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Check 21

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What is Check 21?

In October 2003, the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (referred to as Check 21) became law. The intent of Check 21 is to dramatically improve the overall efficiency of the country’s payment system.

As it works now, paper checks must be physically transported between financial institutions before they can be cleared. This procedure is expensive, time-consuming and subject to weather, mechanical breakdowns and even traffic jams.

Check 21 makes it legal for financial institutions to accept a digital image of your original check. When and if it is converted back to paper, it is called a substitute check.

What is a substitute check?

A substitute check is the legal equivalent of your original check and will include all the information contained on your original. Effective October 28, 2004 , all financial institutions were required to accept these substitute checks.

What does a substitute check look like?

A substitute check is a paper copy of the digital image of your original check and is about the size of a business check. To protect you, the law requires that the financial institution that created it must warrant that it is accurate, and that it is produced utilizing industry standards.

Scan of Check
Back of scanned check

What does this mean for you?

  • It will take less time for checks to clear.
  • When you deposit a check, you’ll see the funds faster.
  • When you write a check, it will clear faster.
  • If you receive originals or electronic images of your cancelled checks, you may see a copy of a substitute check.