CORONAVIRUS

Customers Angry Over Bank Delays On Stimulus Funds

Wells Fargo and Chase won't start processing federal stimulus direct deposits until March 17.

Americans waiting to get their stimulus money were growing increasingly frustrated Saturday after discovering some banks won’t make payments available to them for days, even if the money has already been deposited by the federal government.

The official payment date for the “Economic Impact Payments” is March 17, but millions of dollars had already landed in countless bank accounts by Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Some Americans may see the direct deposit payments as pending or as provisional payments in their accounts before the official payment date of March 17,” the Internal Revenue Service explained on its website.

Banking app Chime and its partner banks provided almost immediate access to the cash coming from the federal government. Chime touted on Friday that it had already distributed $600 million in “stimmy” money. By Sunday it had made $3.5 billion accessible to customers, Chime CEO Chris Britt told HuffPost.

A similar fintech app, Current, has also released funds to “thousands” of customers. 

Chase issued a statement that it will release the payments beginning March 17. It doesn’t have the money yet.

“We don’t have the money, so we won’t earn any interest on it,” said a Chase statement to HuffPost.

As for Wells Fargo, it will ’process all of the direct deposits according to the effective date provided by the U.S. Treasury” March 17, the bank emphasized on its website.

The bank chirped on Twitter that customers can get the money “as soon as” March 17 — but clearly no sooner, even if the millions from the government are under the bank’s control before that.

In a statement to HuffPost, Wells emphasized that it’s following direction from the IRS.

“We know the importance of the stimulus funds to our customers, and we are providing the payments to our customers as soon as possible on the date the funds are available — based on IRS direction,” noted the statement. “Wells Fargo is not holding the funds.”

March 17 is the “official payment date provided by the IRS ... and customers who are eligible to receive a direct deposit of their stimulus payment may expect it as soon as the morning of March 17,” it added.

It’s not yet clear how other banks are handling the payments. Some bank customers have received notification that the money has landed in their accounts but the money won’t be available to them until March 17, The Washington Post reported

The Journal noted that in previous rounds of stimulus checks, transactions at larger banks sometimes took a few days to show up as being credited to accounts.

Payments will be distributed in multiple phases, and not everyone will receive funds at the same time. 

Treasury and IRS officials are not revealing how much money has already been sent out in the first batch. Additional direct deposits will be sent over the next few weeks. Those without direct deposit information on file will receive stimulus funds in the form of paper checks or debit cards in the mail.

Sluggish processing only works to banks’ advantage because of the increased “float” created by a massive influx of government cash. They can juggle the delays to boost outgoing loans to other customers, and to boost their profits.

Customers were getting annoyed about the wait and appeared to be zeroing in on Wells.

The IRS said Friday that people can begin tracking the status of their checks using the “Get my Payment” portal beginning Monday. The agency also said it expects to issue more direct deposits and send payments as a check or debit card over the coming weeks.

This third round of payments — worth a total of $411 billion — is larger than either of the previous two last year. Eligible households will get up to $1,400 for each adult, child and adult dependent. 

This story has been updated with comments from Wells Fargo and Chase, and updated figures from Chime and Current.