The start of the phased roll-out of a new, image-based cheque clearing system that will speed up cheque processing significantly for customers across the UK began on 30th October 2017.
Very low volumes to begin with
Initially, the volume of cheques going through the new system will be small and the vast majority of customers will not notice any change to how quickly their cheques clear. However, over time, increasing numbers of cheques will be cleared using the new system and more and more customers will benefit from the faster timescale. Banks and building societies are working towards clearing all cheques to the faster timescale, via the Image Clearing System, by the end of the year.
Two clearing systems running in parallel
Until then, two clearing systems will operate in parallel, which means that some cheques that customers write or pay in will be cleared more quickly via the Image Clearing System, and some will clear to the existing, six weekday timescale through the current, paper-based system. Banks and building societies will be advising their customers of their individual roll-out plans as appropriate.
Cheques will clear faster
One of the main benefits of an image-based system is that the cheque clearing process will be speeded up. It means that if a customer pays in a cheque on a weekday (Monday to Friday) and it is cleared via the new system, then they will be able to withdraw the funds by 23.59 on the next weekday (excluding bank holidays) at the latest.
Nobody has to do anything differently if they don’t want to
Customers will still write cheques as they do today and give or post them to recipients in exactly the same way as they always have. Cheque recipients will still be able to pay in cheques in the normal variety of ways, such as at a bank or building society, by post or at an ATM.
Cheque imaging is also about providing more choice, and it means that some banks and building societies may offer their personal customers the additional option of paying-in an image of the cheque - by using a secure mobile banking app on their smartphone or tablet - rather than having to go to a bank to pay it in. For business and charity customers banks may provide desktop scanners linked to their online bank account, allowing them to pay in, as digital images, large numbers of cheques that they receive.
Money arrives/leaves your account sooner
Introduction of the new process means that when a cheque is cleared via the image-based system, not only will the recipient receive the money in their account more quickly; the money will leave the account of the person, business or charity that wrote the cheque to the faster timescale too, especially if the cheque recipient pays it in to their account via a smartphone, tablet or scanner.