Consumers who have become used to writing checks in the expectation of having at least a couple of days to cover them with a deposit may soon be in for a rude awakening.
Under a federal law that will take effect today, banks will have more leeway to process checks electronically, and this will translate to shorter or even nonexistent float times - the grace period between the time the check is written and when the money is debited from the account.
As banks start to make digital images of checks, shred the originals and use the images for processing, customers are likely to see several changes besides the faster clearing. Consumers will receive fewer of the original checks in their bank statements and more paper substitutes, which will be printed when checks are handled the new way. Most banking customers already receive statements with images of their checks or lists of them.
But the new law, which is called the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act and known as Check 21, does not change the length of time that banks can hold checks deposited by their customers. And it is this mismatch between existing check holds and the prospect of faster clearing that has helped turn Check 21 into a focal point for consumer groups, which have added it to a list of grievances against banks.
These groups say Check 21 will create confusion among consumers and that there will be more room for fraud, like counterfeiting and identity theft, when banks start routinely converting original documents to images, which can be harder to read. Read The whole story here