While working at Bank of America, I learned a magic phrase that I hadn’t heard before: “verify funds.”
When someone writes you a check (I know, it’s 2009, but even I use them sometimes for plumbers or whatnot), you may feel uncomfortable about whether the check author has enough money to cover it. If you’ve ever deposited a “funny” check, particularly for a large amount, you know how painful it can be to have the money credited and then later taken back out. Fortunately, sometimes you can find out in advance if the check is good.
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In general, you call the bank that houses the check author’s account, provide them the check information and they’ll tell you either yes or no. Of course, even if they say yes, that information is only foolproof for about the next 3 seconds, since any number of things could happen before you deposit or cash the check, but it’s better than not knowing.
Ironically, it’s more useful when they tell you, “No, funds aren’t currently available to cover that check,” because now you have options.
- You can keep trying every day until funds are available
- You can contact the check author and work out a different method of payment
- You can decide never to do business with that person again
I did a little research for us all and called the top 6 national banks (some of them several times) and asked whether they would verify funds for a third party (the recipient of the check). Here are the results:
|Name of Bank||Over the phone?||In person?|
|Bank of America||No||Yes|
|PNC Bank||Yes (for a $5 fee)
|No (but every other bank said Yes, so…)|
If you’ve had an experience lately that doesn’t match the table, please leave a comment and I can revisit my findings.
Updated September 7, 2016 and originally published May 12, 2009.