What Is an Availability Float?

Availability float refers to the time period between when a deposit is made and when funds become available in an account, specifically relating to check deposits. Availability float exists because banks have to process physical checks before releasing funds. This means a depositor has to wait before funds appear in her bank account.

The difference between availability float and payment float is referred to as the net float.

Key Takeaways

  • Availability float refers to the time period between fund deposits and clearing.
  • Availability floats are caused due to several reasons, including weekends or delays in depositing or processing of a check.
  • The rise of electronic transactions and money has shortened availability float time periods.

Understanding Availability Float

Availability float for a check depends on several factors. Some of them are delays in depositing a check, delays in manual processing of the check by bank officials, weekends and holidays, etc. Over time, the availability float for checks has been decreasing. In 2004, the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act expedited check clearing times through electronic transactions and resulted in decreased availability float times. Substitute checks, which were scanned reproductions of actual, physical checks began to be allowed for clearing.

Availability Float and Bank Deposits

The availability float is a key aspect of any deposit. A deposit is defined as any transaction involving a transfer of funds to another party for safekeeping; however, traditionally, it involves placing money into an account at a bank. Both individuals and entities, such as corporations, may make deposits. Deposited funds may be withdrawn at any time, transferred to another account, and/or used to purchase goods. Often, a bank requires a minimum deposit to open a new account. This covers the costs associated with opening and maintaining said account.

Availability Float and Electronic Payments

Companies can reduce an availability float by moving to an electronic payment system, as this reduces the reliance on a bank's processing speed for physical checks.

An example of electronic money is a direct deposit. Many use direct deposits for income tax, refunds, and paychecks. It is a form of placing electronic funds directly into a bank account rather than through a physical paper check. Direct deposits may eliminate the risk of losing a physical check, the need to visit a bank's physical branch location, and can also lessen the risk of losing the check en-route (as well as theft).

Direct deposit and other forms of electronic banking (e-banking) may be more efficient but may also increase the risk of online security hacks. Types of cybersecurity attacks on sensitive financial information include backdoor attacks (in which thieves exploit alternate methods of accessing a database that don't require traditional authentication) and direct-access attacks (including bugs and viruses that gain access to a system and copy its information), among others.

Example of Availability Float

For example, a printing company has $50,000 deposited in a bank and is owed $10,000 by one of its clients. The printing company cashes the $10,000 check and adjusts its ledgers to indicate that it has $60,000. Until the deposit is complete, however, the printing company's bank account will still show it has $50,000 available. The $10,000 is the availability float.