How Do Banks Verify Mobile Deposits?

By Robert Courtneidge 15 Min Read

How do banks verify mobile deposits? When you deposit a check through a smartphone, the images of the check replace the physical check itself. This is the same whether you deposit a check through an ATM or in person with a teller. The checks are scanned and imaged, and then destroyed or “truncated.” Under the Check 21 law, the image is considered a legal financial instrument for remittance.

The only real difference with smartphone-deposited checks is that the checks are scanned by the depositor’s smartphone, not the bank accepting the check. Checks are sorted, bundled, and batched into files with tens of thousands of other checks. These files full of check images and data are then presented to other banks directly or indirectly or a Federal Reserve bank, which does the same thing, ingesting the files, sorting the checks, and passing them along.

Now, each time, the data for the check gets updated to track where it has been. The check image is routed through, eventually, to the paying bank. This process is separate from ACH and involves a complex system of sorting and bundling that ensures the authenticity and validity of the check. It’s a fascinating blend of technology and traditional banking practices that makes mobile deposits a secure and convenient option for modern banking.

How Do Banks Verify Mobile Deposits?

How Do Banks Verify Mobile Deposits

Mobile deposits allow you to deposit checks without visiting a bank branch. But how do banks verify these deposits? Let’s break it down:

1. Image Replacement

  • When you deposit a check through an ATM, in person, or via a smartphone, the checks are scanned and imaged.
  • These images replace the physical checks, and the original checks are destroyed or ‘Truncated’.
  • Under the Check 21 law, the image is considered a legal financial instrument for remittance.

2. Smartphone Depositing

  • The only real difference with smartphone deposited checks is that the checks are scanned by the depositor’s smartphone, not the bank.
  • This process is the same whether you deposit a check through an ATM or in person with a teller.

3. Check Processing

  • Checks are not sent via ACH (Automated Clearing House); instead, they are sorted, bundled, and batched into files with tens of thousands of other checks.
  • These files full of check images and data are then presented to other banks directly or indirectly or a Federal Reserve bank.
  • The data for the check gets updated to track where it has been, and the check image is routed through, eventually, to the paying bank.

4. Responsibility and Verification

  • It’s not necessary for banks to verify deposited checks themselves.
  • It is the endorser’s responsibility to verify checks, and any problems with the check are charged against the depositor.

How Long Does it Take to Verify a Mobile Deposit?

Having explained how banks verify mobile deposits, let’s explore how long the verification process can take.

Mobile check deposits are not instant. You may have to wait at least one business day for the mobile deposit to process. Some banks may also have a cutoff time for deposits, and if you deposit a check after that time, you may have to wait another business day for it to process.

For Capital One customers, funds are typically accessible the next business day. However, if you deposit a check using your mobile app after 9 p.m. ET, your check may take additional time to process.

Is Mobile Check Deposit Safe?

Yes, mobile check deposit is considered safe. Banks typically use advanced security features to protect your account, including encryption and device recognition technology.

Your check deposit information and photos won’t be stored on your smartphone, and using mobile check deposit can even make some types of check fraud more difficult. But although safe, mobile checks can have its dangers.

How to Deposit Mobile Check

1. Check Deposit Limits

Sometimes, there might be a limit on how much you can deposit. Your bank app will tell you if there’s a limit. If your check is too big, the app can help you find an ATM or branch.

2. Sign the Check

Sign the back of the check you want to deposit. If you’re a Capital One customer, write “For [name of bank] mobile deposit” under your signature. Then, take pictures of the check with the app.

3. Use the Mobile Deposit Feature

Open your bank’s mobile app, choose the account, and click the Deposit option. Enter the amount and any other information.

4. Take Pictures of the Check

Put the check on a flat, dark surface and take a picture of both sides. Make sure the whole check fits in the picture to avoid problems.

5. Confirm and Send the Deposit

Look over the details and make sure everything is right. Then, swipe the “Slide to Deposit” button to send it.

6. Keep the Check for a While

Even after you deposit it, keep the check in a safe place for a few days. Once you see the money in your account, you can get rid of the check.

Tips when making a mobile check deposit:

  1. Know What Checks You Can Deposit. Find out if there are any checks you can’t deposit with your mobile app. Also, ask if there’s a cost to use the mobile check deposit feature.
  2. Watch Out for Fees. Mobile check deposit is usually free, but sometimes there might be fees. For example, if you want to deposit a check quickly, you might have to pay extra.
  3. Avoid Mistakes. Make sure your signature is easy to read and the pictures of the check are clear. Check that the amount you enter matches the amount on the check. Mistakes like these can cause your deposit to be rejected.
  4. Don’t Throw Away the Check Right Away. Keep the paper check until the deposit is in your account. If something goes wrong, you might need the paper check. Once the deposit is clear, you can either destroy the check or mark it as void and keep it.

Why Would a Check Be Rejected for Mobile Deposit?

Why Would a Check Be Rejected for Mobile Deposit

Since banks verify mobile deposits, they can approve or deny your application. Below are possible reasons and fixes.

