Automated clearing house

Last updated

An automated clearing house (ACH) is a computer-based electronic network for processing transactions, [1] usually domestic low value payments, between participating financial institutions. It may support both credit transfers and direct debits. [2] [3] The ACH system is designed to process batches of payments containing numerous transactions and charges fees low enough to encourage its use for low value payments.



The first automated clearing house was BACS in the United Kingdom, which started processing payments in April 1968. [4]

In the U.S. in the late 1960s a group of banks in California as a replacement for check payments. [5] which led to the first automated clearing house in the US in 1972, operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. [5]

BACS operated from the beginning on a net settlement basis. Netting ACH transactions reduces the amount of deposits a bank must hold. [5]


ACHs process large volumes of credit and debit transactions in batches. ACH credit transfers are initiated by the payer and include payments such as: direct deposits, payrolls, retail payments and vendor payments. [5] ACH direct debit collections are initiated by the payee with pre-authorization from the payer; ACH direct debits include consumer payments such as utility bills, insurance premiums, mortgage loans, and other types of bills. [5] Transactions received by the bank during the day are stored and transmitted in batches to the ACH. ACHs are net settlement systems, so settlement may be delayed for day(s), and there is some settlement risk. ACHs may allow for the transfer of a limited amount of additional information along with payment instructions.

ACH payments contrast with real-time gross settlement (RTGS) payments which are processed immediately by the central RTGS system and not subject to any waiting period on a one-to-one basis. ACH systems are typically used for low-value, non-urgent transactions while RTGS systems are typically used for high-value, urgent transactions. [6]


This section describes in a generic way the typical operation of an ACH system. Each ACH system has its own specifics; see, for example, quick facts [7] [8] for the NACHA ACH Network in the United States and its terminology.

  1. The ordering customer makes a transaction initiation, which can be either manually or by sending a file of initiation requests to a bank.
  2. The bank gathers all transaction initiations for an ACH that arrive from different customers (combining manual and file-based).
  3. On a periodic basis, the bank creates a file that it dispatches to the ACH either at the end of day or in cycles throughout the day.
  4. The ACH operator combines the information submitted by the banks within each cycle (generally ACHs have several cycles throughout the day).
  5. The ACH operator informs each bank of the net settlement amount for which they are responsible for the cycle.
  6. The ACH operator ensures that the settlement amounts are received from all participants for the cycle, so that the cycle can be executed.
  7. The ACH operator informs the destinator's bank of the transaction details.
  8. When transaction arrives in the destination bank, the bank executes the transaction: such as crediting the payment to the beneficiary, while the ordering customer's bank debits the ordering customer's account.

Existing systems

There are various ACH systems around the world. The World Bank identified 87 systems in their 2010 Survey [9] and 98 systems in their 2012 survey [10] , while other sources have made qualitative analysis of a smaller number of ACH systems. [6]

Flag of Albania.svg  Albania AECH [11]
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina COELSA (Compensadora Electrónica) [12]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Bulk Electronic Clearing System (BECS)
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria GSA [13] and Oesterreichische Nationalbank
Flag of the Bahamas.svg  Bahamas Bahamas Automated Clearing House (BACH) [14]
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh Bangladesh Automated Clearing House (BACH) [15]
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium CEC Centre for Exchange and Clearing [16]
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil CIP-SILOC [17]
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria BORICA AD
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada Retail System, known formally as the Automated Clearing Settlement System (ACSS), run by Payments Canada
Flag of the Cayman Islands.svg  Cayman Islands [18]
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile Centro de Compensación Automatizado (CCA) [19]
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China China National Advanced Payment System (CNAPS) Bulk Electronic Payment System (BEPS) [20]
Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia ACH-Colombia and CENIT
Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia FINA
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  the Czech Republic CERTIS (Czech Express Real Time Interbank Gross Settlement System)
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark Eurogiro and Nets Group
Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt EG-ACH [21]
Flag of Europe.svg  Europe a pan-European automated clearing house for the Single Euro Payments Area, STEP2
Flag of France.svg  France STET
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Deutsche Bundesbank
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece DIAS
Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary GIRO Zrt.
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong Interbank Clearing Limited [22]
Flag of India.svg  India National Automated Clearing House and National Electronic Funds Transfer
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran PAYA (Paayaa, پایا) [23] [24]
Flag of Israel.svg  Israel Masav [25] [26]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Banca d'Italia, Nexi and SIA
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Zengin
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia Latvijas Banka
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico SICAM (Sistema de Camaras) [27]
Flag of Moldova.svg  Moldova National Bank of Moldova
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands/Flag of Germany.svg  Germany/Flag of Italy.svg  Italy equensWorldline
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS)
Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan NIFT's ACH [28]
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines PesoNet and InstaPay
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland Krajowa Izba Rozliczeniowa (KIR)
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal SIBS
Flag of Peru.svg  Peru Camara de Compensacion Electronica (CCE)
Flag of North Macedonia.svg  Republic of Macedonia KIBS
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania TransFonD SENT ACH [29]
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia SARIE [30] : with both RTGS and ACH
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore eGIRO [31] which is part of Singapore Automated Clearing House [32]
Flag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia Bankart
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa BankservAfrica
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea HOFINET [33]
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain Iberpay
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Bankgirocentralen BGC AB
Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland Swiss Interbank Clearing
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Bacs Payment Schemes Limited
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Federal Reserve Bank's FedACH and The Clearing House's Electronic Payments Network, underpinned by NACHA's ACH Network
Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela CCE (Electronic Clearing System) [34]

