How to Accept Checks Online and In-Person

As a small business, it’s important to make things as convenient as you can for your customers. That means giving them as many different ways to pay as possible. The last thing you want is to lose a sale because you don’t accept a specific type of payment. These days, there are lots of different payment types, from credit and debit cards to digital wallets, and you need to accommodate as many as you can. However, it’s still important to accept more old-fashioned types of payments, such as cash and checks.

Many businesses and customers still use paper checks to make payments, and more and more are using electronic payment methods. As money is becoming increasingly digitalized, electronic checks, or e-checks, have started to emerge. Both traditional and e-check payments come with a range of pros and cons, but both are still viable and acceptable ways to pay.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about accepting checks for payments, including how to provide check payment options in-person, over the phone, and online – while also explaining how you can maximize payment security when using these methods of payment.

Benefits of accepting checks

There are several potential key benefits of accepting check payments. These include:

  • Lower processing fees, usually less than credit or debit cards, as merchants are usually charged a percentage of each sale when using a card.
  • A wider customer reach, as offering more payment options makes things more convenient for customers.
  • Increased B2B sales, as certain kinds of business customers still like to pay with checks.

Setting up a checking account

A business checking account is typically used for everyday business operations such as transactions and purchases. It allows you to withdraw money as well as writing checks, paying bills, and making payments with a debit card. Checks can be a very convenient way to pay for small businesses, so giving yourself this option can make life easier.

Opening a checking account is much like opening any other bank account. There are a few documents that you will need to provide, whether you’re opening your account online or in person.

The documents that may be required include:

  • Identification – such as a government-issued photo ID or driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate, social security card, or taxpayer ID card.
  • Proof of address – such as business lease documents, utility bills, etc.
  • Opening deposit – many banks require an initial deposit to open an account.
  • Application – an application for approval.

It’s always worth checking with the bank to see exactly what is required, as it can vary.

Providing customers with check payment options

In order to increase payment options and convenience for customers, there are various ways that businesses may accept check payments.

  • In person – customers can hand write or bring pre-printed checks from the bank to the exact amount of goods and services, which businesses will then deposit in their own account.
  • By mail – customers can simply mail a check for the correct amount to the business, which then deposits them in the same way.
  • By phone – specific software allows merchants to accept checks by phone, by either printing the paper check or providing access to the Automated Clearing House of the Federal Reserve Board, known as the ACH.

How to accept e-checks online

An e-check is an electronic check that works in the same way as an old-fashioned paper check, only the money is transferred between accounts electronically using the ACH (e-check payments are sometimes referred to as ACH payments). Payments are then made instantly.

When you accept payments by e-check, you will first need to sign up with an ACH provider. The process then works in the following way:


The customer authorizes an amount to be withdrawn from their account either via digital signature or recorded phone call.


The customer provides all the relevant details including checking account numbers, routing details, billing amounts, and billing schedule.


These funds are then transferred electronically using the ACH network from the customer’s account to the vendor or business account.


The money is then withdrawn from the payer’s account and deposited into the payee’s account.

You can accept e-check payments on your website, with customers entering routing and bank account numbers as well as other relevant information. This is then processed online, with security features including digital signatures and encryption keeping things safe. E-checks can often be verified at the point of sale, providing added security for merchants.

How to accept checks in-person

If you decide to accept checks in-person, then it is a straightforward process that requires some simple security procedures.

Check the amount

Ensure that the check has been written out for the correct amount and that the numerical amount and written amount correspond exactly. Do not accept checks for more than the invoiced amount.

Verify details

The check must include some specific personal details and banking information, including the complete name of the payer, date, bank ID numbers, payee name, amount, and signature. You may need to verify some of this information.

Make the deposit

Once you have received the check and verified it, you should then deposit it as quickly as possible. The sooner you deposit the check, the sooner the money will be in your account. Some banks don’t let you deposit checks after a certain time period has elapsed.

How to accept checks by phone

There are two different methods for accepting checks by phone, depending on your processing system. The most common is to enter the check information, such as routing number and personal details, via a computer. The other option is to enter the data and then print out the physical check.

You will need to have a merchant account in order to process checks over the phone, and you may be required to pay a fee for using this service.

The process works in the following way:

  • The client calls with the relevant details.
  • You open your merchant check system and enter the details accordingly.
  • The payment will then be processed in the usual way, and you should have your money in a few days.

A virtual terminal allows you to accept several types of payments over the phone.

Ensuring payment security

Accepting a bad check means that you don’t get paid for your goods or services. Worse still, your bank may charge you a non-sufficient funds fee (NSF). To protect yourself against this loss of income, as well as the time and effort dealing with the fallout, you could follow a number of key security procedures.

Make sure all the parts of a check are there

The general information on any check is standard, and if it doesn’t have this information, it might be a fake. Always look to make sure the following information is included:

  • Payer name and address
  • Payee name
  • The amount being paid
  • Bank information
  • Note about the purpose of the payment
  • The bank routing number
  • Check number
  • Date
  • The amount being paid, in numbers
  • Payer’s account number
  • Payer’s signature

Key security features

Look out for these security features on the check:

  • Heavier stock paper
  • Perforated edges
  • No smudges
  • Watermarks
  • Special fonts for the routing, account, and check numbers at the bottom
  • The words ORIGINAL DOCUMENT on the back

Ask for ID

To make sure a check is legitimate, verify the customer information by asking for ID.

Get contact information

It’s always a good idea to get contact information in case you’re unable to cash their check later on.

Limit checks to local banks

Try to only accept checks from banks with local branches, or banks you are familiar with. If you don’t recognize the bank, you should investigate this.

Use a verification service

Use a verification service to avoid accepting fakes or checks from payees with insufficient funds.

Dealing with bounced checks

Checks can bounce, or be refused by the bank, for several reasons. These include insufficient funds in the account of the payee, a frozen account, or a fake check. It’s important to remember that not all checks bounce for malicious reasons, but it can still be very frustrating. By carrying out the safety and security checks above you can limit the chances of a fake or fraudulent check, but remember that not all bad checks are avoidable.

If it does happen, then you should:

  • Request the bank tries again.
  • Contact the customer and tell them what has happened, asking for another payment method.
  • Take legal action or use a collection agency.

This guide to bank reversals may also be of assistance.

The key to success for a small business can rest on very fine margins, so you need to give yourself every possible advantage to make marginal gains. Giving your customers a choice of convenient ways to pay definitely falls under this umbrella.

Check payments are still a useful and cost-effective way to pay, for both individual and B2B clients, and with the development of e-checks, this method of payment looks set to continue. Setting yourself up to accept check payments is straightforward and, with just a few security processes in place, you can protect your business against bad or fraudulent checks and ensure you are well placed to process all payments securely.

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