eCheck, an established payment instrument combining the security, speed, and processing efficiency of all-electronic transactions with the familiar and well-developed legal infrastructure and business processes associated with paper checks, is the first and only electronic payment mechanism chosen by the United States Treasury to make high-value payments over the public Internet.
- Leverages the check payment system, a core competency of the banking industry.
- It fits within current business practices, eliminating the need for expensive process re-engineering.
- It works like a paper check does, but in pure electronic form, with fewer manual steps.
- It is designed to meet the needs of businesses and consumers in the 21st century, using state-of-the-art security techniques.
- It can be used by all bank customers who have checking accounts, including small and mid-size businesses, which currently have little access to electronic payment systems.
- Enhances existing bank accounts with new e-commerce features.
Let’s examine how eCheck works for the banking industry and the clients it serves. There are fundamental characteristics and differences between paper checks, the eCheck and other Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) transactions. eChecks, in 2015, are an important instrument in transitioning businesses and consumers into the world of electronic commerce.
- Contain the same information as paper checks contain.
- Are based on the same rich legal framework as paper checks.
- Can be linked with unlimited information and exchanged directly between parties.
- Can be used in any and all remote transactions where paper checks are used today.
- Enhance the functions and features provided by bank checking accounts.
- Expand on the usefulness of paper checks by providing value-added information.
Fancy terminology aside, eChecks are simply a type of online payment where money is electronically withdrawn from the payer’s bank account (usually a checking account), transferred over the ACH network, and deposited into the seller’s (or receiver of) own bank account. For the payment to be initialized, it must be specifically authorised by the payer (via acceptance such as confirmation click or some other means (signed contract, etc.). Expand the usefulness of paper checks by providing value-added information.
The 4 Steps Behind Each eCheck Transaction
- The check writer “writes” the eCheck using one of many types of electronic devices and “gives” the eCheck to the payee electronically.
- The payee “deposits” the Electronic Check, receives credit, and the payee’s bank “clears” the eCheck to the paying bank.
- The paying bank validates the eCheck and then “charges” the check writer’s account for the check.
There are essentially four major steps involved (read our How eChecks Work article for more info). The process mirrors paper checks, but is done electronically and much faster. There is no need to fill out paper checks by the payer, and there is no need for the receiving institution to manually receive and process that paper check. Removing this workflow saves a lot of time for both the payee and the processor of the payment.
Step 1. Payee must specifically authorise the transaction either per transaction or for a recurring set of transactions. This is usually done via an online payment form, via phone, a signed order form, or some other method. If you are paying online via a payment gateway, this would likely be the payment processor form when you first set up the payment.
Step 2. When authorization is given by the payee, the payment info is submitted to an online payment processing service. This "middle man" who handles this step is usually a payment gateway (such as Paypal, PaySimple, MoneyBookers, a bank or specialised payment service).
Step 3. The payment information is submitted over the ACH network by the business or payment processor.
Step 4. The payment is automatically withdrawn from the payer’s (person who is making the payment’s) bank account. The business or payment gateway then sends the receipt of payment to the payee’s email account. The payment is then deposited into the receiver’s bank account (or if both parties are using a payment gateway to handle the transaction, into the payment gateway’s account given to the receiver). The payment funds are usually deposited anywhere between 3 to 5 business days after the ACH transaction is initiated by the payment gateway. The actual clearing time for the payer’s bank may be 24 hours to 48 hours, but the whole payment cycle tends to be longer than this for security measures.
Check technology is software and hardware developed by FSTC members to:
eChecks are based on:
- Minimize start up expenses.
- Apply universal industry standards.
- Provide ubiquity for participants.
- The Financial Services Markup Language (FSML).
- Dtrong digital signatures using any available algorithm.
- Secure hardware tokens such as smartcards.
- Digital certificates.
- Banking and business practices.
eChecks are designed to leverage technology capabilities that were not available as recently as three years ago. As technology continues to evolve, the FSTC will capitalise on new developments by integrating significant break-through technologies into the eChecks’ open architecture.
eChecks are the most secure payments instrument or transaction ever designed or developed. eChecks are designed to utilize state of the art security techniques of :
- Public key cryptography
- Digital signatures
- Certificate authorities
- Duplicate detection
eChecks further enhance banking practices with added security so that even breaking the cryptographic protections would not necessarily allow a fraudulent transaction to be paid.
eChecks use established banking technologies to enable secure, fast, and dependable online payments.eChecks integrate into today’s business practises and coexist with paper check processing.
eChecks offers the following advantages:
- Easily understood by bank customers.
- Easy to use by customers.
- Extremely safe and backed by banking regulations.
- Offered by nearly every major payment gateway.
- Have lower fees than alternative payment methods per transaction.
eChecks will lead the way to an Electronic Commerce environment for businesses and consumers.
- Banks are providing the leadership.
- Banks are controlling the process.
- Banks are evolving the payments mechanism.
eChecks will succeed because eCheck meets real business needs and is based on the paper check – the most popular non-cash payment choice, and a core competency of banks.
For more banking information like finding the best checking accounts, getting ChexSystems help, and other financial advice tips, see our checking account guides.