Certegy Decides Whether Or Not Kmart Will Accept Your Check

S. wrote a check at Kmart earlier this month and it was denied. No reason was given—just “denied.” It turns out a separate company, Certegy, made the decision, so S.—who writes, “I’ve never had a bounced check”—tried to track down someone at Certegy who could tell her what was wrong with her checks.

I’ve never heard of Certegy, until April 6. I went to K-mart to purchase some items, wrote a check (which I have done there dozens of times before), and it was declined. Huh? I mean WTH?! I’ve never had a bounced check, I have over draft protection anyways. I called the toll free number, of course it’s automated, they won’t give you a reason, the recording just said “Precautionary Measures”, sooooo, what the heck is that all about? I cashed a check elsewhere a few minutes later, just fine.
I emailed K-Mart complaining about being the embarrassment it caused me. I emailed Certegy also, all I received from both was a form letter giving me instructions how to obtain more information about my particular situation. OK, so, I requested a letter through USPS which was suppose to explain WHY my check was declined. This is the response I received (you guessed it, another form letter).

  Dear Ms. XXXXX,
This letter is written in response to your inquiry regarding our recent inability to authorize your check. Initially, we want to assure you that we understand the concern this can cause, and we apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced.
Certegy Check Service (CCS) is a check authorization service. Our clients throughout the United States utilize the service to help reduce losses incurred through retail practice of check acceptance. For many CCS clients we assume liability should an authorized check subsequently be dishonored. CCS maintains a computerized file containing both returned check information and driver’s license or checking account number. In addition to this information, over 40 years of check authorization and resulting loss experiences CCS has developed guidelines for authorizing acceptance of checks. Our system determines the potential risks associated with with checks. Many proprietary factors are evaluated and in making decisions for check approvals. We also track check writing based on many factors, including check sequence number,, check writing activity and check amounts. This process is designed to protect consumers and retailers and to prevent unauthorized individuals from writing checks on otherwise valid accounts. Unfortunately, valid check writing patterns can occasionally overlap with these patterns resulting in out inability to authorize a valid check such as yours.
Regarding our inability to authorize your check, although there were no returned checks on file, the check fell outside of approval guidelines. Unfortunately, we did not have any addtional information at the time to override the concern, and we again sincerely apologize.
In closing, we do appreciate and understand your concerns. Please contact our Customer Care Department at 800-352-5970 if we can be of further assistance.
Customer Care Department

The check fell outside WHAT approval guidelines? Does this scream discrimination or am I being just plain stupid?

So let’s see—according to Certegy, they use the following methods to decide whether or not Kmart should accept your check:

  • they keep a “computerized file containing both returned check information and driver’s license or checking account number”
  • they’ve used “over 40 years of check authorization and resulting loss experiences” to develop guidelines for authorizing checks
  • some proprietary factors!!!
  • some sort of pattern matching based on things like “check sequence number, check writing activity and check amounts.”

It seems the only factor that could have resulted in your rejection would be something in their “proprietary” bucket. Still, despite all of that fancy-sounding pattern matching and database tracking, they admit to false positives that impact your ability to get a check accepted at a retailer you shop at on a regular basis:

  • “Regarding our inability to authorize your check, although there were no returned checks on file, the check fell outside of approval guidelines. Unfortunately, we did not have any addtional information at the time to override the concern, and we again sincerely apologize.”

It doesn’t sound like discrimination as much as incompetent “proprietary” technology. What’s surprising is how impossible it was for you to get a clear answer—even after following their instructions, you still don’t know why the check was refused and whether it will happen again.
Of course, we’re not sure why Kmart would do business with Certegy in the first place, considering the company’s record for lax security:

Certegy Check Services Inc. disclosed last summer that a database administrator had sold the personal and financial information of 8.5 million consumers to data brokers over a five-year period. The check-processing firm didn’t nab the DBA until a retailer reported a link between check transactions and marketing solicitations that some of its customers had received.

