loved one’s problem.

Still, the electronic identification method is convenient for cashing paper stimulus checks. Checks can be cashed at home through different apps like the following mentioned below:

Ingo Money App

Ingo Money app provides a safe and speedy way to cash checks for people without bank accounts. However, you must pay a standard 2% fee for payroll and government checks.

PayPal App

You can use PayPal’s Cash a Check service to cash checks online. All you need to do is download the PayPal app, take a photo of both sides of your check, and upload it into the app. You’ll then choose when you want to get your money.

Western Union Netspend Prepaid

You can also cash your checks using Netspend. You’ll have to download the app, follow the instructions regarding taking photos of your check, input the necessary information, and wait for your money.

Brink’s Money Prepaid App

This mobile app can cash your check through its check-load feature. You’ll need to take photos of your check, load it into the app, and wait for the money to be deposited into your Brink’s Money account.

Manual Method

There are three main ways to cash the EIP or stimulus check of an inmate without ID.

Deposit the Check Into the Inmate’s Account

A direct way to cash an inmate’s stimulus check is to deposit it into the inmate’s account.

Use an ATM

This option is beneficial if you have a joint account with the inmate and access to their debit card. The ATM near you should have the option to cash the check. Some ATMs only offer check deposits, while some don’t offer check deposit services at all.

When the check clears, you can use their debit card to withdraw the amount in cash.

Signing the Check Over

Signing a check over means redirecting a check to another recipient with a bank account. However, you can’t sign over a stimulus check to someone else.

How to Cash a Stimulus Check

What if you filed a joint return, but your spouse is incarcerated? You’ll still be eligible for the stimulus check. And even if you don’t have a bank account, you can cash your stimulus check through these methods:

Local Bank or Credit Union

You can cash your checks to your credit union if you don’t have a bank. Government-issued checks are safe, and banks will have no problem cashing them to people without a checking account.

Local Merchants: Go to Walmart (or Another Store That Cashes Checks)

You can also quickly cash your checks at local merchants like Walmart. However, they’ll charge you a fee. For every $1,000 check, the fee is $4; for over $1,000 and up to $5,000, your fee is $8.

Check Cashing Store

Another place to cash your checks, even without a bank account, is a cashing store. These stores include Amscot, ACE Cash Express, and Check City.

On Your Smartphone

You can also cash your checks via mobile devices through applications like the Ingo Money app, Netspend, PayPal, and Bank of America mobile check deposit.

What Is the Recovery Rebate Credit?

Inmates may fail to fill out the necessary forms and requirements to meet the deadlines imposed during the release of the stimulus checks. However, inmates can still receive these payments through the recovery rebate credit.

How Do Inmates Claim Their Stimulus Checks As Recovery Rebate Credit When Filing the Tax Return?

When filing their tax returns, inmates who haven’t received their stimulus checks can claim them through an RRC (recovery rebate credit). They can claim the released stimulus checks by filing their 2020 or 2021 tax return when the 2023 tax season begins.

Alternatives to Cashing a Stimulus Check

Here are some alternative ways of cashing a stimulus check for inmates.

Have the Stimulus Check Sent Straight to the Incarcerated Person’s Bank Account

You can deposit it directly to an inmate’s account for their prison needs.

Keep the Stimulus Check Safe Until They Are Out of Jail so That They Can Deposit or Cash It Themselves

You can hold on to an inmate’s check, but remember that though the stimulus check sent through electronic transfer doesn’t expire, the treasury check is valid for one year. You can request a replacement of the check when it expires.

What to Do if Your Loved One Didn’t Receive Their Stimulus Payments at All While in Jail

You can always file the needed tax returns when the 2023 tax season begins. You can go to and start the process.

Alternative Funding Options to a Stimulus Check for Incarcerated Individuals

You can follow the alternative funding options for people behind bars:

Lending Money to Your Family Member

When your incarcerated loved one needs money, you can always lend them the amount and deposit it into their account.

Consider Loans With Monthly Installments

You can also take a loan for your loved one behind bars. You can get it paid through monthly installments between agreeing parties.

Look Into Bad Credit Loan Options for Funding

You can seek help from loaning agencies that don’t require good credit standings to take a loan.

Get Permission to Sell Assets

You can ask an inmate’s permission to sell assets to fund their needs behind bars.

Help People in Prison Get Their Stimulus Checks

You can help prisoners get their stimulus checks by ensuring that they conform to IRS requirements and submit the documents needed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What happens to incarcerated people’s primary bank accounts?

It depends on whether the government froze the inmate’s account, the bank froze it after months of inactivity, or it remains as it is.

2. Why is the alternative of identification cards suggested to imprisoned people or anyone else?

The time of incarceration may be long enough that government IDs expire. So, alternative identification is required.

3. Do you have to send a check back if the IRS asks?

If you received an erroneous payment, you must return it to the IRS.

4. Will the stimulus checks’ amount be reduced if the inmate has overdue prison debts or other unpaid debts?

Upon a court order, an inmate’s stimulus check can be deducted to pay debts.

5. The inmate filed taxes months ago and still hasn’t received their stimulus payments. What should they do?

An inmate’s loved one can ask the IRS for updates about the missing EIP. Also, an inmate’s family can request a payment trace; just call 800-919-9835 or visit the IRS website.

6. The inmate used the IRS 2020 or 2021 non-filer tool or filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return but hasn’t received their stimulus checks. What do they do?

They can inquire with the IRS about possibly receiving the recovery rebate credit when processing their tax returns.

7. What happens if the stimulus check is sent as a debit card instead of a check?

The EIP or stimulus money is automatically sent to your debit card’s account. You can easily use this card whenever needed.

8. How can I cash my husband’s stimulus check if he’s incarcerated?

You can deposit your husband’s stimulus check into his account in prison. On the other hand, you can have it changed into cash when required.

9. Can I deposit someone else’s stimulus check in my account?

No, you can’t deposit into an account with a name different from the name written on the check.

10. Can I cash a stimulus check not in my name?

Yes, you can cash a stimulus check that’s not in your name. You can use different methods, such as opening an account with partner merchants like Walmart or using apps such as PayPal.

11. What happens if you miss the deadline?

Inmates can still claim their EIP even if they miss a deadline.


1. H.R.748 – CARES Act
2. Stimulus Check: Economic Impact Payment (EIP)
3. Advance Child Tax Credit and Economic Impact Payments – Stimulus Checks
4. How to get an Economic Impact Payment if you don’t have a bank account
5. New identity verification process to access certain IRS online tools and services
6. Types of Veteran ID cards
7. Acceptable Proof of Identity and Address
8. Topic No. 161 Returning an Erroneous Refund – Paper Check or Direct Deposit

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