Dear Dr. Don,
My question is about direct deposit. Do companies, firms and employers in general determine if they will offer employees the ability to have their pay direct deposited? If an employee wants his pay direct deposited, can he insist that the firm comply with this request?
— Jay Jimmy

Dear Jay,
An employer is not obligated in any way to offer direct deposit — unless there is some type of contractual relationship such as a collective-bargaining agreement. Direct deposit has always been considered a type of benefit offered to employees.

Conversely, in some states, the employer can force an employee to be paid via direct deposit only, and not offer the option of being paid by check.

So, insisting isn’t the way to go. You don’t mention how big your firm is, but you may find some strength in numbers by getting your co-workers to lobby the management team for direct deposit. Payroll service providers like ADP and Paychex allow small firms to outsource payroll and offer direct deposit as an option.

If none of this works, and you really don’t want to go to an ATM or branch to deposit your paycheck, you could look into check-scanning software. Called “remote deposit capture,” it’s on the cutting edge of consumer finance.

When using this technology, a consumer scans both sides of his or her check and sends the image to a financial institution for deposit. RDC is being marketed to financial institutions, so you’d have to find a credit union or bank that offered this service.

RDC is becoming widespread for small business applications, but is just now trickling its way down to consumer applications. It’s new enough that I don’t have estimates on what it would cost for the software, hardware and transaction fees, but my sense is that it will be competitively priced and could be a realistic alternative for you.

Thanks to Julie Nixon, public relations officer at CheckFree (a subsidiary of Fiserv) for providing background information on remote deposit capture. Thanks also to Patrick Dougherty, human resources director at TBC Corp., for his insights on direct deposit.