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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Check 21

What you should know:

A new federal law came into effect on October 28, 2004 -- The Check Clearing Act for the 21st Century, or Check 21. This new law will help make check processing faster and more efficient by removing the need to transport paper checks between the financial institutions.

Prior to October 28th, check clearing was an outdated and manually intensive process that relied on ground and air transportation to move paper checks between financial institutions before they could be paid. To expedite the clearing process, Check 21 introduced a new negotiable instrument called a Substitute Check -- a paper reproduction of an original check that must be accepted by every U.S. credit union and bank.

Here are the FAQs about Check 21:

Why do we need Check 21?
Since 2000, the Federal Reserve and the financial industry have been exploring ways to make the check clearing process more efficient by using electronic images of checks. There are already agreements between financial institutions to accept electronic images for processing, but the law requires that they be followed up by original paper checks. When air transportation was grounded following the events of September 11, check processing was severely interrupted and it was recognized that an alternative method for processing checks was needed. The result is Check 21, which was signed into law by President Bush.

How does Check 21 make the check clearing process more efficient?
Check 21 allows participating financial institutions to truncate checks at any time during the check clearing process. Truncation removes the original check from the clearing process and an electronic image of the check can then be sent between financial institutions for clearing. Because the original check does not need to be physically transported through each stage of the clearing process, checks can clear more quickly and transportation expenses can be reduced.

If checks clear more quickly, will check "float" be reduced?
Yes, because paper checks will no longer need to be transported between financial institutions, checks could clear much more quickly. In fact, with the introduction of Check 21, checks may clear in as little as one day. Until now, it was usually safe to write a check a day or two before a deposit was made to your account. With the introduction of Check 21, a good practice would be to make sure that a check is covered before it is written.

Will all financial institutions be required to accept electronic images of checks instead of original checks?
No, Check 21 does not mandate that electronic images of checks be accepted by all financial institutions. Acceptance of electronic images is by private agreement. Instead, Check 21 introduces a new negotiable instrument called a "Substitute Check" which must be accepted by all financial institutions and individuals as though it were the original check.

What is a Substitute Check?

A Substitute Check is a paper reproduction of an original check. It contains images of the front and back of the original and includes all endorsements. It is slightly larger than an original check because it contains information about who truncated it and who reconverted it into a substitute check. All Substitute Checks must be accepted as though they were original checks and must contain the language: "This is a legal copy of your check. You can use it in the same way you would use the original check."

Substitute Checks have been created to allow institutions that do not wish to process digital images of checks to process Substitute Checks as though they were originals. Substitute Checks can also be used in the event of disputes or returns and can be sent to customers that receive their checks with their statements. Border Federal Credit Union does not return checks with statements, so this will not affect our members.

What will happen to my checks?
Check 21 does not require financial institutions to retain original checks. The financial institution that truncates your checks (converts them into electronic images) will develop their own policies for retention or destruction of the originals.

Will Check 21 affect the way I write or accept checks?
No, you can continue to write, accept, and deposit checks as you have always done, although you should notice some checks clearing much more quickly.

What benefits can I expect as a result of Check 21?
Check 21 will benefit Members in a number of ways:

  1. Checks may clear faster.
  2. Members could have quicker access to their funds.
  3. With the increased security of Check 21 check fraud should decrease.

What should I know to prepare for Check 21?

  1. Presently, checks can take up to ten days to clear. With the introduction of Check 21, you can expect checks to clear much more quickly for participating financial institutions. In some cases, checks may clear in as little as one day; almost completely eliminating the float time that we have become accustomed to.
  2. If you deposit a check and it is returned, you may receive a Substitute Check in its place. As we have mentioned previously, Substitute Checks are the legal equivalent of original checks and can be re-presented in the same way as original checks.
  3. When requesting a copy of a check you have written, you will begin to see Substitute Checks and images of Substitute Checks. The difference between the Substitute Check and the original is the extra information that allows financial institutions to determine which institution removed the original check from the clearing process and which institution reconverted it to a Substitute Check.

What are my rights if there is an error involving a Substitute Check? Check 21 grants "Expedited Re-credit Rights" to members who suffer losses due to Substitute Checks. These rights are as follows:

  1. Members have 40 calendar days after they receive their monthly statement to make a claim.
  2. Following the receipt of a legitimate claim, BFCU must re-credit an account up to $2,500 within 10 business days unless the claim is found to be invalid. The balance, if any, must be paid when the claim is determined to be valid or within 45 calendar days after the claim date, whichever is sooner.
  3. If the claim is later found to be invalid, BFCU will advise you that your account will be debited for the original claim amount and provide you with a copy of the original check, or a copy of the substitute check to show that the item was properly paid.
  4. Decisions must be disclosed to members.