What It Means to Make a Deposit

a person taking a picture of a check for deposit on a phone
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The word deposit means to place something somewhere. As a financial term, a deposit is money you've placed at the bank for safekeeping; to deposit money, you put it into the bank.

Definition of Deposit

When banks and credit unions refer to deposits, they are talking about the money in your accounts, which they're holding for you for safekeeping. It can also refer to other valuables they hold for you, such as jewelry in a safety deposit box.

While a deposit can be a thing, it can also be something you do. You can deposit a check or you can deposit cash. You can also make a deposit by transferring funds from one account to another.

Examples and Types of Deposits

Here are some common examples of deposits:

Cash deposit: If you take cash to a teller or ATM and ask them to add it to your checking or savings account, that's called a cash deposit.

Deposit accounts: Bank accounts that let you deposit and withdraw money are called deposit accounts, and they can include checking, savings, and money market accounts as well as CDs.

Demand deposit: Your checking account's deposits are available "on demand," which is why they are sometimes called demand deposit accounts (or current accounts).

Certificate of deposit (CD): A CD is a timed deposit you make at the bank for a specified period time and for a predetermined amount of interest. When the CD matures, you get your deposit back plus the interest you earned. These are also sometimes called time deposit accounts.

Security deposit: When you rent an apartment, you pay a security deposit—money held by the landlord for safekeeping in case you cause damage to your rental or skip out on rent.

FDIC-insured deposit: Your bank deposits are insured by the U.S. government in the event your bank fails. Most bank deposits are insured up to $250,000. At credit unions, deposits are NCUSIF-insured, which is just as safe as FDIC insurance.

How to Make Deposits

You can deposit funds into your account in several ways.

In person: You can walk into a bank branch and hand cash or checks to a teller, who will credit the funds to your account. For added convenience, you can also do so at some deposit-enabled ATMs. Typically, you need to use a branch or ATM that your bank owns, but credit union members can often use other credit unions to make deposits if both credit unions participate in shared branching.

When you deposit cash or checks, you’ll generally need to fill out a deposit slip. That sheet of paper tells the bank where to put the money and makes a record of the transaction. You'll also need to endorse any checks by signing the back and adding any additional information required.

If using an ATM, no deposits slips or envelopes are required when the ATM is equipped with scanning technology that captures an image of your check. Follow the ATM instructions carefully, though—some ATMs do still use deposit slips.

By mail: If you have paper checks or money orders payable to you, you can send them in by mail. Ask your bank which address to use for the fastest service, and find out about any other requirements. Don't send cash through the mail, though—it's not illegal, but there's no way to get your money back if it gets lost or stolen. If a check is lost or stolen, however, you can request a stop payment on it.

Electronically: If your employer pays you by direct deposit, those funds go right into your bank account without any action on your part. In some cases, the money is even available for spending before traditional paper paychecks arrive in the mail.

You can also transfer money from one bank account to another electronically, making a deposit into the receiving account. If your bank uses Zelle for money transfers, those deposits may be available immediately.

If you have a mobile device with a camera, you can deposit checks using an app and submitting a picture of the check to your bank.

Funds Availability

Note that you may have to wait to use your money after you make a deposit. Depending on how you add funds to your account, your bank may impose a waiting period to ensure that there are no problems with the deposit, such as a bounced check. The wait is longest with personal checks; government-issued checks and wire transfers into your account are available much more quickly.

To find out how long you’ll have to wait, ask a teller or customer service representative about your bank’s funds availability policy. In some cases, this waiting period can protect you—if you spend money from what turns out to be a bad deposit, you’ll have to repay the bank, and you may bounce checks and incur penalty fees in the meantime.