M&T Bank : Check 21 FAQs
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Check 21 FAQs

When did Check 21 go into effect?
Why was Check 21 signed into law?
Are only consumer accounts affected by Check 21?
Who is a consumer?
What is a consumer account?
What is a truncated check?
What happens to my truncated checks?
What checks are eligible to be truncated?
What is a substitute check?
What will the substitute check include?
Can I use a substitute check as proof of payment or to facilitate the correction of a posting error?
What does a substitute check look like?
What are cancelled checks?
Will I still be able to get my cancelled checks back?
Will I be able to get the original check if the check has been truncated?
Does Check 21 impact the amount of time it takes for a check to clear?
Can financial institutions or their customers "opt out" of Check 21?
What is ACH check conversion?
What if there’s an error resulting from a check that is converted to a substitute check?
When can a consumer file a claim for an expedited recredit?
How much is a consumer entitled to receive in an expedited recredit?
How does a consumer make a claim for an expedited recredit?
What is M&T Bank’s responsibility for handling an expedited recredit claim?


When did Check 21 go into effect?

The "Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act," commonly known as "Check 21," became effective October 28, 2004.

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Why was Check 21 signed into law?

Check 21 is designed to improve the efficiency of the nation's check processing system by decreasing processing time and transportation costs and reducing the likelihood that checks will get lost or destroyed in processing. Check 21 accomplishes this by allowing original paper checks to be removed from the check collection process, processed in electronic form and later replaced with a new kind of paper document, called the "substitute checks." Check 21 provides that "substitute checks" are the legal equivalent of the original check.

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Are only consumer accounts affected by Check 21?

Check 21 applies to all domestic checks and all deposit accounts. All types of checks are eligible for conversion to substitute checks. In addition to consumer checks, corporate checks, money orders and even traveler's checks can be converted to substitute checks. There are certain provisions of Check 21, such as "expedited recredit procedures," that only apply to consumers, but Check 21 impacts all bank customers.

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Who is a consumer?

A consumer is an individual who writes a check drawn on a consumer account.

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What is a consumer account?

A deposit account used primarily for personal, family or household purposes.

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What is a truncated check?

An original paper check that was electronically imaged and removed from the check collection and return process.

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What happens to my truncated checks?

A check that has been truncated can pass through the check collection and return process as an electronic image and will ultimately be sent to the appropriate financial institution for processing as an electronic image or a substitute check. The institution that converts the original check to an electronic image may destroy the check at any time, so it may not be possible to receive the original check back.

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What checks are eligible to be truncated?

All checks, except foreign checks, are eligible to become substitute checks, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Consumer checks
  • Business checks
  • Corporate checks
  • Government warrants
  • U.S. Treasury checks
  • Money orders
  • Controlled disbursement checks
  • Payable through drafts
  • Traveler's checks

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What is a substitute check?

A substitute check is similar in size to original checks with a slightly reduced image of the front and the back of the original check. The front of a substitute check states: "This is a legal copy of your check. You can use it the same way you would use the original check." A substitute check that meets these requirements is generally subject to federal and state laws that apply to an original check. You may use a substitute check as proof of payment just like the original check.

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What will the substitute check include?

A substitute check will include:

  • A reproduction of the front and back of the original check. 
  • All the same information contained in the original check.
  •  Identifying number of the bank that truncated the check or created the paper substitute check.
  • A message: "This is a LEGAL COPY of your check. You can use it the same way you would use the original check."

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Can I use a substitute check as proof of payment or to facilitate the correction of a posting error?

Yes, a substitute check can serve as proof of payment or be used to facilitate the correction of a posting error.

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What does a substitute check look like?

A substitute check includes an image of the front and back of the original check and certain additional information.

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What are cancelled checks?

Cancelled checks are the checks that have been processed by the recipient's bank and returned to your bank for payment.

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Will I still be able to get my cancelled checks back?

If you currently receive your cancelled checks with your account statement, you will still continue to get them back, however, some may be substitute checks. Not all checks necessarily will be truncated. You'll receive a substitute check for those items that are truncated by a financial institution in the check clearing system. If your current account statement includes check images, your statement may also include images of substitute checks.

