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What is an ACH?

What is an ACH?

ACH Definition

ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, which is an electronic network used in the United States for a financial transaction. This system allows for transferring money between a bank account without the use of a check, wire transfer, credit card networks, or cash. 

An ACH transaction includes a direct deposit of salaries, benefits, and tax refunds, as well as direct payments for bills, mortgages, and other expenses.

Types of ACH Transaction

ACH payment processing falls into two main types, reflecting the direction of funds: ACH Credit and ACH Debit. Each type supports various transaction purposes, including but not limited to payments and deposits.

Here’s a closer look at each:

ACH Credit Transaction

In an ACH Credit transaction, the ACH operator starts the transfer of funds to another bank account. The funds are “pushed” from the sender’s account to the receiver’s account. 

  • ACH Direct Deposit: Employers depositing wages using direct payment into employees’ bank account use an ACH credit transfer.
  • Government Benefits: Such as tax refunds and Social Security benefits being deposited into beneficiaries’ accounts.
  • Business-to-Business Payments: Companies paying suppliers or vendors make use of an ACH bank transfer.
  • Person-to-Person (P2P) Digital Payments: Individuals sending money to each other via banking apps or payment services comprise an ACH credit payment.

ACH Debit Transaction

In ACH debit transfers, the receiver of the funds starts the transfer, essentially “pulling” money from another account with prior authorization. 

  • ACH Debit Payment: Consumers setting up automatic bill payment for mortgages, utilities, recurring payment and insurance premiums.
  • Membership or Subscription Fees: Automatic deductions for memberships (e.g., gyms) or subscriptions (e.g., streaming services).
  • Business-to-Consumer Payments: Businesses pulling payments from consumer accounts for services rendered.
  • Tax Payments: Businesses or individuals making tax payments to government agencies.

Special Types of ACH Transaction

Beyond the basic credit and debit distinctions, ACH transactions can also be categorized based on their specific purposes, such as:

  • WEB: For debits, started online or via mobile.
  • TEL: Telephone-initiated debits.
  • PPD: Prearranged Payment and Deposit entries, used for recurring payments and a direct deposit.
  • CCD: Corporate Credit or Debit entries, used in a B2B transaction.
  • IAT: International ACH Transactions, which involve a payment entering or exiting the United States.

The flexibility and efficiency of ACH transactions make them a popular choice for a wide range of financial activities, from individual payments to large-scale business transactions. The system’s ability to handle various transaction types securely and reliably contributes to its widespread use in the financial ecosystem.

ACH vs. Electronic Funds Transfer

ACH and Electronic Funds Transfer are terms often used interchangeably in finance, but they refer to different concepts:

EFT is a broad term that encompasses an electronic payment, including ACH transfer, wire transfer, electronic checks, and debit and a credit card transaction. EFT represents any transfer of funds started through electronic systems rather than by paper means.

ACH is a specific type of EFT that involves the electronic transfer of funds between banks through the Automated Clearing House network. 

ACH transfer includes direct deposits, bill payments, and other transactions that are processed in batches.

Benefits of an ACH Transaction

ACH transactions offer several benefits for both individuals and businesses, making them a preferred method for electronic financial transactions. 

Cost Efficiency

ACH transactions often have lower fees compared to a wire transfer or credit card transactions, making them a cost-effective option for payments and money transfers.


Payments can be automated, reducing the need for manual processing. Many companies make use of ACH transfers while dealing with their accounts payable. This is beneficial for recurring payments, such as payroll, bills, and subscriptions. Alternatively, while taking stock of accounts receivable, ACH remittances reduce the need for manual intervention, especially in cash posting and cash application.


While ACH transactions are batch-processed, they are typically faster than traditional check processing. Many ACH transactions can be settled within one business day, especially with introducing Same Day ACH processing.


An ACH payment reduces the risk associated with handling and transporting physical checks, such as theft, loss, or fraud. The ACH network also employs various security measures to protect against an unauthorized transaction.

Reduced Errors

Electronic processing minimizes the errors common with manual data entry and check processing, leading to smoother financial operations and reconciliation.

Environment Friendly

By eliminating the need for a paper check, ACH transactions contribute to reducing paper waste and the environmental impact associated with printing, mailing, and transporting checks.


ACH allows for the easy transfer of funds between a bank and a financial institution, enhancing the accessibility of funds for businesses and individuals that accept payments.

Improved Cash Flow Management

Businesses can better predict their cash flow, since ACH transactions have specific processing timelines. This predictability helps in managing operational and financial planning and analysis more effectively. Companies can also get accurate cash flow forecasts regularly.

Enhanced Record-Keeping

ACH transactions generate electronic records, making it easier for businesses and individuals to capture the payment method, track payments, manage finances, and maintain an accurate ACH file.

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