That’s right, Certegy didn’t even catch the theft over a five-year period. A retailer did the “pattern matching” and pointed out the connection.
“IT ‘Big Brothers’ trying to keep internal users under control” [Computerworld]
“Database admin at Fidelity National stole more data than thought” [Computerworld]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Dobernala says:

    Just use a check card. Saves the people behind you in line the time it takes to write your check out.

  2. humphrmi says:

    Actually I had this problem trying to write a check at Value City in Des Plaines, IL. I don’t remember the third-party company that authorized the checks for them, but the kicker was that I came back the next day, at the suggestion of the salesman who helped me find and fit five suits in their mens department, and the check went through just fine. I too never got an answer as to why. This was about ten years ago.

    I’m not sure if declining a check constitutes effectively declining your credit, maybe others can weigh in here. If the two are connected (e.g. declining a check is effectively turning down your credit) then they must, by law, provide a reason why.

    Other than that, if it’s not considered a credit denial, it’s probably not regulated now (and probably should be…)

  3. fergthecat says:

    Reminds me of South Park: underpants + *something* = profit!

  4. Soldmysoul says:

    “I emailed K-Mart complaining about being the embarrassment it caused me.”

    As someome who has worked retail and is familiar with certegy I don’t understand why you would complain to Kmart. I’m sure they wanted your money. We got just as frustrated with Certegy as the customers. Also you should be embarassed. Stop using checks. Save some paper.

  5. renegadebarista says:

    We had checked into using a recovery service for my coffeehouse some time back, and ended up deciding just to not take checks from customers we didn’t know, but we did find out something of an interesting fact from both Telecheck and Checkrite. Both companies can return a deny code on a check if they have no info on you. So if you have not bounced a check, and not written a check at a merchant that uses them they will deny your check simply because they don’t have a file on you. When I asked the Telecheck rep how a customer would resolve this I was told they could give Telecheck information to start a file, including SS #, DL#, home address, work address, work and home phones, etc.

    Kind of scary when you think about it. You can be a good, honest person and still be made to look like a criminal by these companies.

  6. Sonnymooks says:

    Sounds like a nice way to blame the algorithm they were using, without ever actually saying it.

    They got a kink in the formula they use, they don’t know what it is, and they aren’t going to bother looking for it.

    Thats basically it.

  7. timmus says:

    “Certegy”? Then there’s “Chex Systems”. Who’s the idiot that names these companies?

  8. thirdbase says:

    Shopping at Kmart and writing checks. Sounds like a post left over from the 1960’s

  9. teh says:

    @Dobernala: There are some people for which a check card is not a viable option (i.e. financial risk, lack of familiarity with the system, large purchases). I almost always use my credit card to buy things, but there are certain times that I prefer to get out the checkbook. (Canceled checks make good tax records!)

  10. renegadebarista says:


    Why should someone be embarrassed to write a check? While I use my debit card for personal use, I write checks on my business account for bookkeeping reasons on a regular basis, also some banks don’t issue debit cards for businesses.

  11. PHX602 says:

    It’s really irritating when someone is in the checkout line at a grocery store or retailer, and at the last possible moment, pulls out the checkbook and writes a check.

    I second the statement by thirdbase. Join the MFing 21st century already.

  12. Terrminal says:

    Currently working for an unnamed, large consumer electronics retail corporation, that uses Certegy, I can tell you they have some basic catch-alls for people with no history. They look for two things, check number and amount. If I try to process check #105 for $300+, it’s going to get turned down, no questions asked. The funny thing? Once you’ve had a declination, you’re “in the system”, and can most likely come back the next day and write the same check, although the clerk may have to call in to Certegy’s “verification line”. Also, there is a soft-limit system in place on a per day basis, so if you’ve just written a check for $800 at another Certegy-using business, don’t expect to pass anything over $100 with them again that day.