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Will I be able to get the original check if the check has been truncated?

The institution that converts the original check to an electronic image may destroy the check at any time, so it may not be possible to receive the original check back.

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Does Check 21 impact the amount of time it takes for a check to clear?

Check 21 is intended to accelerate the processing of checks by allowing banks to replace a physical check with an electronic image. Electronic check processing eliminates the dependency on physical modes of transportation and can greatly reduce the processing time required for a check to clear. Transactions that previously took days can now take minutes. That is why it is even more important to make sure your account balance is sufficient to cover any checks that you write. You may not have time to deposit additional funds into your account after you write a check. If you do not have sufficient funds in your account at the time that your check is presented for payment, you may incur insufficient funds charges to your account and your check may be returned unpaid.

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Can financial institutions or their customers "opt out" of Check 21?

No. Under Check 21 no financial institution or any of its customers may "opt out" of Check 21; they all must accept a substitute check in lieu of the original paper check.

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What is ACH check conversion?

Some checks you write today for bill payment may already be processed electronically. However, this is not related to Check 21. These checks are used to create electronic payments that are processed through the Automated Clearing House (ACH). If you currently receive your cancelled checks, the checks that are used to create ACH payments are not returned with your account statement but these transactions are shown on your statement as "ACH Payments." Any check that is truncated under Check 21 will be processed as a check and the transaction will be shown on your account statement as a check transaction.

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What if there’s an error resulting from a check that is converted to a substitute check?

Check 21 contains special provisions that allow consumers to file a claim and obtain an expedited recredit of certain losses related to a substitute check. These provisions apply only to consumers; however, all customers have the right to seek to have errors corrected under other provisions of Check 21, as well as under existing law.

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When can a consumer file a claim for an expedited recredit?

Federal law gives a consumer the right to file a claim for an expedited recredit if the consumer receives a substitute check and believes that all of the statements below are true:

  1. The substitute check was incorrectly charged to the consumer’s account (for example, this may be true if we charged the account for the wrong amount or if we charged the account more than once for the same check);

  2. The consumer lost money as a result of the substitute check charged to his or her account; and

  3. The consumer needs the original check or a better copy of the original check to demonstrate that we incorrectly charged the account (for example, this may be true if the consumer thinks that we charged his or her account for the wrong amount and the substitute check does not clearly show the amount).

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How much is a consumer entitled to receive in an expedited recredit?

Federal law limits an expedited recredit to the amount of the consumer's loss, up to the amount of the substitute check, plus interest if the account earns interest. Consumers could be entitled to additional amounts under other state or federal law.

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How does a consumer make a claim for an expedited recredit?

A consumer may make a claim by calling 1-800-724-2440 or by writing to us at M&T Bank, P.O. Box 767, Buffalo, NY 14240-767. If a customer speaks to us about a claim, we may require that the claim be submitted in writing. If the consumer is an M&T Web Banking customer, he or she may email us securely. The consumer must contact us within 40 calendar days of the date that we mailed (or otherwise delivered by a means to which the consumer agreed) the substitute check in question or the account statement showing that the substitute check was posted to the account, whichever is later. We will extend this time if the consumer was not able to make a timely claim because of extraordinary circumstances.

A consumer's expedited recredit claim must include:

  1. A description of why the consumer has suffered a loss (for example, if the consumer thinks the amount withdrawn was incorrect;

  2. An estimate of the amount of the loss;

  3. An explanation of why the substitute check is not sufficient to show whether or not the consumer suffered a loss; 

  4.  A copy of the substitute check and/or the following information to help us identify the substitute check: the check number, the name of the person to whom the check was written and the amount of the check.

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What is M&T Bank’s responsibility for handling an expedited recredit claim?

We will investigate the claim promptly. If we conclude that we incorrectly charged an account, we will recredit to the account the amount of the claim (up to the amount of the substitute check, plus interest if the account earns interest). If we conclude that we correctly charged the account, we will send the consumer a notice that explains the reason for our decision and includes either the original check or a better copy of the original check than the consumer already received.

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