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Coronavirus relief payments are taking a new form — here's what to look for

Instead of a traditional paper check or direct deposit, keep an eye out for a a plain envelope.
/ Source: TODAY

Still waiting for your coronavirus relief check? It may be coming to you in an unusual form.

The Internal Revenue Service issued a reminder on May 27 that nearly 4 million people are being sent their stimulus checks, also known as economic impact payments, in the form of prepaid debit cards.

According to the IRS statement, the debit cards will arrive in a plain envelope from "Money Network Cardholder Services." Cards will be preloaded with your payment and feature the same protections against loss, theft and fraud as a traditional bank account would.

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The IRS does not elaborate on who will receive a debit card instead of traditional paper check.

"The determination of which taxpayers received a debit card was made by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, a part of the Treasury Department that works with the IRS to handle distribution of the payments," the agency stated in its reminder.

Those expecting a check cannot ask for or request a debit card instead of a paper check. The debit cards were issued beginning in mid-May. Traditional paper checks are also still being mailed and direct deposits are still being issued, though the deadline to request a payment via direct deposit has now passed.

There are no fees for using the prepaid cards to make purchases online, transfer funds to personal bank accounts, get cash from in-network ATMs or check the card's balance online, according to the IRS statement. The debit cards are managed by Money Network Financial LLC and issued by the U.S. Treasury Department's financial agent, MetaBank.

Despite the relative ease of using a debit card, the plain white envelopes can be mistaken for junk mail, and some people have complained that they've accidentally thrown them away or received cards with the wrong name on it.

For more information about when your payment will arrive, use the IRS Get My Payment tool to see when a direct deposit has been scheduled or what date the check or prepaid card is expected to ship. The IRS also has FAQ pages on the economic impact payments and the Get My Payment tool, which provide more guidance.