Beat the queues (and closing branches) by depositing a cheque with a mobile banking app.
It’s been years since I received or wrote a cheque. But during the first lockdown I helped some elderly neighbours with their shopping. And since they were housebound and not online the easiest way for them to pay me was via cheque.
Normally that would mean a visit to the bank in order to deposit to my account, but it actually gave me a chance to try out an online banking feature I’ve been unable to use before.
Since late 2017, some banks have used cheque imaging software to scan your cheques using the banking apps on your phone.
It’s not had a massive take-up, possibly because they aren’t many cheques sent, but it’s a handy feature for those too busy or unable to head to a bank, or perhaps have seen their local branch close down.
How to pay in a cheque with your banking app
If your bank has the feature (you can see a list of the banks that do and significant banks that don’t below), then it’s a similar process with each one.
You first take a photo of the front of the picture using the app. And once that’s gone through, you take a picture of the back – even if it’s completely blank!
The phone must be completely flat above the cheque, which must also be flat. You need to get the corners lined up to markers on the phone screen. And even if you nail this, it might not be enough. When I first tried it with Halifax it took about seven attempts to get the front to scan.
But once I worked out it needed to be on a dark background it took just seconds to snap each side and hit submit. Far quicker than heading out to the bank and queuing up.
You should see the money in your account by the end of the next working day, as long as you pay it in before a cut-off time (which varies by bank). Of course, make sure you keep the cheque until it has cleared just in case it’s rejected.
Andy’s Top Bank Apps
Banking apps aren’t just useful for paying in cheques. If you’re like me, you’re doing most of your banking on one – and some are much better than others. Here are my top apps for managing your current account:
I’ve compared the apps across all the major UK banks in detail. You can read more about the best and worst mobile bank apps here.
Banks where you can pay in cheques with your phone
These are the only banks I can find which offer this feature.
Bank of Scotland
Bank of Scotland is one where the app works in exactly the same way as Halifax’s (see below)
You’ll find the feature on the Pay & Transfer tab of your Barclays app. You can pay in a maximum of four cheques every seven days, and a cheque can’t be for more than £500.
Since there are no branches you’d normally need to go to an HSBC or a Post Office to pay in a cheque with First Direct. However, in June 2020 the bank added the option to do this via the app, or you can also post them to the bank.
I found the feature in the “More” tab at the bottom of the app. There’s is a maximum cheque value of £500 and a daily limit of £1,000.
HSBC has a maximum cheque value of £500 and a daily limit of £750. You can find the feature in the “Move Money” section of the app.
Lloyds’s pay-in via the app feature lets you deposit a cheque with the bank in exactly the same way as Halifax.
Added in May 2021, you can pay in a cheque using the Natwest app. You need to select the account you want to use and you’ll see the option. I found it much harder than on other apps to get the camera to “find” the cheque and had to put it on a dark background for it to scan.
However, once I finally got far enough to submit the cheque, the app came back saying it “couldn’t process your cheque right now”. I tried a few times before giving up! I’m sure it’s just teething problems at launch but it’s frustrating.
RBS has the same app and functionality as Natwest, so it’ll follow the same process as above.
The latest to add this feature is app-only bank Starling. Simple go to menu in the top right hand corner and choose “Add money”. Then you’ll be able to take a photo of your cheque up to £500.
The app for a Virgin Money, allows cheques up to £500 as long as they weren’t signed more than six months ago. You’ll find it via the menu in the top right-hand corner.
Banks where you can’t pay in a cheque with your phone
Here are some of the notable banks which don’t have this feature. If you can’t get to any of these banks to pay in a cheque, you can head to your Post Office and deposit it there. However, all they’ll do is post it on for you so it can take a while to clear.
Since they don’t have any branches you can pop in to, you’ll actually have to post any cheques in! However, there is a Freepost address for this so you don’t need to fork out for a stamp. But this does mean it can take a while. The Monzo website says it can be three weeks before you see the money in your account.
There’s no cheque option on the app or website, but you can send it by post.
A lot of people get frustrated here as when you search “Pay in a cheque Santander” on Google you’ll get results from the US arm of the bank. Sadly in the UK there isn’t this feature.
Also, for the Post Office option you’ll need to order some paying-in slips and deposit envelopes from Santander in advance.
However, you can also send your cheque to your local branch to process.
Again, the app doesn’t have this feature. There’s also nothing on the website saying you can post a cheque.
How to switch bank to one with this feature
It’s really simple to open up a new bank account at one of those listed above which do let you pay in a cheque with the app on your phone.
You can either open up a new account and keep your old one, or you can choose to switch using the Current Account Switch Service which moves all your standing orders, direct debits and future payments.
You can read more about how switching works here.