    Where I work is also a little different in that we have 3 or 4 codes that roughly state why the check was rejected. 90% ended up being no or insufficient check passing history, the rest are dead-beats who actually bounced large enough amounts for Certegy to care. Note also that Certegy does not guarantee a check won’t bounce, only that they provide a risk assessment.

    Overall they’ve been decent for us, as I’d say <2% of all the checks I’ve processed have been outright declined. Of those, 9/10 were probably for the best, as they were either very low check numbers on a very new checking account, or people trying to float $500+ checks when I could see the debit card in their wallet that was most likely linked to the same account. As my coworker says ad nauseum, a check is nothing more than a promise to pay, and retailers use Certegy to gauge the weight of that promise.

  13. randombob says:

    I hate checks.

    I wish they’d decline them all so that people would stop WASTING TIME writing them out.

  14. Hoss says:

    My usual cleaners takes my check. I only use one because she doesnt take credit cards. I have no idea why anyone these days would expect a major retailer to take a check

  15. bohemian says:

    Google certigy. There are absolutely TONS of similar stories at just about every major retailer and grocery chain. There is also a class action suit for a data breech.

    The only time I had something like this happen was at Old Navy. The clerk said my phone number didn’t match the one on file with their check approval service. So I played “guess the phone number” for a while with the clerk and ended up tearing up the check and using my card.

  16. ucaledek says:

    My mom had something like this happen at Best Buy. Check refused with no reason listed. When she called up Best Buy, they blamed Certegy. Certegy said, our computers are to blame, but we’ll make the correction. Your check will work tomorrow. When she did, same problem. And now Certegy says, we don’t know when your check will work. At least best Buy sent her the obligatory gift card. But if you want to accept checks, don’t make your customers play russian roulette and get really embarassed for no reason.

  17. Dakine says:

    After you’ve been bent over and screwed proper by the credit card companies, checks begin to look mighty good again. As does cash.

    Moving forward, if one of my checks were to be declined, and I KNEW the funds were in my account, nevermind the retailer… my bank is getting the heat. First thing I do is go straight to the bank, demand the Head Idiot in Charge, and ask him to ‘splian me why my check was declined when I clearly have $XXX,XXX.XX in my account.

    This has happened to me within the last 8 months. Did exactly that. My MORTGAGE payment was declined. Of course this brings up all kinds of implications. Late fees, credit damage… when all the while more than adequate funds were available in my account.

    End result: My bank bent over backwards to do their part in fixing it. Customer service departments all over the country may very well screw you on a daily basis, but when you’ve got a paper trail as concrete as Trump’s wig, they can’t very well weasel out of it. And the word “FRAUD” goes a long way in getting things resolved.



  18. 8abhive says:

    @hossofcourse: as mentioned already, many business accounts don’t provide debit card access. That means check or cash, and large purchases plus the need for good records means a check is gonna have to work.

    Now, for tiny purchases I agree, and for those people who don’t fill as much out as possible ahead of the register. Argh.

  19. Shadowfire says:

    My current company (Supervalu) and my old company (GameStop) both use Certegy. At both companies, Certegy has brought nothing but headaches.

    The fun part is there is a strict set of information that must be on the check for Certegy to honor their agreement. A check has to have the person’s name printed, their phone number, and their street address. If a PO Box is present instead, and the check bounces, Certegy will usually not insure the check.

    I don’t know why companies use them. They cost money to use, cause headaches for both the staff and the customers, and do jack all to help companies recoup losses from bad checks. I agree with others here – stop taking checks altogether.

  20. humphrmi says:

    LOL I love all these people saying “Don’t write checks!”

    I’ve gone to the same person for the last, oh, 20 years to get my hair cut. When I first started going to her, she was at a big salon and spa that took checks and credit cards and lord knows what else. Then she moved to a private practice and since she couldn’t take credit cards (she was too small and it was too expensive) she took checks from her well-known clients.

    Now she’s actually phased out checks too… she wants cash. But the funny thing is, she didn’t tell me that for several years… she just kept taking my checks because I’d been doing business with her for so long.

