I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Photo check deposits

Almost two years ago, Chase updated its iPhone app to include photo check deposits:

Deposit checks with two camera clicks.

Instead of driving to the bank, you can deposit your check with your Chase Mobile App. Just snap a picture of the front and back of your endorsed check and send it using your Chase Mobile App.

This is one of those ideas that sounded great until I actually tried it. In practice, here’s how this works:

  1. Log into the app, which means typing at least your long, complex banking password, and probably also your long, complex username, on the iPhone keyboard.
  2. Navigate to the deposit screen. Pick the target account. (The interface is very navigation-heavy, requiring numerous unnecessary taps throughout the whole process.)
  3. Type in the check amount manually.
  4. Photograph the front of the check. Chase recommends taking the picture in good lighting on a dark, non-reflective surface while standing up. They also caution you to ensure that it’s not blurry, and if any of these conditions aren’t met, it might not be accepted.
  5. Photograph the back (endorsed, of course) with the same precision and warnings.
  6. Submit it.

I’ve tried photo-depositing six checks. Two of them failed that last step with “Unable to connect to Chase, try again later” messages. When that happens, all of the fields and photos are cleared and you need to start over.

Did you want to deposit multiple checks? That’s multiple separate deposits. There are photo-deposit limits of $2,000 per day and $5,000 per month, neither of which the app tells you until you attempt to cross those limits.

If I have a few checks to deposit, and any one of them is refused for photo deposit, I need to go to the bank anyway, removing the convenience that the app was supposed to provide.

But assuming that a check successfully gets submitted, then what? Simply being submitted doesn’t mean that the check has been accepted. You need to wait a few days to see if the check posts to your account before you know whether it has been accepted. And then you’re supposed to destroy the paper check.

So I need to keep this check somewhere, remember not to deposit it again, and remember to check my account in a few days to ensure that it clears. This is a physical and mental organizational burden: this check effectively stays in my mental “incomplete” box, and sitting on my desk, until it clears, which I probably won’t be notified about.

And then, after it clears, I’m told to rip it up and throw it away, which goes against all of my instincts as a responsible person.

My alternative is depositing checks into an ATM, which is much simpler:

  1. Go to the ATM. (The pain-in-the-ass factor on this varies per person, but I end up walking past a Chase ATM regularly.)
  2. Enter a 4-digit PIN, tap Deposit, tap checking account.
  3. Insert a stack of checks.
  4. Wait about 10 seconds for it to automatically scan them and recognize their amounts. I rarely need to manually enter a check’s amount, even when it’s handwritten.
  5. Take my receipt, walk across the street to the deli, and get a sandwich.

It’s much faster and simpler than a photo deposit. (I can also get cash while I’m there. Can’t do that with the iPhone app.)

And then it’s done. The check is out of sight and out of mind. I know that if anything goes wrong, the bank will mail me something about it, although I’ve never had an ATM-deposited check get rejected by the bank later.

Sometimes, new technology is not progress.