Is it safe to deposit checks through an ATM?

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ATM Fees

Not all ATMs are created equal when it comes to fees associated with depositing cash or checks. When you use your own bank’s ATM, there’s usually no fee. But when you use a non-network machine, you might be charged a fee. You might also be charged a fee when you use an ATM operated by another bank. In these cases, both the bank and the ATM operator could charge separate fees.

Using an ATM to deposit cash or checks into your account can save time and is also more convenient than visiting a physical branch. Many ATMs are available 24/7.  Just make sure you know the rules of your bank when it comes to using an ATM.

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How do I know when my money will be available?

Your deposit receipt generally provides the detail of when the funds will be available to you, including funds that are immediately available, available the next business day, or funds subject to a deposit hold. You can also use our convenient online, and mobile tools to track your deposits and determine your available balance at any time.

Wells Fargo will let you know as quickly as possible whether there will be a hold on a deposited check. If possible, the teller will notify you immediately at the time of deposit and your receipt will show how much of the deposit is being held and when the funds will be available to you. If the deposit is made through a Wells Fargo ATM or with our Wells Fargo Mobile Deposit, you will be informed during the deposit process if a hold will be placed or further review of the deposit is required. The ATM or mobile deposit receipt will display the amount held and when the funds will be available to you. If a hold is based upon information we learn after the deposit, Wells Fargo will notify you by mail, email or through the “Messages & Alerts” feature of Wells Fargo Online®.

Wells Fargo provides its funds availability schedule to all customers when they open an account. Also, you can request a copy of the schedule at any time in our banking locations.

Cashing a Check at an ATM

Some ATMs offer the option to cash a check, but the process may be slightly more complex than going to the bank to cash your check. If your bank offers this service, take your check to the ATM, insert your card, make sure you have endorsed the check and follow the instructions on the screen.

You may need to have the value of the check in your account already to make a withdrawal instantly or use your money for a transaction. 

Further Reading

Tips for Depositing Through an ATM

So you’re making a deposit at the ATM. To minimize your risk of a potential problem with the transaction, follow these tips:

  • When using the envelope method, record the transaction in your checkbook. If you are using an advanced ATM equipped with scanning features, take advantage of the opportunity to examine and verify the scanned amounts. As with all important transactions, keep the receipt of your ATM deposit. If you use an advanced ATM, print out the images of the checks on the receipt as well.
  • No matter what kind of ATM you use, financial planners always advise that you examine your bank statement, or better yet, frequently check your online statement. Examine the statement to verify all the transactions for accuracy. As soon as you spot a mistake, contact your bank. The receipt will be the documentation you need to back up your claim if you ever find a mistake on a statement. And if you provide a receipt to the bank to prove your claims, photocopy the receipt for your own records.

Of course, there are alternatives that we haven’t yet discussed. Probably the most important of these is you should talk to your employer about the possibility of direct deposit. This will ensure that your regular paycheck automatically gets deposited into your bank account. You’ll receive the paycheck stub for your records and you’ll save yourself the hassle of having to visit the bank or the ATM to make a deposit.

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And, as convenient as ATMs are, an even easier technology might soon become prevalent. The bank USAA now allows customers to deposit checks via iPhone. With their application, it’s as easy as taking a picture of both sides of the check and sending it to the bank [source: Stellin].

But, of course, this service is only available to qualifying USAA bank customers who have ready access to an iPhone. Until such services become more common, you’ll have to ask yourself whether the convenience of ATM deposits is worth the risk.

ATM Safety Tips

Whenever you use the ATM, you should follow these general safety tips:

  • Have everything ready when you approach an ATM — don’t spend too much time fishing through your wallet or purse and exposing cash.
  • Shield your pin from onlookers.
  • Look for ATMs in well-lit areas.
  • At a drive-through ATM, keep your doors locked and your engine running.
  • If you see someone lurking around and acting suspicious, leave and find another ATM.
  • To avoid ATM skimming (where a planted device reads and stores your card information), inspect the machine closely for anything suspicious.

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Can You Deposit Cash at Any ATM?

If you go on vacation and your bank is not available in the area, you still might be able to deposit your cash at any ATM. That’s especially true if you use a bank that operates all over the country. If your bank doesn’t have a relationship with the owners of the ATM you would like to use, however, you might not be able to make a deposit. Even if you can deposit money in another bank’s ATM, you could face both fees and longer wait times for the deposit to post to your account.

Earn Perks With A New Checking Account

One tip is to look for banks with a shared deposit program in which both the bank and ATM owner participate. For example, NYCE of Secaucus, New Jersey, allows shared deposits in certain cases. ATM companies such as MoneyPass address this need by offering surcharge-free ATMs — including deposit services — at more than 32,000 locations nationwide.

What If the Check Deposit Bounces?