    So why don’t I just use cash? Well here’s the kicker (and why she still takes checks from me)… when I started getting my haircut there, it was like $15 (20 years ago). Over the years, her prices have gone up somewhat – I think it’s around $25 now for a haircut. But since then, I’ve gotten married (so my wife goes there) and had three kids (all three get their haircuts there) so every time we go, it ends up being around $150 for all five of us. We like her quality, so we don’t mind the price. But I don’t like going there with 150 bucks in my pocket – having to remember to take the money out, carry it around, etc.

    So she’s just always taken my checks, and it’s the only place I pay by check.

    So my point is, sometimes there’s a very good reason for paying by check.

  21. ideagirl says:

    What is with the check haters? Don’t you people have lives? It takes all of about 30 seconds to fill out a check, the same as it takes me to run a debit card. Ease up. Or, better yet, how about minding your own business?

  22. MPHinPgh says:

    Heh…been there, done that! I’ve gone my rounds with Certigy. What a bunch of asshats, but since they’re on the hook if the check bounces, they get to make all the rules.

    Seriously though…I’ve just stopped writing checks for anything but the mortgage and associated monthly bills. Cash or debit for the smaller stuff, CC for the bigger stuff, when I want the protections a CC (usually) provides.

    That way, they never get to decide if I’m good for it or not. In my mind, that’s the ultimate FOAD…

  23. acasto says:

    What the hell is wrong with people when you can’t wait an extra twenty seconds for someone to write a check? I’d say you’ve been watching too many of those “life takes visa” commercials. I am getting so fed up with the people in this country who think THEIR life and time is so important that they either have to have a bluetooth headset stuck in their ear 24/7 just in case someone needs to get a hold of them – you know, they can’t take the time to put it on for that one call, that probably just takes thirty seconds – or drives with the cell phone glued to their ear while speeding, jumping lanes, and acting like a maniac on their way to pickup their bag of $.99 double cheeseburgers….. I hate people >:|

  24. drjayphd says:

    @timmus: Everything else was taken. These are the corporate name leftovers, alas.

  25. parad0x360 says:

    Maybe they should do what Target is doing and implement a system that checks available funds and withdraws the payment right away when paying with checks.

    They say it works just like a debit card but with a check.

  26. PricklyPete says:

    I can’t believe that anyone is in such a hurry that they can’t wait
    for someone to write a check. If a business takes checks, then
    customers can pay by check, even if that mean you have to wait a few
    minutes. Grow up and stop being so self-centered.

  27. Bodgy says:

    @acasto: If it took 20 seconds to write a check it wouldn’t be a big deal. But while Soccer Mom Sally is digging her check book out of her faux Coach purse and attempting to keep little Johnny from knocking down end caps, I could have paid and been gone.

    Who am I kidding. They don’t try to control their kids.

  28. bombaxstar says:

    Oh god I started to twitch just reading the headline. Certegy is the biggest pain in my ass.

    I want to cry when I check someone out and I see


    Whilst I call, I get hung up on six times, have to recite EVERYTHING off of the check, and get the stink eye from the customer.

    In one case, the (very large) gentleman blamed ME for his denied check, and almost came at me over the cashwrap.

    The part that really sucks about Certegy is that when you see that screen pop up, you know that there is a 90% chance that it’s going to say “Code 2 Denial”. It’s like, why don’t you fucking tell them that? Because now it’s YOU left with the angry customer.

    So if your check ever gets denied by this piece of shit, please please please don’t blame your cashier/salesperson. It’s really not our fault.

  29. bombaxstar says:

    Decline, that is.

  30. Dobernala says:

    @PricklyPete: The person writing checks can stop being self-centered and save everyone having to wait an excessive amount of time.

  31. econobiker says:

    Put CERTEGY down for Pep Boys also…

    We were trying to buy $500 worth of tires- already installed, etc. I wanted to write a check to document the purchase- lame answer but I don’t care. CERTEGY denied us but we were able to use a different account which we had a card for along with us. Pep boys helped out and bent over backwards but I did some research into CERTEGY.

