Last May we found a list of the biggest American banks and investigated each to find if it was possible to verify funds on a customer’s check over the phone. For example, you’re a landlord and you want to know if your iffy tenant, who banks somewhere different than you, wrote you a bad check. You can always go into the bank and try to cash it, but some banks charge you for that. If you deposit it right away, you run the risk of the funds showing up and then going away again.
Banking Deal: Earn 1.75% APY on an FDIC-insured money market account at CIT Bank.
After that first article was posted, there was more than a little confusion and contradiction in the comments, and I felt it was time to re-investigate. I called each bank and asked them the same question:
Hi, I just have a hypothetical question, if you don’t mind. If a customer of your bank gives me a check, and whether I’m also a customer or not, is there any way for me to find out over the phone if there are enough funds to cover that check?
Just like last time, the banks don’t all agree on the same procedure, and of the ones who won’t allow it, they always defend their practice based on federal law. I have to conclude that reason is false because other banks will do it, and don’t get in trouble for it. My conversation with Citibank was especially interesting, since the customer service representative got audibly offended that I would even suggest wanting to know such private personal details.
Many of the banks also offered the scenario in which you could bring the check writer on the phone with you, and they’d verify funds after getting permission, but I’m working on the assumption that you want to do this privately.
And finally, some banks said they were only willing to verify if the account was valid, open and active.
So, here is the updated table:
|Name of Bank||Will Verify Funds||Will Only Verify Validity|
|Bank of America (CA)||No||Yes|
|Bank of America (ID, WA)||Yes||N/A|
|Bank of America (all others)||No||No|
|PNC Bank||Yes (for a $5 fee)
Updated September 24, 2015 and originally published July 13, 2010.