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Banking Basics

Direct Deposit Guide

Direct deposit can help you receive payments faster along with avoiding trips to the bank. Check out this guide to learn more about direct deposit, its benefits, and how to sign up and get started.

Melanie Lockert • November 10, 2021

Whether you’re an employee, independent contractor, or somewhere in-between, there’s no denying that getting paid is important. But it can be a drag to go to the bank or wait around for physical checks to arrive. That’s why direct deposit is a great option if you’re looking to access your cash quickly.

In This Article

  1. What Is Direct Deposit?
  2. How Does Direct Deposit Work?
  3. How Long Does Direct Deposit Take?
  4. How to Set Up Direct Deposit
  5. Benefits of Direct Deposit

What Is Direct Deposit?

Direct deposit is a fully automated payment option where your funds are electronically transferred to your checking or savings account. This can help the payee receive payment faster and avoid dealing with physical checks, while also skipping the visit to the bank. According to the American Payroll Association, nearly 94% of workers in the U.S. receive their pay from employers using direct deposit.

In many cases, direct deposit means your payroll checks are automatically deposited into your bank account. You typically set this type of direct deposit up with your employer. But, you can also use direct deposit for tax refunds and other types of payments.

The benefit of direct deposit is that funds are seamlessly transferred from the payer to the payee. With direct deposit, employees can count on their paycheck arriving on payday without having to take an extra step. It’s also more economical for an employer to not print and distribute paper checks on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

How Does Direct Deposit Work?

Direct deposit is a popular and convenient option, but you may be wondering, how does it work? For direct deposit, employers require the payee’s bank account information or a void check in order to start making deposits. Direct deposit is most commonly used to transfer an employee’s salary; however, it may also be used for things like tax refunds, investment dividends, retirement account payments, and government benefits like Social Security or unemployment payments.

Generally, 1 or 2 business days prior, the company will send its payroll instructions to its financial institution, who then passes that information to the Automated Clearing House (ACH). The ACH sorts the entries and ensures that each instruction is routed to the correct bank account for each employee’s paycheck. Then ahead of payday, your employer will transfer your pay to your bank, and your bank will release the funds into your account.

Notes on Direct Deposit for Federal Benefits (Tax Refunds and Credits)

Since federal law requires that benefit payments be made electronically, direct deposit is the fastest and most secure option for receiving your funds. Taxpayers have the option to receive their tax refunds from either a physical check or using direct deposit. However, according to the IRS, “8 out of 10 taxpayers get their refunds by using Direct Deposit.” 

Government refunds and stimulus checks are typically made immediately to the payee when enrolled in direct deposit. Wondering if you’re eligible to receive your funds this way? As a citizen, you’re eligible for direct deposit if you have government benefit payments due to you and if you have an open and active bank account with a financial institution.

Individuals with children who are eligible for the monthly Child Tax Credit for 2021 can also take advantage of direct deposit. The IRS actually highly encourages the use of direct deposit to receive these payments faster each month.

The IRS has also improved the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to let families update their bank account information online, so they can receive their monthly Child Tax Credit payment on time. If you don’t enroll in direct deposit to receive these funds, you’re looking at a longer waiting period between when the payments are made and being able to use the money since you will then be receiving a check in the mail.

How Long Does Direct Deposit Take?

The biggest selling point of direct deposit is the time it saves you. However, the actual time frame for the money to hit your account depends on where the money is coming from. Be prepared, when starting a new job, it can take 1 to 2 pay cycles for direct deposit to be set up properly. This may mean you’ll still have to use physical checks for a little while longer until everything is set up.

Once direct deposit is ready, exactly when your funds will hit can vary depending on factors like what type of payroll software your employer uses and when payroll is submitted. This is important to understand, especially if you are setting up automatic transfers. For example, if your direct deposit won’t hit until 9 a.m. on a business day, but an automatic transfer is taken out earlier than that, it can cause problems. Instead, find out exactly when your funds will be available, and then schedule your bill payments and automatic transfers after your payment hits.

