Tracking your check payments

16Apr08

I write very few personal checks, since most of my purchases are made with a credit card or electronic debit. But at work, I’m involved in a fair number of transactions that involve sending or receiving checks. It’s no secret that checks suffer from some drawbacks, including the long delay between when you write a check and when it posts to your account. A recent discussion with a colleague got me wondering: why can’t the bank automatically notify you once a check has been deposited?

Granted, you can always look in your online banking site to see which checks have posted and when. But there are definitely cases where you would want to get this information pushed out to you in real-time. How might this work? Well, in the online banking site, you would enable the automatic check notification option. Then, you would choose if you want the notices sent via email or RSS feed, and decide which rules to use. For example, you might have a notice sent for checks over a certain amount, or checks to a certain payee. Then, you would simply watch your email or feed reader to find out when these checks were deposited by the recipient.

In fact, I think some banks already offer this service for basic things, like telling you when checks over a certain amount of money have cleared. My idea takes it one step further with the following twist: the bank would add a checkbox on each printed check, so that you can specify if you want to be notified when that check clears. This would provide the ultimate level of control, since you decide which transactions are time-sensitive enough to be tracked that way. Coupled with the reporting options in the online banking system, this would greatly improve the “send it and hope for the best” approach that seems to accompany check payments today.