Making Bank Deposits Without Slips or Envelopes

A man holding a check book
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There used to be a time when you had to place checks into deposit envelopes to feed them through an ATM

National and regional banks across the country now use machines with scanning technology. Most ATMs can scan cash or checks directly, so there's no longer a reason to fill out time-consuming deposit slips or search for a deposit envelope.

How ATM Transactions Without Deposit Envelopes Work

ATMs employ scanning technology to detect the value of cash bills by reading the surface. For example, Bank of America's ATMs use optical character recognition to compare bills to images it receives from the U.S. Treasury Department.

ATMs can also recognize and deposit checks. Bank of America's ATMs scan the magnetic ink on checks. This ink contains the account and routing numbers of the check. The machine can also scan the dollar amount from the face of checks.

With some ATMs, cash and checks are separated into stacks and fed into designated slots of the ATM for deposit. With other machines, you can feed in your cash and checks together. There’s no need to scan each bill or check individually, although the initial process is similar to inserting a bill into a change machine. The ATMs can handle stacks of several bills or checks (or both) at a time.

Why Today's ATMs Are Easier

You may remember the frustration of waiting in line at the branch ATM behind someone who hadn’t yet filled out their deposit slip. With ATMs that use scanning technology, deposit slips are a thing of the past. No more frantic searching around the machine trying to find the hidden location for deposit envelopes.

Scanning technology reads the information from your bank debit card to properly credit the items scanned to your account. Once you get the hang of it, the process is much faster for you and for the banks. These ATMs reduce human error and increase efficiency for bank employees. Anytime there’s one less form for customers to fill out, it’s a good thing for all parties involved.

ATM Precautions

Always get a receipt after making an ATM bank deposit and hang onto it. Yes, it can be a pain to wait for the machine to spit it out when you’re in a hurry, but think of the receipt as insurance.

Keeping a copy of the ATM receipt is helpful for personal record-keeping, but it can also safeguard you in the event the machine or computer system makes a mistake. Many of the new ATMs offer a receipt option which shows an image of the checks deposited. Pick this option if possible to ensure you have a physical copy of the checks you deposited.

If there are any discrepancies between the amount deposited to the ATM and the amount credited to your account, contact the bank immediately. Those receipts may prove to be invaluable in the unlikely event of a misread check or bill.

Depositing at an ATM is easier today, but it's still important to take other precautions when using a machine. Cover the keypad as you enter your PIN. Keep your PIN secure and avoid writing it down. Instead of reviewing your receipt at the ATM, put it and any cash you receive in your purse or pocket and review it later in a secure location.

Checks No Longer Returned 

On October 28, 2003, the 108th United States Congress enacted the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, a law known as Check 21. This law allows banks to create a digital version of an original check instead of returning the canceled check.

This law eliminated the need for recipient banks to be dependent on other banks since transactions could now be settled with images instead of paper. Recipient banks no longer return the paper check. Instead, an image of both sides of the check is e-mailed to the bank that issued the original check.

This change made check processing faster. Bank statements also include copies of checks instead of sending back canceled checks, making things more efficient for customers and banks alike.