May 27, 2024

Bucks: Ally Bank Offers Remote Deposit, but Not From Your Phone

Ally Bank

A holy grail of modern consumer banking is the ability to deposit checks electronically without having to schlep to a branch or an A.T.M. Because online-only banks don’t have branches to begin with, you would think they would be leaders in this are, but others have beaten them to the punch.

Both USAA in San Antonio, a bank with limited walk-in locations that serves military families, and J.P. Morgan Chase, with thousands of brick-and-mortar branches, have been out in front on mobile deposits. Both allow customers to deposit paper checks instantly by snapping photos of them with their smartphones and pressing a button. PNC Bank and U.S. Bank, too, offer deposits via apps for the iPhone. Pretty cool.

Now the online Ally Bank said it would start offering remote deposit on Wednesday for its customers. (“Finally!” one commented on the bank’s Facebook page.) Compared with smartphone deposits, Ally’s approach seems almost quaint: Customers use a computer and a scanner. There’s no mobile phone option.

Still, Ally is ahead of its branchless competitor ING Direct, which will offer remote deposit “in the near future,” a spokesman said. And the move is welcomed by Ally’s customers, who previously had to arrange for direct deposits into their account, transfer funds from another bank or send checks for deposit via snail mail.

Customers who already have a computer and a desktop scanner don’t need to buy extra equipment, a bank spokeswoman, Beth Coggins, said. When they log into their bank account, they can access  instructions that walk them through the deposit process, which involves scanning both sides of the check before zapping it to Ally. They’ll get an e-mail confirming the transaction.

Ms. Coggins said the bank tested the system over several months with its own employees to work out bugs before offering it to customers. “Safety and security are extremely important for us,” she told me in a phone interview.

For example, the system requires checks be endorsed in a specific way, so that they can’t be presented for deposit or cashing elsewhere after they’re scanned, she said.

Not everyone will get to use the service right away; the bank is offering it in stages so it can make adjustments as it rolls out.

Paper checks are less common than they used to be, but there’s clearly still a demand for ways to convert them electronically into bank funds, Ms. Coggins said. “Our customers have been asking for it, and so we think there’s a need.”

Does your bank offer remote deposit? If not, how do you handle check deposits? Or, if you can already deposit checks remotely at your bank, what has been your experience?

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