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I have a payment I have to make four times a year. (well within Regulation D limits)

The payee only accepts checks, and they sit on the checks for a random amount of time between 1 and 6 weeks before depositing.

I'm disinterested in having an outstanding check looming over my shoulder for that long while the money earns no interest.

I have a high-interest rate savings account I already use for paying my mortgage, and for paying nothing else.

Can I use checks with the routing and account number of my savings account and use those four times a year to pay the check sitter?

If not, why specifically not? What technical or legal barrier exists to it?

I already checked with the bank's agents (two of them) and they were both very dodgy of giving any clear answer other than they don't recommend it, and "can't guarantee it will work". They couldn't even tell me if it's a violation of my terms to try it. I'm not worried about my time and money spent trying it, but I don't want to violate a law or the contract terms.

I'm particularly seeking an answer from someone with technical knowledge of how check deposits work in the USA in 2020, and how it's possible that I could give someone my routing and account number on a sheet of toilet paper and they could withdraw what they want, but if I give it to them on AN ACTUAL CHECK WITH MY ACTUAL SIGNATURE they can't.

Perhaps my understanding of what checks are is wrong, but I thought basically, they are a way to make it easier for someone to transfer money out of my account, and a 'permission slip' to keep them out of jail for doing it if their act is in accordance with the parameters of the slip.

Update with specifics on bank: This bank does not offer "checking accounts", only savings and money market. They do not offer online bill pay either. I'm basically wanting to 'create my own online bill pay'.

(Updated to remove the distraction that was the material physical composition / physical origin of checks.)

  • FYI, It’s Regulation D that concerns you. Schedule D is something else. I edited the question for you. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Apr 16 at 22:58
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Part of the answer depends on how you bank treats that request for funds.

I know that my credit union is picky about this. I can scan a check, or take a picture of a check for remote deposit, but it must go into my checking account. I can't send it directly into my savings account. I then can transfer the funds right after completing the transaction. If I go to a teller, I don't have to put the funds from the check into the checking account, I can put the funds directly into a savings account.

But you are asking about a withdrawal.

The terms and conditions for my credit union make it clear that a check is only valid for a checking account. They won't give you a check book for a savings account, they won't give you a debit card for the savings account. They will give you an ATM card that will work with both.

If your bank will reject the transaction because the account number is for a savings account, you are out of luck.

If you wanted to avoid the cost of a check book, many banking institutions will allow you to pay bills from their website. In some cases it is electronic, in other cases they generate a check and mail it. This doesn't help you because that just means that the money leaves your account weeks faster.

There are some banks that pay interest on checking accounts, that might be your only option.

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  • regarding going to a teller, many times I have done similar things and they are filling out a bunch of forms for me (like deposit and withdrawal forms) with all my account numbers on them, I suppose to create all the transactions necessary to do what I'm trying to do in the way they want it done. – Michael Apr 16 at 20:44
  • While I don't dispute you're right, this is more a policy explanation than a technical one. All of the interest-bearing checking I've found has crazy requirements for X number of pin code debit purchases, x number of online transactions, direct deposit, not super viable. – Billy Apr 18 at 2:24
  • Maybe I need a better question like "how is paying by check different from paying by giving your routing and account number to a company" – Billy Apr 18 at 2:25
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From a technical standpoint, it is possible to print your own checks. However, the checks you get from the bank use magnetic ink. (MICR) Most automatic check readers use magnetic readers, which means that your home-printed check will require manually typing everything in.

So, the question you need to ask yourself is if the company in question gets your check, and it fails to read, will they bother to manually enter the info, or will they just return the check to you, because it's broken for some reason and it's easier (for them) to have you sort it out.

Now, is toilet paper with the proper numbers on it a real check? Yes. So is your home-printed check. However, there is no requirement for businesses to accept either. In general, if they really want your money, they will be more willing to jump through a few hoops, which is where those types of stories come from, but a big business has better things to do with their time.

(For completeness, you can buy MICR ink or toner online. This is unlikely to be worth it for you, when the only benefit is a few weeks of savings interest.)

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  • I think you may have missed the main point of the question, which is that OP wants checks that will work with his savings (non-checking) account. Your answer doesn’t address this. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Apr 17 at 3:17
  • I feel that part of the question is adequately addressed by mhoran_psprep's answer. I don't see any particular value in duplicating their work. This specifically addressess the parts of the question that weren't answered there. – user3757614 Apr 17 at 4:36
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    ...except that small businesses everywhere go to office depot and buy "check paper" and print it on an inkjet without magnetic ink and I've never had one of those checks bounce. I doubt very much that magnetic ink is still used primarily. Optical is now so much cheaper. But this really only tangentially touches on my question, which was why can't checks work with a savings account. Forget about printing. That's immaterial. I'll order from Deluxe. If checking accounts and savings accounts are both just numbers in a database why would you be unable to pay out of savings using a check. – Billy Apr 18 at 2:29
  • @Billy A CD is also just numbers in a database. You cant write checks against a savings account because you can only write checks against a checking account and a savings account isnt a checking account. Its in the name... – Matt Apr 18 at 2:53
  • Says you. I guess you can't save your money in a checking account then because it's in the name. It's ok if you don't know. I certainly don't. I've cleaned up even the title to try to keep this on topic. But "you can't" isn't an answer. I'm asking a technical or legal question, not a policy or english language question. Once someone with sufficient insight into how the ACH and check systems in the US functions provides such an answer, I'm going to see if I can't delete or hide the conversational and "I gotta get one in there too" answers/comments like this one. – Billy Apr 18 at 4:13

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