The Federal Reserve Banks provide check collection services to depository institutions. When a depository institution receives deposits of checks drawn on other institutions, it may send the checks for collection to those institutions directly, deliver them to the institutions through a local clearinghouse exchange, or use the check-collection services of a correspondent institution or a Federal Reserve Bank. For checks collected through the Federal Reserve Banks, the accounts of the collecting institutions are credited for the value of the checks deposited for collection and the accounts of the paying banks are debited for the value of checks presented for payment. Most checks are collected and settled within one business day.
The number of checks written nationally has been declining since the mid-1990s as the use of electronic payment instruments has grown. In addition, the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21) removed barriers to the electronic collection of checks and electronic check collection has now become the primary method for collecting checks. Indeed, almost all checks processed by the Reserve Banks today are deposited and presented using the Reserve Banks' electronic check collection services. These changes have enabled the Reserve Banks to reduce their national check-processing infrastructure so that, since early 2010, they have been processing paper checks at one location nationwide, down from 45 in 2003.
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