It’s also important to note that in some cases your financial institution may put a hold on your funds for a couple of days before releasing the money into your account. For this reason, early direct deposit features can be a complete game-changer.

How to Set Up Direct Deposit

If you want to avoid paper checks and ensure you get paid quickly, signing up for direct deposit is key. Whether you sign-up for direct deposit through your employer, a vendor, or another company, the process is typically the same.

Of course, each company may have different forms you need to fill out to process the request. Most likely you’ll need the following types of information:

  • Your bank routing number
  • Your account number (this is the account you want the funds to go into)
  • Your bank’s address
  • A voided check

You can think of your routing number as an electronic address that helps ensure that the funds are going to the right neighborhood. Your specific and unique account number, on the other hand, is like your financial home. Both of these numbers help specify exactly where your money should go when you set up direct deposit.

Considering the amount of sensitive information included on a direct deposit form, it’s important to be mindful when submitting it. If you work in a traditional office setting, it’s a good idea to hand this form directly to a payroll employee. If you are submitting a form electronically, use a secure file transfer, rather than a simple email. Lastly, your bank’s address and a voided check may be used for additional verification as part of the direct deposit set-up process.

Benefits of Direct Deposit

There are several advantages to utilizing direct deposit. Let’s look at a few:

1. Earlier Access to Your Money

Your employer will usually send your paycheck to the bank a few days prior to payday to allow for more transfer time to process the funds. The bank will release the money as soon as the transaction clears, rather than making you wait until payday. Online banking options like Chime allow you to receive your money even earlier than traditional banks¹.

2. Faster and Safer Transactions

A direct deposit gets rid of the bank visits for both the payer and the payee. Direct deposits are a more convenient and safer method of transferring funds, as they eliminate the possibility of theft or loss of a check or cash since the deposit is made electronically. Direct deposits can also minimize check fraud.

3. Better Payroll Process and Saving Options

The use of direct deposit streamlines the payroll process for most businesses. It allows for the timely payment of salaries, and it reduces the payroll department’s workload since the funds are paid directly to the employees’ bank accounts.

Many employers let you split your direct deposit between multiple accounts, which allows you to set up automatic savings plans. For example, you can have $50 per paycheck as a direct deposit to your savings account and the rest to your checking. This way, you’ll be able to build your savings account without having to think about moving the cash manually.

4. Waive Unwanted Bank Fees 

One of the most common perks of direct deposit is having the maintenance fee waived by your bank. Some banks charge monthly fees on checking accounts, but they commonly waive the fee if you maintain a sufficient balance or receive a direct deposit each month. When you direct deposit with Chime, you get access to features like early direct deposit¹, overdraft without fees², and more!

Banking services provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC. The Chime Visa® Debit Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. The Chime Visa® Credit Builder Card is issued by Stride Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa credit cards are accepted. Please see back of your Card for its issuing bank.

While Chime doesn’t issue personal checkbooks to write checks, Chime Checkbook gives you the freedom to send checks to anyone, anytime, from anywhere. See your issuing bank’s Deposit Account Agreement for full Chime Checkbook details.

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Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank N.A. (“Banks”). Banks are not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

1 Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.

2 Chime SpotMe is an optional, no fee service that requires a single deposit of $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits to the Chime Spending Account each month. All qualifying members will be allowed to overdraw their account up to $20 on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals initially, but may be later eligible for a higher limit of up to $200 or more based on member's Chime Account history, direct deposit frequency and amount, spending activity and other risk-based factors. Your limit will be displayed to you within the Chime mobile app. You will receive notice of any changes to your limit. Your limit may change at any time, at Chime's discretion. Although there are no overdraft fees, there may be out-of-network or third party fees associated with ATM transactions. SpotMe won't cover non-debit card transactions, including ACH transfers, Pay Friends transfers, or Chime Checkbook transactions. See Terms and Conditions.

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