In addition, there are various ACH associations such as the European Automated Clearing House Association. [35]

Uses of the ACH payment system

There are various usages of ACH systems; [7] the terminology related to different types of transactions varying in different countries. Most ACH payment systems support the following types:

See also

Related Research Articles

In the United States, the ACH Network is the national automated clearing house (ACH) for electronic funds transfers. It processes financial transactions for consumers, businesses, and federal, state, and local governments. ACH processes large volumes of credit and debit transactions in batches. Short for "Automated Clearing House", ACH credit transfers include direct deposit for payroll, Social Security and other benefit payments, tax refunds, and vendor payments. ACH direct debit transfers include consumer payments on insurance premiums, mortgage loans, and other kinds of bills.

A transaction account, also called a checking account, chequing account, current account, demand deposit account, or share draft account at credit unions, is a deposit account held at a bank or other financial institution. It is available to the account owner "on demand" and is available for frequent and immediate access by the account owner or to others as the account owner may direct. Access may be in a variety of ways, such as cash withdrawals, use of debit cards, cheques (checks) and electronic transfer. In economic terms, the funds held in a transaction account are regarded as liquid funds. In accounting terms they are considered as cash.

Cheque clearing process of exchanging a cheque for its funds

Cheque clearing or bank clearance is the process of moving cash from the bank on which a cheque is drawn to the bank in which it was deposited, usually accompanied by the movement of the cheque to the paying bank, either in the traditional physical paper form or digitally under a cheque truncation system. This process is called the clearing cycle and normally results in a credit to the account at the bank of deposit, and an equivalent debit to the account at the bank on which it was drawn, with a corresponding adjustment of accounts of the banks themselves. If there are not enough funds in the account when the cheque arrived at the issuing bank, the cheque would be returned as a dishonoured cheque marked as non-sufficient funds.

Real-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems are specialist funds transfer systems where the transfer of money or securities takes place from one bank to any other bank on a "real-time" and on a "gross" basis. Settlement in "real time" means a payment transaction is not subjected to any waiting period, with transactions being settled as soon as they are processed. "Gross settlement" means the transaction is settled on a one-to-one without bundling or netting with any other transaction. "Settlement" means that once processed, payments are final and irrevocable.

Wire transfer, bank transfer or credit transfer, is a method of electronic funds transfer from one person or entity to another. A wire transfer can be made from one bank account to another bank account or through a transfer of cash at a cash office.

The Australian financial system consists of the arrangements covering the borrowing and lending of funds and the transfer of ownership of financial claims in Australia, comprising:

Clearing (finance) all activities from the time a commitment is made for a financial transaction until it is settled

In banking and finance, clearing denotes all activities from the time a commitment is made for a transaction until it is settled. This process turns the promise of payment into the actual movement of money from one account to another. Clearing houses were formed to facilitate such transactions among banks.

An e-commerce payment system facilitates the acceptance of electronic payment for online transactions. Also known as a subcomponent of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), e-commerce payment systems have become increasingly popular due to the widespread use of the internet-based shopping and banking.

BACS organization

Bacs Payment Schemes Limited (Bacs), previously known as Bankers' Automated Clearing System, is the organisation with responsibility for the schemes behind the clearing and settlement of UK automated payment methods Direct Debit and Bacs Direct Credit, as well as the provision of managed services for third parties. Bacs became a subsidiary of Pay.UK on 1 May 2018, and as a result of this, overall responsibility for the operations of Direct Debit, Bacs Direct Credit, the Current Account Switch Service, Cash ISA Transfer Service and the Industry Sort Code Directory was handed over to Pay.UK.

A payment system is any system used to settle financial transactions through the transfer of monetary value. This includes the institutions, instruments, people, rules, procedures, standards, and technologies that make its exchange possible. A common type of payment system is called an operational network that links bank accounts and provides for monetary exchange using bank deposits. Some payment systems also include credit mechanisms, which are essentially a different aspect of payment.

A Direct Debit or direct withdrawal is a financial transaction in which one person withdraws funds from another person's bank account. Formally, the person who directly draws the funds instructs his or her bank to collect an amount directly from another's bank account designated by the payer and pay those funds into a bank account designated by the payee. Before the payer's banker will allow the transaction to take place, the payer must have advised the bank that he or she has authorized the payee to directly draw the funds. It is also called pre-authorized debit (PAD) or pre-authorized payment (PAP). After the authorities are set up, the direct debit transactions are usually processed electronically.

