Several readers contacted me yesterday with this piece of good news. After months of promising its customers to launch the new feature soon, Capital One 360, formerly ING Direct, now offers remote check deposit. The delay was likely caused by the efforts that resulted in Capital One purchasing ING Direct USA. Previously, in order to deposit a check into an ING Direct savings or “Electric Orange” checking account, you would have needed to mail the check to a deposit address, deposit the check in a local bank branch and transfer the money to ING Direct later, or find an ATM that allowed deposits to the online bank.
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Although paper checks are heading towards obsolescence and electronic person-to-person transactions are becoming more mainstream, some people still find paper checks convenient. For self-employed individuals and business owners, checks from clients are still a very common way of doing business.
Remote check deposit, where you do not need to visit a bank to deposit a check or send it through the mail and wait, is made possible by the “Check 21” law. With the advancement of technology, an image of a check is just as legitimate as the check itself. In the last decade, banks have been providing scanners to business customers to securely scan and email check images for deposit.
This was an expensive proposition. In recent years, the process has improved, thanks again to technology. The cameras on cell phones now have enough resolution for these purposes. Rather than sending its customers large pieces of hardware, banks offer mobile phone applications — often for both iOS and Android — that use the phone’s camera and a secure internet connection to make remote deposit as easy as snapping a photograph or two.
How ING Direct’s remote deposit “CheckMate” works
I wanted to try ING Direct’s remote deposit service, but without a check written to my personal account handy, I wrote myself a check for $10, withdrawing from my local Wells Fargo account. I downloaded the ING Direct app for my Android phone and configured my account. As expected, I needed my customer number, PIN, answers to several security questions, and recognition of my secret image, similar configuring online access on a new computer.
Once logged in, “Deposit” was an option at the top of the screen, alongside my account overview and transfers. To initiate remote deposit, the software required me to read and accept the CheckMate terms and conditions. The terms included a warning that deposits will be held by the bank for up to 5 business days. This is typical for check deposits to ING Direct, so it’s not completely unexpected. It is unfortunate, as even check deposits are often considered electronic transactions. The hold doesn’t apply to payroll checks or checks from the U.S. Treasury like federal tax refunds.
Check deposits using the ING Direct software are limited to $3,000 per check. Compared with Chase Bank’s $500 limit, this is an improvement, but could still make the service useless for some customers.
Once I agreed to the terms, the software prompted me to take a photograph of first the front of the check then the back of the check. It was difficult to focus on the back of the check, so I tried twice, changing the lighting environment to try to get a photograph that was more precise and included a legible copy of my signature.
After confirming both photographs, I entered the amount of the check and selected the account in which I wanted the $10 deposited. At the end of the process, I tapped the button to deposit the check and received this response:
All done. Your deposit will be available April 30. Hang on to your check until you get an email saying it posted. Then, void it.
ING Direct did send an email notification to say that my submission was successful, but this notification did not indicate that the funds were posted. For this, I’ll need to wait for a later email. I’ll update this article once I receive the email to indicate how long it takes to post $10. I checked my account online immediately after completing the deposit, and this appeared in my transaction history:
Notice how the total “Amount” is zero; the $10 is not available for me to use yet.
How to deposit checks without a cameraphone
The above process depends on having a mobile device with a camera and an internet connection. Not everyone has a smartphone or web-enabled, camera-equipped tablet. I didn’t see it at first, but ING Direct provides an option to remotely deposit checks without a camera. After you endorse your check for deposit, take a photograph using a digital camera of the front and back of your check. You could also use a scanner. Save the front and back as two separate JPG images. Access your account online, and click on “Image Upload” under the “Transfers & Deposits” heading. The website will take you through a process similar to the above.
Overall, whether using a mobile phone or your computer, depositing a check with ING Direct is now a simple and convenient process. If receiving checks is still a part of your life, and you’re looking for a way to exclude high-cost local banks from your personal finance system in favor of online banks like ING Direct, remote deposit is a necessity. ING Direct has made good on their promise to offer this service to their users.
February 2013 update: ING Direct is now Capital One 360. The functionality of the remote deposit hasn’t changed; the bank still uses the CheckMate application. Here is a full review of Capital One 360.
Hat tip to Daniel from Sweating the Big Stuff and many others, including the bank itself, who brought the news to my attention.