Talk about a secure and fast method of payments directly from your bank account. Yes, that’s an eCheck (electronic check). So, no more risks of losing paper checks, waiting for checks to clear, or the need for stamps or envelopes. In light of these benefits, this post explains how to pay with an eCheck the correct way.
An eCheck is simply an electronic version of a paper check. Let’s walk you through the process of paying with it simple and easy. Whether you’re a seasoned internet user or just getting started with online transactions, you’ll find eChecks efficient enough to manage your payments in a few steps.
What is an eCheck
An eCheck is a simple method for conducting online transactions. It operates through the United States’ national automated clearing house (ACH network). When using an eCheck for payment, funds are deducted from the payer’s checking account and then transferred directly into the recipient’s checking account. Companies can establish an ACH merchant account to process these digital payments for their products and services.
The customer must approve an eCheck transaction for it to be valid. They do this by agreeing to the terms and conditions of a website or by signing a formal contract.
How an eCheck is Processed
E-checks are handled through the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network, an important component of the US financial system’s digital payment infrastructure. The ACH network can be envisioned as a virtual conduit for money transfer, where e-checks are a type of vehicle journeying along this path.
Unlike paper checks, e-checks are faster due to reduced logistical processes. With physical checks, the recipient’s bank must validate the check and forward it to the issuing bank for similar confirmation, a process that can be time-consuming.
Although e-check processing is faster, it relies on the same basic information. An e-check payer must provide their bank routing number, account number, email address, and approval.
Consider the following illustration of how a merchant may accept payment through an e-check:
1. The customer authorizes a transaction
A customer uses an e-check to pay for a product or service, permitting a digital fund transfer from their bank to the merchant. Authorization methods can vary – they may include a signed contract, an agreement form, or an order form, among others.
That is, the merchant receives some form of acknowledgment that the customer consents to a financial deduction. E-checks can also be used as recurring payments, occurring automatically once authorized.
2. The merchant collects the necessary payment information
After authorization, the merchant gathers all necessary data to process the payment, which includes the customer’s bank account details. For recurring payments with eChecks, the merchant will obtain all information related to the payment schedule.
3. The payment processor authenticates details
The transaction must be validated by the merchant’s payment processor. It checks for a match between the customer’s name and the account they’re paying from and verifies if the account has sufficient funds to cover the transaction. After confirming the legitimacy of the transaction, the processor can then execute the payment.
Merchants using a point-of-sale system may automatically collect the information provided by the customer through online platforms or applications and transmit it to the merchant’s e-check virtual terminal. This eliminates the need to input the same details twice.
If such integration is in place, the e-check payment processor can instantly authenticate the credentials and initiate processing immediately after the customer’s authorization.
4. The funds are credited to the merchant’s account
The funds from the e-check are transferred via the ACH network, moving from the customer’s account to the business’s account. Although all e-check transactions are facilitated by the ACH network, it’s important to remember that not all ACH transactions are e-checks – there are varying fees and processing paths based on ACH usage.
The ACH network processes transactions in batches, and therefore it is never instant. Generally, it takes 2 to 3 business days for the funds to reflect in the recipient’s account.
How to Pay with eCheck
Ready to understand how to pay with eCheck? Follow these steps:
1. Choose an eCheck service
Numerous options are available, so a bit of research will be necessary to find the best fit for you. Evaluate different companies considering your specific requirements. eChecks can be used for a variety of transactions, ranging from business dealings to rent payments.
Hence, you need a service that offers diverse payment processing solutions, enabling you to scale your business. Also, look for a service that simplifies the process for the payee. While you’ll need to create an account to send eChecks, your recipients should not have to.
The recipients should have a straightforward experience. They should not be burdened with learning the intricacies of eChecks or entering sensitive banking details. Once you’ve shortlisted your options, ensure each of them adheres to basic security protocols.
2. Prioritize security
When learning how to pay with eCheck, the security of your transactions is a necessary concern, be it shopping or transferring funds. There are simple ways to verify a website’s commitment to safeguarding your financial information before you disclose your bank details.
Start with checking the web browser. An icon of a small padlock to the left of the website address indicates a secure site. Clicking on the padlock will provide more information about the site’s security certificate.
A security certificate validates a website’s identity to the browser. However, fraudulent ones can be created, which is why browsers trust only certificates from trusted sources. If your browser alerts you about a website’s security certificate, it might not be entirely safe. The padlock symbol signifies that your browser trusts the certificate and it’s safe to proceed with sending eChecks.
Additionally, consider how the site processes banking transactions. Some may use third-party apps, some may operate via email, and some can establish a direct and secure connection with both your bank and the recipient, eliminating the need to input banking details.
Online sharing of your information always poses a risk. Direct bank connections can process transactions without storing much sensitive data on their servers, meaning they can verify your account and initiate the transaction without needing your routing numbers.
Once you’ve identified a secure site that meets your needs, you can set up an account. If the site doesn’t connect directly to your bank, you will need your banking details at hand.
3. Proceed to pay with eCheck
Once you’ve selected a payment processor, this task becomes fairly straightforward. Most platforms simplify the process so much that it merely requires entering the recipient’s name and email, inputting the check amount, and adding a brief note detailing the purpose of the payment.
The recipient will input their preferred account for receiving the funds, the transaction will be processed, and that’s it. After sending the check, a confirmation email will be sent to you, followed by another when the recipient accepts the payment.
Certain service providers offer an online checkbook feature for your eChecks. This enables you to efficiently track incoming and outgoing payments – a handy tool for freelancers and business owners. With real-time check tracking, you’ll be aware of the exact moment when funds are transferred, which aids in maintaining a clear view of your cash flow.
How Long Does It Take for eCheck Payment to Process?
How long it takes for eCheck clearance varies among providers, but generally, the funds verification process takes between 24 to 48 hours after the transaction initiation. If the payer’s checking account has sufficient funds, the transaction is usually cleared within three to five business days and the money is transferred to the payee’s account.
Given that eChecks depend on financial institutions for processing, most transactions are limited to business days. Your payment will typically clear 3 to 5 business days post-authorization. For instance, a payment made on Monday could be cleared by Thursday. If you receive a customer payment on Friday, the funds might not reflect in your business account until the following Wednesday.
What Happens if eCheck Bounces?
People using eChecks generally have an idea of when the funds will be debited from their account, usually within 3-5 business days. The funds are typically verified in your account 24 to 48 hours after payment authorization. If your account lacks sufficient funds, your eCheck will bounce just like a conventional check.
The authorization request you confirmed via an online form or phone call is your commitment to pay the specified amount.
If your eCheck bounces, reach out to the business you were making the payment to, inquire about any fees for the bounced check, any late payment penalties, and arrange an alternate payment method at the earliest.
How Can You Cancel an eCheck?
As a business owner, you may need to cancel an eCheck on behalf of your customers. The exact procedure for this depends on the payment system in use and the stage of the transaction.
If the payment has already cleared into your account, the eCheck cannot be canceled and you would need to arrange a refund.
However, if the payment is still pending, it’s best to get in touch with your payment processor for guidance.
How Much Does an eCheck Cost?
eChecks are among the most cost-effective methods for online payment processing. The cost of processing an eCheck varies by provider. Some eCheck processing companies may charge a higher fee per transaction and a lower monthly fee, or vice versa. On average, fees range from $0.30 to $1.50 per eCheck transaction.
- ACH Transfer: What is it and How Long Does it Take? Shopify
- 31 CFR § 240.3 – Electronic checks and substitute checks. Cornell Law School
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