    In a nutshell CERTEGY is another credit reporting bureau of sorts plus the company is affiliated with sister companies which data mine big time. Big red flags but you should be able to request a free credit report from these yehoos each year…

  32. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Well, I always write a check for my rent. At my complex, the alternative is to fill out a form authorizing them to charge my credit card each month (I don’t use credit cards) or to debit my bank account each month (give my landlord access to yank any money they think I owe them right out of my bank account, over my dead body).

  33. eelmonger says:

    I used to work for a retailer that used Certegy and they can reject your check for a ton of reasons. Low check number, multiple checks written that day (at Certegy stores), “suspicious” account or routing numbers, previous returned checks, large purchases, pretty much anything that might possibly indicate fraud will get an auto reject. The reason companies still put up with this and Certegy is so strict, is because check fraud is so easy to commit and so common. You either need to have insurance in the form of one of these companies or just not take checks.

  34. mac101 says:


    Unless Target has changed in the last two years since I worked there, they also use Certegy for their check processing.


    My understanding is that there are two types of services offered. One is where they guarentee the full value of the check. It bounces, they give you every penny of the amount and then try to collect on the full amount.

    The other agreement, they guarentee a fixed % of the check amount, pay that to the retailer, and then work to collect the additional balance.

    Usually this collection is no more than re-depositing the check to see if it clears. A check can legally be represented up to 3 times. The original and two redeposit attempts.

  35. jblake1 says:

    I wonder if Certegy can tell Kmart why for so many people the local Kmart store falls outside their proprietary guidelines for shopping there.

  36. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Aren’t checks supposed to work just like a debit card? Why can’t they validate you have the money and pull it out instantly?

  37. legotech says:

    When I was in the Navy, we returned from a 6 month deployment…we had a big squadron welcome back party that night so we went shopping…my friend’s check was declined by one of these services, the reason? No checks written in the last 6 months! Guess we should find places to write checks while forward deployed in order to keep these check overlords happy.

  38. argosreality says:

    Certegy is known to have issues. They’ll request ID typically if you’ve never written a check against a store they’re backing, they’ll deny the check if the information on the checking account doesnt match the drivers license entered when requested. They’ll also deny if you’ve bounced a check through their service before. Also, if you’re high risk in general (for reasons we’ve never been able to find out) they’ll deny you. Don’t write checks often enough, or written too many in a windowed period? Denial. Whats even more frustrating is the stores have to give out a cookie cutter response as to why it was denied — we dont get told either. Honestly, neither will you. Chances are you can turn around and swipe a debt card from the same account and get approved without any issues.

    Frankly though, why waste the time writing a check? You still cost the business money, you don’t save any time, it doesn’t make tracking your spending any easier and most of all…there’s less insurance. A credit/visa-debt card atleast provides protection against some amount of fraudulent transactions. A check sure as hell doesn’t.

  39. itsallme says:

    @humphrmi: i agree, but the most we would probably get is the government to require a free annual “check worthiness” report from annualcheckworthiness.org, which would soon get picked up by a scammy company with a catchy jingle offering you a “free” report from freecreditworthiness.com

  40. Snarkysnake says:

    I tried to pay with a whole bucket of wampum beads (really first rate beads) and they REFUSED !

    I brought 12 of the freshest eggs from my henhouse and they said no. FOR NO REASON !

    I have never been so embarassed ! They would not accept my greenzap points !

    Okay- substitute “personal check” for the above example and you may see a pattern. These are things that once functioned as money- a means of exchange that both parties recognized- that are no longer fungible. Get a check card and you will be putting the asshats at Certegy right out of business.

  41. psychos says:


    Maybe it takes YOU 30 seconds to fill out a check and have it run, and maybe the check verification companies never choose to randomly deny your checks. That’s fine with me, I’d have no problems if you chose to do so while I was waiting behind you.

