Lessons learned about check deposits..

I have this credit union account, which I keep around solely because there’s an ATM I can walk to from my office. I get the convenience of using the ATM for check deposits and cash withdrawals, and in return, the credit union gets to keep a nominal amount of my money and pay me practically zero interest on it. Any balance over and above the aforementioned nominal amount, gets transferred into my brokerage account (where it earns much better interest) as soon as the check clears. In general, this works out pretty well. But, there are certain rules which must be followed, which brings us to today’s tale of woe.

Monday, January 23, 2006: I went to the ATM and deposited a check for a few thousand dollars. As usual, the ATM receipt showed that $100 of the deposit was available immediately, and the rest was on hold until the check clears. Now, ever since the new Check 21 system was implemented, the credit union has been clearing my checks much more quickly, a lot of times by the next business day. Sure enough…
Tuesday, January 24, 2006: I checked my account balance online at the credit union, and it showed that the check had cleared and the entire amount was available for withdrawal. Going by this, I scheduled three transfers into various different brokerage accounts, to be completed on Thursday the 26th.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006: I checked the credit union again. Oops.. seems that my funds were mysteriously no longer available! The same day I get a snail-mail letter (handwritten, btw) stating that a “special hold” had been placed on the deposit due to the large amount. The hold was for 4 business days, meaning the funds wouldn’t be available until the 27th. It’s too late to cancel my transfers, because they’ve already gone to ACH for processing. Bummer.
Thursday, January 26, 2006: The transfers all get bounced back, and I get charged $81 in overdraft fees.
Friday, January 27, 2006: The funds become available at the credit union, and I start making phone calls to get this mess straightened out.
Monday, January 30, 2006: After two calls and about 30 minutes on hold with the credit union, my $81 is refunded. Thanks guys.
Today: I reschedule the transfers to the brokerage accounts and cross my fingers.

So, what have I learned? #1, there’s something to be said for going to the bank and making the deposit with a teller, because they probably would have told me about the special hold then and there. #2, when making a large deposit at an ATM, don’t touch the money for a week, and don’t trust the online banking system to give accurate info WRT funds availability during that period.

Can I scream now?

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