Eliminating the Scourge of Paper Checks

By Miranda Marquit, special to MainStreet.

Online banking has made it possible for you to take care of most of your needs any time of the day, whether transferring money between accounts or paying bills.

You can do this from anywhere with Internet access. Direct deposit further simplifies the process by eliminating paper paychecks. But even with PayPal and automatic deposit, sometimes you still end up with a paper check. And that means a trip to the bank. Unless your bank offers remote deposit.

Right now, the 150 largest banks offer this service, which allows you to fax or email checks to your bank for deposit. Among those who do are Key Bank ( KEY), Wells Fargo ( WFC) , JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Citigroup ( C) and Bank of America ( BAC). Many regional banks provide remote deposit services as well. According to the Community Bankers of America, 50% of banks offer remote deposit, and 70% plan to have it by next year. However, this service is currently most popular with business clients and they charge monthly fees (anywhere between $30 and $125), and require the purchase of a special check scanner.

Most banks will take personal checks from consumers within this system, but few bank customers have enough checks to deposit every month to justify the monthly fees. One bank, however, offers free individual remote deposit. USAA is a bank for military service personnel and their families, and allows its customers to log on and use their own equipment to participate in direct deposit fee-free through the Direct@Home program. The real question is whether more banks will follow suit, allowing customers the convenience of depositing their checks online.

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