  1. Weak Internet Connection

    • Problem: If your internet is slow, the deposit might fail.
    • Solution: Try a stronger Wi-Fi connection.
  2. Bad Images of the Check

    • Problem: Pictures that are too dark, too light, or cut-off parts of the check can cause issues.
    • Solution: Take clear photos in good lighting, and make sure the whole check is in the frame.
  3. Unclear or Missing Information

    • Problem: If the check’s details are unclear or missing, it might be rejected.
    • Solution: Make sure all parts of the check are filled out correctly.
  4. Glitches in the Banking App

    • Problem: Sometimes, the app itself might have issues.
    • Solution: If you think everything is correct but still face rejection, contact your bank.
  5. Check Not Properly Endorsed

    • Problem: If you don’t sign the back of the check or follow specific instructions, it may be rejected.
    • Solution: Sign the back and follow any special instructions, like writing “For mobile deposit only at [Bank Name].”
  6. Deposit Limit on the Account

    • Problem: If the check amount is higher than your account’s limit, it may be rejected.
    • Solution: Check your account’s limitations or call your bank to increase the limit.
  7. Duplicate Deposit or Damaged Check

    • Problem: Depositing the same check twice or if the check is torn or folded.
    • Solution: Avoid duplicate deposits and keep the check neat and intact.

Also, before you make the check deposit, make sure such a check is acceptable to your bank. For example, some banks like Wells Fargo will not accept international checks.

If you get an error message, double-check everything: the endorsement, your signature, the deposit amount, and account details. Try new pictures. If it still doesn’t work, contact your bank for help.

Mobile Deposit Pros and Cons

Let’s point out the cons and pros.

Mobile Check Deposit Pros

  • Convenience. You can deposit checks right from your phone. It’s quicker than going to the bank, especially if you use an online-only bank.
  • Ease of Use. If you know how to take a picture with your phone and download an app, you can use mobile check deposit. It’s designed to be user-friendly.
  • Security. Depositing a check with your phone can be as safe as taking it to the bank.

Mobile Check Deposit Cons

Technical Problems

Sometimes, glitches might stop you from using the app.

Deposit Limits

If the check is too big, you might not be able to deposit it with the app.

Banks Might Take Back a Deposit

Even if you get a confirmation, the bank might take back a mobile deposit. If the check bounces because there’s not enough money in the account of the person who wrote it, the deposit could be reversed. You might even be charged a fee.

You Must Sign the Check

To deposit a check with your mobile app, you need to sign it and write “for mobile deposit only” on the back. If you don’t, the deposit might be rejected. Then you’d have to deposit the check again, and it might take longer to get the money.

Keep the Paper Check

Don’t throw away the check after you deposit it with your mobile app. If something goes wrong, like a mistake with the endorsement or a problem with the app, you might need to try to deposit it again or take it to the bank.

Even if everything seems fine, it’s good to keep the check for a little while, just in case something comes up later.

Mobile Check Deposit Scams

People might try to trick you with fake checks. To stay safe, only take paper checks from people you trust. If you’re worried about safety when using mobile banking, you can:

  • Stay away from public Wi-Fi when checking your bank.
  • Use a special internet connection (VPN) when you’re not at home.
  • Have different passwords and change them often.
  • Use a tool to keep your passwords safe.
  • Use extra steps to log in, like a code sent to your phone.
  • Lock your phone with a special code or face or fingerprint scan.

These things can help keep your banking safe when you’re checking your money or doing other things online.

Banks That Let You Deposit Checks with Your Phone

Lots of banks let you deposit checks with your phone. To find out if your bank does, look in your banking app or call them. Here are some banks that let you do this:

  • Discover Bank
  • PNC Bank
  • Chase Bank
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo
  • Citi®
  • Capital One
  • Bank of America
  • Ally Bank
  • Truist Bank

Different banks might let you deposit different amounts or types of checks, so it can be different depending on where you bank.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do with a check after mobile deposit?

After you deposit a check with your mobile app, don’t throw it away. Keep it for at least five days until the deposit clears your account. Then, you can destroy it.

What to write on the back of a check for mobile deposit?

When you deposit a check with your mobile app, sign your name on the back. Below your signature, write something like “for mobile deposit only.” Your bank or credit union will tell you exactly what to write. If you don’t write this, your deposit might be rejected.

Can a mobile check deposit be denied?

Yes, a mobile check deposit can be denied. It could be due to the type of check (foreign checks, third-party checks, money orders, or traveler’s checks—some banks don’t accept them. Another reason is that your check photo is blurry.

Can fake checks be mobile deposited?

Yes, but it will be denied during processing. That’s because it’s fake.

What checks say for mobile deposit only?

All checks deposited via a mobile service must include “For Mobile Deposit Only”. This should be handwritten below your signature in the endorsement area on the back of the check or the deposit may be rejected.

Read also: Online Retailers that Accept eChecks

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Independant Industry Expert in Payments and the Digital Future of Money, Co-Editor of The PAYTECH Book, top Payments Lawyer and voted No. 1 in Payments Power 10 at #PayExpo What do I do? I solve the problem of moving payments firms into the new era of money. Traditional financial services businesses risk getting left behind as Generation Z leapfrogs the banks, opting instead for big techs, challengers, and social commerce propositions. Ignoring blockchain technology and the widening knowledge gap between the financial services and digital sectors puts businesses at risk of falling behind their competitors, compromising their competitive edge, and ultimately becoming redundant.
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