A new way of processing checks went in to effect on October 28, 2004. This new Federal Law called The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, or "Check 21" for short, will impact all financial institutions, not just First Community Bank of the Ozarks and our customers.
The goal of Check 21 is to reduce paper, combat fraud and improve how checks are processed. Traditional check clearing involves the physical movement of paper checks from the location where the check was deposited, to the bank where the funds will be drawn. With Check 21, banks and other financial institutions will have the option of creating, processing and exchanging digital pictures of checks rather than physically transporting the original paper check.
What does Check 21 do? Check 21 allows financial institutions to make a picture image of a check which is known as a "substitute check". A substitute check is a paper reproduction that has been created from an electronic image of the original check. It has the same legal standing as the original check and can be used for proof of payment or for any other reason that might require an original cancelled check. The law allows banks to clear paper transactions as either the original paper check, an image of the original check, or a reproduction of the digital image of the check (called Image Replacement Document or IRD).
Does this mean I won’t be getting back my cancelled checks? If you receive cancelled checks with your monthly checking account statements, some of the checks returned to you may not be the original and may actually be substitute checks. However, Check 21 does not require that all checks be converted to an image or substitute check. Those customers who do not receive their checks back with their statements may request a copy of a check. First Community Bank of the Ozarks will follow the same check copy request process as it does today; the check copy may just look different. It could be a copy of the substitute check instead of a copy of the original check.
Can I continue writing checks as I do today? Yes. You may continue to write checks and present them for payment the way you currently do. However, because your checks may be presented and cleared electronically, it may take less time for a check to clear your account.
As a bank customer, can I opt out of Check 21? No. Under the Act, no institution or any of its customers may "opt out" of the Act. All checks, except foreign checks, are eligible to be converted to substitute checks and all parties that receive checks must accept the substitute check in lieu of the original paper check. Check 21 affects all customers of banks, savings & loans and credit unions. This includes consumer customers, corporate customers and governmental agencies.
What is First Community Bank of the Ozarks doing? As of October 28, 2004, to comply with Check 21, First Community Bank of the Ozarks began accepting and processing substitute checks. Currently, the federal government is continuing to finalize policies and regulations pertaining to the Act.
For more information about Check 21 legislation, visit the Federal Reserve Board internet site at http://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsys.htm or contact First Community Bank of the Ozarks at 417-336-3610.