One thing to be aware of is what can happen if a check you deposit ends up being returned for insufficient funds.

In that situation, the bank would debit the amount of the deposit from your account and also charge you a Returned Item fee, even though you’re not the one who wrote it.

At the top U.S. banks, this fee ranges from $10 to $40, depending on the type of item that was returned.

On top of the Returned Item fee, you may also be looking at overdraft charges if you spend the money before the bank determines that the check is no good.

Overdraft fees range from $34 to $36 at big banks, which can really add up if you have multiple transactions that go through prior to having the check taken back out of your account.

Tip: If you’re unsure on whether a check will clear, you can always cash it at the bank at which it was issued.

There’s usually a small fee for doing so (if you’re not a customer of that bank) but it’s less than what you’d have to pay if the check was returned.

Check deposits at an ATM

Depending on your bank or credit union, and the type of ATM, you may be able to deposit your check at an ATM. Just like when you visit a branch, you’ll need to start at an ATM by endorsing the back of the check.

Then you can use your bank-issued debit card to access your account info, follow the prompts for a check deposit, and submit your check directly into the designated slot.

Unlike visiting a bank branch, you can deposit a check into any ATM at any time, as long as the ATM accepts checks. Just like when visiting your branch though, you may still have to wait around two business days before having access to all the funds depending on the amount of the check. In fact, it may take even longer if you deposit the check at an ATM your bank or credit union doesn’t own.

For that reason, it can be beneficial to visit an ATM owned by your bank. Staying in your bank’s network can also be a better choice because it may save you money on ATM fees.

Online

Like mobile check deposits, online deposits can be made at any time without having to go to a branch. But unlike mobile deposits that only require a smartphone camera lens to capture the check’s image, online check deposits require a scanner.

The steps to deposit a check online are:

  • Log in to the bank or credit union’s website and find the online deposit tab. A high speed internet connection works best.
  • Endorse the check: Sign the check before scanning it. Your bank or credit union may also require you to write “For Online Deposit Only,” “For Mobile Deposit Only” or something similar.
  • Scan both sides of the check: Unlike mobile check deposit, you can’t take a picture of the check with a phone for online deposit; it must be scanned. But, if you have an iPhone, it’s possible to scan the check using your the Notes app.
  • Choose the deposit account and upload the scanned check images.
  • Enter the check amount and submit.

Accessing your money

Now for the all-important question: When will your ATM deposit be available in your checking account? Some cash deposits might be available right away.1 As for checks, not all banks follow the same schedule, but you can usually withdraw or use the full amount in two business days—sometimes sooner.2

Keep in mind that your bank or credit union has a cut-off time for what it considers the “end of the business day,” which can be as early as noon at ATMs.2 That means, if you make a deposit after those cut-off times, the bank will treat the deposit as if it were made on the next business day.

Making a deposit at an ATM owned by someone other than your bank may also delay your access. So, be sure to give yourself enough time so that your money is there when you need it.

Types of Checks You Can Deposit at an ATM

In this section, we’ll discuss the possibility of depositing three common check types.

Can You Deposit a Personal Check at an ATM?

Most customers are looking to deposit personal checks when they want to pay money into their accounts. Banks usually provide this service through a network of local ATMs and branch offices. 

Can You Deposit a Third-Party Check at an ATM?

If you have a third-party check, the process is more complex, as you’ll need to ensure that the third party has endorsed the check. If the third party has signed the check and agreed to “pay to the order of your name,” you should be able to deposit a check at the bank, but you may not be able to use an ATM. An ATM may accept the check, but the bank might want more information before clearing the funds to prevent fraud. 

Can You Deposit a Cashier’s Check at an ATM?

Cashier’s checks are drawn from the bank’s own account. If you have a cashier’s check, you can deposit it at an ATM, provided that you have your debit card with you. 

At an ATM

An alternative to going to the bank if you can’t make it during business hours is to deposit a check at an ATM. Not all ATMs allow customers to deposit checks, so check with the bank to see if its ATMs provide this service. To deposit a check at an ATM:

  • Gather the needed items: Have your debit card and the signed check prepared beforehand.
  • Insert your debit card and enter the PIN.
  • Select the deposit account: In most cases, the funds will be deposited into a checking or savings account for safekeeping until the money is needed.
  • Enter the deposit amount: Unless it’s an ATM that automatically scans checks, type the exact dollar amount of the check.
  • Insert the check into the ATM’s slot.
  • Confirm the dollar amount: You’ll see a dollar amount on the screen and be asked to verify the number. Depending on the ATM, there may be a few more questions to answer before the deposit is confirmed.
  • Take the receipt and your debit card.

Warnings

  • Don’t forget to take your card with you when finished.

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  • Be careful. It is best to keep your PIN and other financial details hidden outside ATMs. ATM locations are sometimes prone to scamming and robberies.

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