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Check 21 tips for consumers from Consumers Union

Check 21 is a sweeping new federal law that takes away your ability to get back your original paper checks.

This complicated law gives you some rights, but those rights depend on a variety of factors, including how the merchant and the bank decide to process your check.

Ask for a recredit in writing: If something goes wrong with your checking account, make a written request that your bank recredit (return) the funds to your account.

You have a right to recredit in some cases, and not in others. Because it's hard to tell when the right of recredit applies, you should ask, in writing, for a recredit whenever a check is paid twice, a check is paid for the wrong amount or something else goes wrong with your account.

Ask for a substitute check: You get a limited recredit right under Check 21, but the regulations restrict recredit to consumers who were provided with a substitute check.

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Always ask for a substitute check, which is a special kind of copy of your paper check. If you now get your original checks back, ask for an account that returns substitute checks every month. If your bank charges too much for an account that returns substitute checks every month, look for another bank.

Expect the checks you write to clear faster: Don't write a check unless the funds are already in your account.

Don't sign up now for voluntary check truncation: You have even fewer consumer rights under voluntary nonreturn of your checks than you'll have under Check 21. Decline invitations from your bank to convert to voluntary check truncation.

-- Posted: Sept. 24, 2004
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See Also
Check 21: New law ends checking traditions
Bouncing checks? You may have Checking Account Deficit Disorder
Checking glossary
More checking stories

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