1. Banking: Introduction
  2. Banking: Why Use A Bank?
  3. Banking: How To Choose A Bank
  4. Banking: Check-Writing 101
  5. Banking: Making Deposits
  6. Banking: Debit Cards and ATMs
  7. Banking: Managing Your Checking Account
  8. Banking: Savings Accounts 101
  9. Banking: Basic Banking Precautions and Safeguards
  10. Banking: Online and Mobile Banking Precautions and Safeguards
  11. Banking: Conclusion

By Amy Fontinelle

Making deposits is a key part of having a checking account. If you don't make deposits, your checking account will eventually run out of money and you won't be able to use it anymore. Here, we'll explain how to get more money into your checking account so things keep running smoothly.

How to Make a Deposit
When you receive a check that you want to deposit, flip it over. There are usually a few lines on one end of the check that say "Endorse Here." Endorsing a check basically just means signing your name on the back. You need to sign the endorsement line in order to claim your money - the bank will reject any check you try to deposit that isn't endorsed. Some people also write their account number under their signature, but this isn't usually required.

Then, if you're depositing the check at an ATM, you'll either put the check in an envelope or, at some banks, put the check itself into the ATM. If you're making a deposit through a bank teller or through the mail, you'll also have to fill out a deposit slip. On the deposit slip, you list the amounts of each of the checks you're submitting and the total amount of the deposit. If you're concerned about making a deposit correctly, you may want to do it with the assistance of a bank teller the first couple times, but after that you'll probably find it more convenient to make your deposit at an ATM or by mail.

You can also add money to your account by having your employer directly deposit your paycheck to your account, electronically transferring funds from an account you have at another financial institution, or depositing cash. It is possible to deposit cash at an ATM, but many people are not comfortable doing this because there is no way to prove the amount of the deposit or reclaim the money if there is a bank error. You should never send cash for deposit through the mail because of the possibility of theft.

Funds Availability
When you make a deposit, the new money may not be available immediately. The length of time you'll have to wait to access those funds varies because banks place holds on customers' deposits to protect themselves from fraud. According to the U.S. Treasury's Comptroller of the Currency, a bank can make the deposit available immediately or delay availability up to the maximum prescribed by law. The account agreement you receive when you open a checking account will explain your bank's rules on deposit holds, but here are some general guidelines.

  • When you are a new customer who has had an account with the bank for 30 or fewer calendar days, the bank is allowed to hold your deposits longer under the Expedited Funds Availability Act.
  • Larger deposits, especially those over $5,000, usually take longer to credit to your account than smaller deposits.
  • Cash deposits made through a teller (rather than through an ATM) are usually available shortly after deposit.
When you look up your bank account balance at the ATM or online after making a deposit, you may see a difference between your account balance and your available balance. This lets you know that a deposit you've made hasn't cleared yet. It's extremely important to be aware of how your bank's deposit hold policy works so that you don't get penalized for trying to make a payment with money you don't yet have. Keep in mind that your bank's hold policy will always apply to business days, not calendar days.

The U.S. Treasury's Comptroller of the Currency has more details on the rules regarding the availability of deposits on its website, Answers About Funds Availability.

Direct Deposits and ACH Transfers
There are two other common ways to move money into and out of your checking account.

The first is an automated clearing house transfer, more commonly known as an ACH transfer. This type of transaction can be used for both withdrawals and deposits and is a way of sending money electronically. It often takes several days for the transaction to complete, but there are generally no fees involved.

To conduct an ACH transfer, you'll need to give your name, routing number and account number as they appear on your checks to the institution you want to send money to. For example, if you have a credit card account that you want to pay online, you can set up ACH transfers with your credit card company. Then, once they've verified your information, instead of having to mail a check to pay your credit card, you can do it with a few mouse clicks.

ACH transfers can also be used to transfer money between financial institutions. For example, if you have a checking account with a particular bank and a brokerage account with a particular investment company, you can use ACH transfer to send money from your checking account to your investment account (or vice versa).

The second is a direct deposit, which is just a fancy name for a specific kind of ACH transfer. This is usually an agreement among an employer, an employee, and their banks to have the funds that constitute the employee's paycheck transferred directly into his or her checking account instead of handing the employee a physical check. This arrangement can make life easier for both you and your employer, and if you get paid by direct deposit, the funds should be available to you on payday.

The only drawback of direct deposit is that you'll have to give your checking account number to your employer, and if you'd prefer not to give that information out, you'll be better off receiving a paper check. It's worth noting, though, that some banks will waive monthly fees or offer incentives if you have your paycheck deposited directly.

In the next section, we'll learn how you can use ATMs and debit cards to access the funds in your checking account.

Banking: Debit Cards and ATMs
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