✨Join an upcoming live webinar of ChargeOver — Thursdays at 10am CST  Register now!

ACH Payments Explained

Kenzie Kirchoff
Share article

In this article:

ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments are electronic bank-to-bank transfers that allow individuals and businesses to send and receive money within the United States. The ACH network is a secure and efficient system that facilitates various types of transactions, such as direct deposits, bill payments, business-to-business payments, and more.

How ACH Payments Work:

  1. Initiation: A sender initiates an ACH payment, either an individual or a business. This can be done through various means, such as online banking, payment processing platforms, or financial software. The sender provides the necessary information, including the recipient's bank account details and the amount to be transferred.
  2. Submission to ACH Network: The sender’s financial institution sends the payment information to the ACH network.
  3. Processing: The ACH network processes the transaction, sorting and bundling it with other transactions for efficiency.
  4. Transmission to Receiving Bank: The recipient’s bank receives the transaction details from the ACH network.
  5. Deposit into Recipient’s Account: The recipient’s bank deposits the money into the recipient’s account.

Download the FREE eBook on maximizing your payment recovery

Key Characteristics of ACH Payments:

  1. Direct Deposit: Many employers use ACH for direct deposit payroll, allowing employees to receive their salaries directly into their bank accounts.
  2. Recurring Payments: ACH facilitates recurring bill payments for utilities, subscriptions, mortgages, etc. This method automates payments, reducing manual efforts.
  3. Lower Costs: ACH payments are generally more cost-effective than credit card payments or paper checks, making them an attractive option for businesses dealing with a high volume of transactions.
  4. Settlement Times: ACH transactions typically take a few business days to complete, differing from real-time payment systems.

Are you wondering which Payment Processors accept ACH in the USA? You can find the list in the ChargeOver Help Center for Processors Who Accept ACH (USA).

ACH Payments vs Credit Card Payments

There are several differences between credit card payments and ACH payments. They vary in terms of how they function, the timing of transactions, the underlying mechanisms, and their impact on financial transactions.

Credit Card Payments:

  • Nature: Credit card payments involve the use of a credit card issued by a financial institution. When a credit card is used for payment, the cardholder is essentially borrowing money from the card issuer to complete the transaction.
  • Timing: Credit card payments are processed instantly or near-instantly at the point of sale or when used for online purchases. The actual payment by the cardholder to the credit card company typically occurs at the end of the billing cycle, usually once a month.
  • Fees and Interest: Credit card payments can incur fees such as annual fees, late payment fees, or interest charges if the balance is not paid in full by the due date.
  • Credit Limit: The spending limit on a credit card is predetermined by the card issuer. The cardholder can spend up to this limit but will need to pay back the amount borrowed along with any applicable interest.

ACH Payments:

  • Nature: ACH payments involve the direct transfer of funds between bank accounts. They are electronic transactions that allow money to be moved from one bank account to another.
  • Timing: ACH payments are processed in batches and can take a few business days to complete. They are not instantaneous and may take a bit longer than credit card transactions to clear.
  • Fees: ACH payments often have lower fees than credit card payments. They may have nominal or no fees for certain types of transactions, making them more cost-effective for businesses handling a high volume of payments.
  • Security and Regulations: ACH payments are governed by strict regulations and security measures overseen by the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) to ensure the safe and secure transfer of funds between banks.

Key Differences Summarized:

  1. Payment Mechanism: Credit card payments involve borrowing funds from a credit card issuer, while ACH payments directly transfer funds between bank accounts.
  2. Timing: Credit card payments are typically instant, while ACH payments may take a few days to clear.
  3. Fees and Interest: Credit card payments may include fees, interest, and a credit limit, while ACH payments often have lower fees and are more about direct fund transfer without borrowing.
  4. Use Cases: Credit cards are commonly used for retail transactions, online purchases, and to manage cash flow, whereas ACH payments are often used for routine payments, direct deposits, and business-to-business transactions.

Both credit card payments and ACH payments serve different purposes and have their advantages based on the nature of the transaction and the needs of the individuals or businesses involved.

Security and Regulations for ACH Payments:

  • ACH transactions are subject to strict regulations, overseen by the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), which establishes rules and guidelines for ACH transactions.
  • Security measures are in place to protect the transfer of sensitive financial information, ensuring the safe transmission of funds between banks.

Advantages of ACH Payments:

  1. Cost-Effective: ACH transactions generally have lower processing fees compared to credit card payments, reducing overall transaction costs.
  2. Efficiency: They provide a more streamlined and automated method of moving money, particularly for recurring payments.
  3. Wider Reach: ACH payments are commonly used and accepted across various sectors, making them a widely accessible form of payment.

Download the FREE eBook on maximizing your payment recovery

Limitations of ACH Payments:

  1. Processing Time: ACH transactions may take a few days to complete, unlike real-time payment methods like wire transfers.
  2. Transaction Limits: Some financial institutions may impose limits on the maximum amount per transaction, potentially affecting larger transfers.

ACH payments offer a reliable, secure, and cost-effective way to transfer funds electronically. While they might not suit urgent or real-time transactions due to their processing time, ACH transactions are highly beneficial for businesses and individuals looking for an efficient and consistent means of moving money electronically within the United States.

Get the inside scoop on recovering payments: Download the FREE eBook on maximizing your payment recovery

Subscribe for weekly emails about improving recurring billing and growing your business.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Ready to make your subscription billing easier?

Here’s a 4-min tour of how ChargeOver can decrease the time you spend on billing.

Automating your invoices starts here