Fedwire is a real-time gross settlement funds transfer system operated by the United States Federal Reserve Banks that allows financial institutions to electronically transfer funds between its more than 9,289 participants. Transfers can only be initiated by the sending bank once they receive the proper wiring instructions for the receiving bank. These instructions include: the receiving bank's routing number, account number, name and dollar amount being transferred. This information is submitted to the Federal Reserve via the Fedwire system. Once the instructions are received and processed, the Fed will debit the funds from the sending bank's reserve account and credit the receiving bank's account. Wire transfers sent via Fedwire are completed the same business day, with many being completed instantly.

Electronic funds transfer (EFT) is the electronic transfer of money from one bank account to another, either within a single financial institution or across multiple institutions, via computer-based systems, without the direct intervention of bank staff.

Cash management refers to a broad area of finance involving the collection, handling, and usage of cash. It involves assessing market liquidity, cash flow, and investments.

Payment and settlement systems in India are used for financial transactions. They are covered by the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007, legislated in December 2007 and regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and the Board for Regulation and Supervision of Payment and Settlement Systems.

National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) manages the development, administration, and governance of the ACH Network, the backbone for the electronic movement of money and data in the United States. It is funded by the financial institutions it governs. The ACH Network serves as a network for direct consumer, business, and government payments, and annually facilitates billions of payments such as direct deposit and direct payment. The ACH Network is governed by the NACHA Operating Rules, a set of rules that guide risk management.

The Clearing House Payments Company L.L.C. (PayCo) is a U.S.-based limited liability company formed by Clearing House Association. PayCo is a private sector, payment system infrastructure that operates an electronic check clearing and settlement system (SVPCO), a clearing house, and a wholesale funds transfer system (CHIPS).

Vocalink is a payment systems company headquartered in the United Kingdom, created in 2007 from the merger between Voca and LINK. It designs, builds and operates the UK payments infrastructure, which underpins the provision of the Bacs payment system and the UK ATM LINK switching platform covering 65,000 ATMs and the UK Faster Payments systems.

EBA Clearing is a provider of pan-European payment infrastructure wholly owned by shareholders that consist of major European banks.

National Automated Clearing House, or NACH, introduced by National Payments Corporation of India, is a centralised clearing service that aims at providing interbank high volume, low value transactions that are repetitive and periodic in nature. Offering credit and debit service to corporates, banks, and financial institutions, the service, aimed at integrating all regional ECS into one National Payment System, is claimed to be better than its predecessor, Electronic Clearing Service.


  1. Dr. B.S. Sawant. "Technological Developments in Indian Banking Sector" (PDF). Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  2. European Central Bank. "Payments and markets glossary". Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  3. European Central Bank. "GLOSSARY OF TERMS RELATED TO PAYMENT, CLEARING AND SETTLEMENT SYSTEMS" (PDF). Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  4. . Bacs. April 17, 2018 "Half a Century of Bacs Payments " ignored (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 James McAndrews. "The Automated Clearinghouse System: Moving Toward Electronic Payment" (PDF).
  6. 1 2 Michael Tompkins; Ariel Olivares. "Clearing and Settlement Systems from Around the World: A Qualitative Analysis" (PDF). Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  7. 1 2 "What is ACH?: Quick Facts About the Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network".
  8. "ACH Payments: A primer for subscription businesses".
  9. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank. "PAYMENT SYSTEMS WORLDWIDE A SNAPSHOT Outcomes of the Global Payment Systems Survey 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  10. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank. "Global Payment Systems Survey (GPSS)". Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  11. "AECH - Albanian Electronic Clearing House".
  12. "Cash and Treasury Management Country Report: Argentina" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  13. "GeldService Austria" (PDF).
  14. "ACH to unveil personal money transfers in early 2012".
  15. "Bangladesh Automated Clearing House (BACH)". Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  16. "Centre for Exchange and Clearing".
  17. "Cash and Treasury Management Country Report: Brazil" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  18. Spencer Fordin. "Six Cayman retail banks install automated clearing house". Cayman Compass. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  19. "Cash and Treasury Management Country Report: Chile" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  20. "Payment, clearing and settlement systems in China" (PDF). Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  21. "EG-ACH". Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  22. "HKICL Electronic Clearing". Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  23. "Paya".
  24. "Payment & Clearance Systems".
  25. "The Banks' Clearing House".
  26. "Israel's Payment and Settlement Systems" (PDF).
  27. "Cash and Treasury Management Country Report: Mexico" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  28. "About Automated Clearing". Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  29. "Automated Clearing House - SENT". Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  30. The Saudi Arabian Riyal Interbank Express (SARIE)
  31. "Singapore Consumer Banking". Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  32. "Singapore Automated Clearing House". Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  33. "Electronic Payment". KFTC (Korea Financial Telecommunications & Clearings Institute). Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  34. "Cash and Treasury Management Country Report: Venezuela" (PDF). Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  35. "European Automated Clearing House Association".
  36. "How to accept ACH payments: a beginner's guide". Rotessa. Retrieved 2019-11-20.