Should You Receive Your Tax Refund by Paper Check Or Direct Deposit?

Many taxpayers may be expecting a tax refund this year, which can provide much-needed relief during times of economic uncertainty. When filing your tax returns, you are given the option to receive your tax refund, if any, via direct deposit or a paper check. But which option is best for you?

There are a few major differences between a direct deposit tax refund and a paper check refund, namely in terms of security, speed, and the process itself. Here’s what you need to know in order to decide the method that best suits you:

When should I get my tax refund?

The biggest difference between getting a direct deposit tax refund vs. a paper check is timing.  Whether you file electronically or by mailing in your tax return, direct deposit substantially reduces the time it takes to get your tax refund.

If you file electronically and select direct deposit, you should receive your tax return in less than 21 days, on average.A This process may take longer if you file electronically and choose to receive your refund by paper check. This considers the extra time it takes the IRS to process your check and mail it to you, as well as the time it takes the U.S. Postal Service to deliver your check.B

What is the process for getting a tax refund by check vs. direct deposit?

In order to receive your tax refund via paper check, you must first select this option when filing your tax return. You’ll want to also make sure that your name and address are both accurate to ensure that your check gets mailed to the correct place. Finally, once the IRS accepts your tax return, they will mail your check through the U.S. Postal Service.C

The process for receiving a direct deposit tax refund is similar to that of a paper check tax refund. It requires you to first select direct deposit as your refund method when you file. Next, supply your bank account number and routing number in order to then receive the funds into your designated account. The IRS will even offer you the option to split your tax refund for direct deposit into up to three accounts for direct deposit.D

Which is more secure?

Of the two options for receiving your refund, direct deposit is considered more secure. When the IRS mails you a paper check, there is always the risk that the check can get lost in the mail or stolen. Direct deposit to an account like the ACE FlareTM Account by MetaBank®1 helps you reduce that risk by depositing the money into your account.E

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The ACE Flare™ Account is established by MetaBank®, National Association, Member FDIC. Netspend is a service provider to MetaBank, N.A. Certain products and services may be licensed under U.S. Patent Nos. 6,000,608 and 6,189,787.


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The Flare Account® is a demand deposit account established by Pathward, National Association, Member FDIC, and the Flare Account Debit Card is issued by Pathward, N.A., pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Netspend is a service provider to Pathward, N.A. Certain products and services may be licensed under U.S. Patent Nos. 6,000,608 and 6,189,787.