Ways to Use Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check

Here’s what others are planning to do with their economic impact payments


As part of the federal government’s COVID-19 relief efforts, many Americans are receiving payments from the IRS. The IRS calls them economic impact payments, but you may know them as stimulus checks or stimulus payments.

No matter what you call them, it may be helpful to learn more about how the payments work—and potential ways to use them to help you and your family during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

How Do Economic Impact Payments Work?

In general, eligible individuals could receive up to $1,200, and eligible married couples could receive up to $2,400. There’s also a separate one-time payment of $500 for parents of each qualifying child under 17.

The IRS is the most reliable source for updates and information about these payments. Capital One also has a page that may help you understand some basics about economic impact payments, including information on eligibility and how to receive your stimulus check.

What Are Some Ways People Are Using Their Stimulus Payments?

From spending to saving, Americans are looking at several ways to use their payments. 

An April Gallup® poll indicated 35% of those polled planned to use the relief money to pay bills. Here’s how others responded:

  • 29% said they would save or invest it.
  • 16% said they would spend it on essential items like food or gas.
  • 13% said they didn’t expect to receive a payment.
  • 4% said they would use it on nonessential items. 
  • 3% said they would donate the money to charity.

The poll also revealed some income-based differences in people’s plans. For example, about 70% of people with annual household incomes below $36,000, compared to 36% of people who reported making more than $90,000 a year, said they planned to use the money on bills or essentials.

While it’s up to you to decide how to use your stimulus money, here are some ideas and strategies to consider.

1. Cover Essentials

You might decide to use your stimulus check to help cover the basics, like bills or groceries. And if you’re struggling to pay bills, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends contacting your lenders or creditors early. By reaching out, you can learn about hardship programs that may allow you to delay payments or avoid fees.

2. Build Your Savings

If you don’t need your IRS stimulus payment to take care of essentials, you might choose to set it aside for later. Starting or adding to an emergency fund is one way to stay prepared in case the unexpected occurs or your situation changes.

You also might be interested in saving for long-term goals, like buying a house or paying for college or retirement. In that case, you could consider putting the money in a long-term savings or retirement account. If you choose to invest the money, you might want to consult a qualified financial adviser. Be sure to consider your options—and whether you’ll have immediate access to funds if you need them.

3. Pay Down Debt

Using your stimulus check to pay down debt is another option that saves you money in the long run. If you’re interested, you can learn more from the CFPB about how to reduce your debt

The CFPB website also has pages that directly address situations related to COVID-19, including information about credit, student loans and mortgages. The CFPB has encouraged financial institutions to work with customers affected by the pandemic. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, reach out to your lenders to see what customer assistance may be available.

4. Support Local Businesses or Charities

If you’re in a stable position, you could use your stimulus money to support your favorite eatery or shop. You could order takeout food from your go-to restaurants. Purchasing gift cards, if they’re offered, is another way to help support local businesses.

You also could consider supporting charities and other nonprofits in your area. This could be a time to send a donation to a local food bank, a senior meal service or a health care center.   

What Other Support Is Available?

Whether you’re looking to help others or you’re having trouble yourself, you can find out about other government relief options. And if you’ve lost your job or had your hours reduced, learning more about unemployment insurance may help you claim support in addition to your stimulus check.


Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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