Sunday, July 4. 2010
In the course of discussion with merchants, many have informed me that they accept their customers' checks but often worry whether such checks will bounce -- especially those with high dollar amounts. Although it's counterintuitive to believe, in this day and age of privacy, a great number of banks will verify funds in a customer's checking account. This is ideal for the merchant who wants to avoid cashing an NSF check and provides a quicker lead and response time for the merchant to take measures in recouping the owed funds.
First, how does the merchant know which bank to call? By glancing at the customer's check, the name and address of the bank should be apparent. Some may only reveal the name of the bank and the city, state, and zip code, but with the help of some Google research, the bank's telephone number may be obtained.
Before speaking with a customer service representative, it's crucial for the merchant to find out the customer's bank account number. Again, this source of information may be gleaned from the bottom of the check. By process of elimination, you can find the bank account number by discarding the other two sets of numbers: One is the actual check number, also viewable at the top of the check; the other is the routing number -- the number between the "smiley faces." The other set of numbers represents the customer's bank account number. This number has two vertical lines next to it with a dot at the upper right hand corner -- either at the end and/or beginning of the number.
The next step may be difficult for some merchants as they don't feel comfortable encroaching on their customer's privacy, yet it's still necessary if one is to verify funds in the checking account: Simply call the bank and perform the check verification process. Yes, it's alright to inquire as to whether Mr. Smith has ample funds to provide payment to you.
Be forewarned that not all banks will cooperate and disclose whether the client has x amount of dollars in the account. Bank policy varies regarding their customer's financial disclosure. Some banks may require you to come into the branch to receive this type of information. However, other banks will not restrict access to this info and relay whether Mr. Smith's check is either good or not at the time of the call.
Of course, any information is only going to provide a snapshot at the time of the call to the customer service representative. Seconds later, who knows if Mr. Smith will put a "stop payment" on the check, withdraw all funds from his bank account to take his family on vacation, or close the account altogether. But hearing the news that Mr. Smith has ample funds in the account provides some reassurance that payment is soon forthcoming -- although there's no guarantee.
Still, it's worth the time and labor expenditure to perform a small bit of research and make a quick call to verify the customer's funds. The worse case scenario is that you will not be privy to the information that you seek; the best case scenario is that you will be cleared to receive news -- hopefully discovering that the check will also clear.
Of course, some merchants opt to open a check guarantee service so that they don't have to worry whether the customer's paper check will be good. Indeed, all checks will be guaranteed. However, there are fees involved and for those merchants who rarely encounter bounced checks, it may be best to be your own detective, take matters into your own hands, and attempt to verify the funds in the customer's checking account.
Not only do you save yourself the headache of doing all those steps you describe, it also saves a business owner's most valuable asset...TIME.
It saves you time from checking on checking account funds.
It saves you the time of bundling all your checks up to go to the bank.
You also save time of actually driving to the bank and waiting in line to deposit the checks.
This is a LOT OF VALUABLE TIME SAVED. Time that can be used for many other, more productive business activities.
The tiny fees associated with Check Guarantee service is well worth all the valuable time saved.
We started using the Elavon Check Guarantee offered through their Costco Program. I added a link to the site in my name tag for anyone looking for an affordable program.
Sign up through their Online Chat. The folks on the chat are really nice and efficient.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for your comment. While it can be time-consuming to verify customers' checks, it still may prove worthwhile for those who only get the sporadic bounced check.
However, I agree that some merchants may truly benefit from a check guarantee service as the savings in time and money may outweight the fees associated with a check guarantee service.
There are many affordable, reputable companies who can provide a check guarantee program -- including our company.
Many thanks to the author for sharing this useful information here with us.