What is an Automated Clearing House?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2019
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Also known as ACH, the automated clearing house is an electronic network that is used in the United States to quickly and efficiently execute financial transactions. One of the reasons for the speed associated with this type of system is the fact that the transactions are processed in batches, allowing for the data flow between institutions to occur in a way that makes it easy for each institution to post the transaction with relative ease. In some instances, especially in situations where the system is used early in the business day, the ACH transfer makes it possible for the transaction to post immediately to the applicable accounts, a factor that can be very helpful with both debit and credit transactions.

There are several common uses of the automated clearing house. The direct deposit of funds into a recipient account is managed using this type of system. This means that anyone who has opted for the direct deposit option for a paycheck is benefiting from the speedy transfer that the ACH makes possible. In like manner, citizens who receive Social Security direct deposits into their checking accounts do so via the government’s use of ACH. In recent years, an increasing number of people who are due tax refunds opt for direct deposit into a bank account, a task that is managed using an automated clearing house.


Banks also make use of an automated clearing house to manage debit card transactions. Because of the speedy nature of the system, it is possible for the amount of any purchase made using the card to be applied to the available account balance in a real time fashion. This helps to minimize the possibility of the card holder accidentally exceeding the account balance and thus incurring overdraft fees. Financial institutions will also make use of the ACH as a means of managing any type of direct debit that has been authorized by the account holder. For example, if the holder has authorized a utility company to withdraw the amount of the monthly invoice on a specific day of the month, this is managed using the automated clearing house.

Many companies make use of the automated clearing house to make immediate payments for goods and services. The reliability of this type of business-to-business or B2B transaction is particularly helpful in situations where payment must be rendered before the products are released to the client. This method of payment also makes it possible to avoid delays in shipping the products, and thus also minimize any costs that the recipient may incur while waiting for the goods to be delivered.

Taxpayers who manage their own payments to local, state, and federal tax agencies can also make use of the automated clearing house. Many banks offer the ability to manage this process using the online tools provided by the bank. There are also independent agents who can process the payments on behalf of clients who wish to make payments on taxes due as quickly as possible.


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