Mobile Check Deposits vs. ATM Deposits

Fast and Convenient

a person making a mobile check deposit
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You need to deposit a check quickly, and fortunately, you’ve got several options. However, they all have pros and cons, so you’ll need to use the method that does what you want, whether it’s:

The fastest way to deposit a check and have the funds available is to make the deposit in-person with a bank employee. Most funds availability policies allow the bank a bit of extra time if you deposit at an ATM or with your mobile device. But that requires a trip to the branch during banking hours.

If you use a credit union, that might be easier than you think: shared branching allows you to make deposits at thousands of branches nationwide (but the funds availability policy might be less generous if you use a shared branch). If you can’t make it to a branch, your next best options are to use mobile check deposit or make the deposit at an ATM. The main benefits of those approaches are:

  1. You can make deposits 24/7
  2. You might get a later cut-off time than you would in a branch, so the clock starts ticking on any holds today

The Benefits of Mobile Check Deposits

  • Convenience: you get to stay home (or wherever you are) and deposit your check. You don’t need to make a trip to a branch or visit an ATM that may – or may not be – working properly. Traffic and parking aren’t an issue, and there’s no waiting in line if everybody else is on the same schedule. If anything is malfunctioning, it’s probably your own device, and that won’t be a surprise to you. It’s no fun showing up at the bank, expecting to check an errand off your list, and finding an “Out of Order” sign.
  • Accuracy: with remote deposit, you do all of the data entry (or at least verify it). You don’t have to rely on the ATM’s character recognition skills. If there is an error in anywhere along the line, you still have the check, and you can take it to a branch and resolve any problems fairly easily. With an ATM deposit, you lose control of the check – and it could get eaten, damaged, or destroyed by the ATM.
  • Speed: the process of depositing is quite fast, but how quickly do you get your money? It depends on your bank. Banks generally make a small portion of your deposit available immediately. Every bank is different, but it seems that you get more access to more of your money if you use mobile deposit (especially if you use the service frequently, over long periods of time). Banks make a digital image of your checks anyway, so you’re just saving a step. With an ATM deposit, on the other hand, somebody might need to collect the checks and then digitize them. The most advanced ATMs create an image of your check immediately, and those are the best ATMs for depositing checks.

    Confirmation seems to come more quickly with remote deposits as well. You’ll generally get an email immediately when you “deposit” a check (you also get confirmation from an ATM), and you should see an email shortly after telling you if your deposit was accepted. When you deposit at an ATM, it may be a few days before somebody removes the checks from the machine and processes them.

    The Benefits of ATM Deposits

    So far, remote deposit is sounding pretty good. However, there may be some situations where depositing at an ATM is best.

    • Cashback: if you need cash (and you don’t have that money in your account already), you might be able to get cash immediately after depositing at an ATM. However, you’ll probably only have access to the first $200 or so. Your bank’s funds availability policy will explain when you can use your money. However, you’re still responsible for that money if the check bounces, and it could take several weeks to find out about a bad check.
    • Multiple deposits: if the deposits are not crucial for your finances (you don’t need the money right away, and you’re not depositing large checks that are difficult to replace), it might be easier to use an ATM. Some ATMs just take an envelope full of checks and a deposit slip, which will be processed by bank staff later. With remote deposit, on the other hand, you need to take a picture of each one, type in the amount, verify the routing and account numbers, and more. However, if the ATM requires that you insert each check individually and verify everything, it might be easier to do all that at home.