Cheque imaging is the process that enables images of cheques to be exchanged between banks and building societies, through the Image Clearing System, for clearing and payment. This significantly speeds up the clearing process. It has replaced the paper clearing process and the 2-4-6 cheque clearing timescales.

You will still write paper cheques as you do now, but if you receive cheques you may be offered new ways of paying them into your bank or building society account. You will still be able to pay cheques in at a branch counter just as you do now. An image of the cheque will be created by the bank or building society when the cheque is paid in and it will be this image that will be exchanged electronically through the new system between the relevant banks and building societies.

In addition, if your bank or building society offers this service, you will be able to pay in an image of a cheque – using a cheque deposit option in your mobile banking app – rather than going to a branch to pay it in.

If you are a corporate or charity customer you may be offered a scanning facility by your bank so that you can scan large numbers of cheques yourself to create images, which you will then be able to upload to your online bank for processing.

Typically, if a customer pays in a cheque on a weekday (before their bank or building society’s advertised cut-off time) they will be able to withdraw the funds by 23.59 on the next weekday (bank holidays excluded and provided the cheque doesn’t bounce). However, 23:59 will be the latest timescale that banks and building societies will be working to and some may allow their customers to access their funds earlier than this.

The advertised cut-off time will vary from bank to bank and building society to building society and according to how the cheque is paid in - for example: over the counter, by post, through an ATM or by mobile banking app or desktop scanner linked to online banking.

Customers need to talk to their bank or building society for more details.

If a customer pays in a cheque in at a Post Office, the above timescale will increase by at least one additional day. This is because the Post Office has to send the cheque to the customer’s bank. Once received by the customer’s bank the cheque will then be processed in line with the image-based cheque clearing timescales.

Yes, the new system is UK-wide. The C&CCC has worked with the Belfast Bankers’ Clearing Company to ensure that banks and building societies in Northern Ireland can clear their cheques through the new system along with all the banks and building societies in Great Britain.

346 million cheques were used for payments and to acquire cash across the UK in 2018, showing that cheques are still an important part of the payments landscape. To improve the efficiency and speed of the clearing process, the C&CCC has chosen a method of clearing cheques that uses 21st century technology. This will help protect the future of cheques so that customers can use them for as long as they want.

Cheque clearing timescales are faster - the funds from a paid in cheque will be available to you more quickly. Typically, if a customer pays in a cheque on a weekday (before their bank or building society’s advertised cut-off time) they will be able to withdraw the funds by 23.59 on the next weekday (bank holidays excluded and provided the cheque doesn’t bounce). However, 23:59 will be the latest timescale that banks and building societies will be working to and some may allow their customers to access their funds earlier than this.

The advertised cut-off time will vary from bank to bank and building society to building society and according to how the cheque is paid in - for example: over the counter, by post, through an ATM or by mobile banking app or desktop scanner linked to online banking.

Cheques still a payment choice that banks can offer - the move to image processing means you can continue to use them if you want to.

Additional ways to pay in cheques - some banks and building societies are already giving their customers the additional option of paying in an image of the cheque – using a cheque deposit option in your mobile banking app – rather than going to a branch to pay it in.

You don’t have to do anything differently if you don’t want to - you will still write cheques and give them or post them to recipients just as you always have. If you want to carry on paying in cheques as you do at the moment, you will still be able to do so.

More competition and more choice - the new system has made it easier for new challenger banks to connect to the new system and enter the market with cheque products, which could increase competition within the sector. More competition means more choice and this should lead to better products for you.

The terms and conditions of your bank account will explain how long it is advisable to retain the paper cheque for and at what point you will be able to dispose of it, preferably by ripping it up or shredding it.

Most banks enable their customers to pay cheques into their bank accounts at a Post Office – you should check with your bank to make sure. It takes at least an additional day to clear the cheque under cheque imaging, as is the case with the paper clearing. This is because the Post Office has to send the cheque to the customer's bank. The cheque clearing timescale only starts once the cheque has reached your bank. You will need to check your bank account’s terms and conditions for more information on this.

Yes. You have a legal right to stop a cheque before the cheque has been paid (Bills of Exchange Act 1882). However, there will be significantly less time to do this with cheque imaging as the clearing timescales are much quicker and the recipient might pay in the cheque via a mobile banking app, which means that the clearing process will begin sooner than if the cheque recipient has to visit a bank branch to pay it in. There are also limited circumstances in which stopping a cheque is permissible, as has always been the case. You should talk to your bank or building society first.

If a cheque cleared via the new system is returned ‘not paid’ you will receive notification more quickly than at present. Your bank will agree with you how it will notify you and will tell you the reason why the cheque has not been paid. Your bank will have the cheque image, which will be the legal instrument. This will provide the bank with all the information it will need if you ask it to re-present the cheque (if it offers this service).

In-built security and checks will help prevent fraud throughout the clearing process so, provided you have kept to the terms and conditions of your account and you have not been negligent (for example, signing and handing someone a blank cheque), you will be protected if you are an innocent victim of fraud, just as you are now.

No, not if you don’t want to. The new system enables banks and building societies to offer image tools on their mobile banking apps if they wish, so that you might be able to use your smartphone or tablet to pay in cheques for processing, rather than visiting a branch. However, if you want to carry on paying in cheques just as you always have, you will still be able to do so.

You will need to speak with your bank or building society to find out if it will be offering its customers the option of paying in a cheque via a mobile banking app. If it does offer this option, then it will provide more information about how and when the upgrade to the app will happen.

No, it is at the point that the recipient pays it in to their bank account that a paper cheque will be imaged – you will still write cheques and give or post them to recipients just as you do now.

Yes, you will still be able to use your existing chequebook.

Yes, the new system also processes bill payments accompanied by cash or cheque. So, when you pay a utility bill at the branch counter by cash or cheque, the accompanying bank giro credit will be turned into an electronic message that passes through the Image Clearing System to the bank of the utility company concerned, to pay your bill. This will be to the new timescales too but you will need to factor in additional time for your utility company to update your account with them. 

The introduction of an image-based system makes no change to fraud liability but the secondary legislation is welcome news for customers as it aims to ensure that cheque imaging has no detrimental impact on the existing position of cheque users. It is important to note that this legislation does not override scheme rules regarding compensation. However, the introduction of cheque imaging represents a significant change to the way cheques are processed and the legislation ensures that a customer is not left out of pocket when they are an innocent victim of fraud and have followed their bank’s terms and conditions.

Changes to the law state that an image of the cheque will now be evidence of payment. Your bank will be able to provide you with images of cheques for these purposes.

No. The Image Clearing System processes sterling cheques, postal orders, travellers’ cheques, bankers’ drafts, dividend cheques and bill payments drawn on UK banks and paid into a UK account in the UK, but not foreign currency cheques.

You can find out more about cheque imaging at www.chequeandcredit.co.uk, by contacting us at ‘questions@wearepay.uk’  or by asking your own bank or building society for more details.