    The problem is that the check writing->verification->possible retries can take FAR longer than the same process using a credit/debit card or cash. You’ve absolutely never been held up in line for several minutes for someone who just had to use a check?

    I do not see why any sane person would not simply use a debit card at any location that takes both checks and debit cards, if that person does not wish to use a credit card or cash. The old argument of “float” is obviously long gone. I have read one good argument in this thread, that being of something like a $150 bill for an entire family getting haircuts at somewhere that only takes cash and checks. In that situation, writing a check is obviously acceptable.

    To the person who uses business checks for bookkeeping purposes, how is that harder to do with a debit card? And the same poster’s point that some banks do not issue businesses debit cards sounds to me like an absolutely stupid argument. If the bank does not issue you a debit card, use a different bank. What would you do if you needed to buy something online for your business, and did not have a business credit card? How many online retailers actually let you mail them in a check? Not many.

    To the folks who chide anyone who’s in “such a hurry” that they can’t wait for a check to be written in processed, would you like it if I was in line ahead of you and decided to pay my bill in unrolled pennies? No, you probably wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t be so stupid to do so since I could use larger coins and/or notes instead, or just use my credit card and gather up some extra miles/points/cash back.

    So it’s not that I’m in “such a hurry.” But my time is indeed valuable to me, and checks DO take significantly longer to write and process, generally without any added benefits for the consumer who is using the check. If the customer ahead of me is getting some useful benefit out of using a check at the register, then I have absolutely no problem waiting. Therefore, I believe there is very seldom a reason to use checks for PoS transactions, because I do not believe there are very many situations where the consumer actually benefits from doing so.

  42. Floobtronics says:

    @acasto: If it was 20 seconds, I’d be totally cool with it. The problem is that it’s not an extra 20 seconds. It’s more like an extra 5 minutes. You’ve got to wait for the person to struggle to figure out how to write the check – and I’m being totally serious, I’ve watched people try to figure out how to spell such words as, “fourteen”. After that, you wait for them to record the transaction in their check register. Then you wait for the cashier, who probably had 5 minutes of training on checks 6 months ago, who fumbles their way through the process of check approval.

    People who write checks in the store should have to go to a special line and pay double. Is it really so hard to get a fraking debit card? Every bank I know of gives them for FREE if you have a checking account. If you’re writing checks, guess what, you’ve got a checking account, and can get a free debit card. If you’ve got a crazy bank that doesn’t do this — get a new bank.

    And yes, my time is important, just like yours, and the rest of us stuck in line behind you. I’d rather be out of the store doing stuff with my family, getting work done, heck, even going to the dentist instead of watching you write a check.

  43. Floobtronics says:

    @psychos: It would seem to me that it would be easier to track for book-keeping with a debit card. After all, now you don’t have to keep track of tons of little pieces of paper (i.e. cancelled checks), rather, you track 12 statements, and you’ve got the whole year’s purchases.

  44. Looseneck says:

    Telecheck will deny you for writing a check at a certain time of day even if you’ve had the pleasure of having to use their service before. Apparently writing a check at 1:03pm on a Tuesday afternoon is considered ‘suspicious activity’. I don’t actually know the specific time or day, they wouldn’t disclose that information

  45. PricklyPete says:

    @Dobernala: Yeah, you’re right. Paying with
    an accepted form of payment is pretty self-centered because YOU (and
    others) have to wait an “excessive amount of time.” Get over yourself.

  46. Dakine says:

    Using unrolled pennies is not equal to writing out a check. Stop being extremist. And yes, there is a benefit to using a check vs. a credit card. Writing a check doesn’t cost you 31.99% interest like Bank of America charges me to use their stinking visa card.

    Impatient? Too bad. Not my problem. Get a prescription for some Valium. You’re probably the same guy that can’t wait to pass me when I’m already doing 60 in a 40 zone. Because for you types, the only thing that matters is you.

    Again, not my problem. It’s YOUR problem. Your stress, your anxiety, your bitching and complaining.

    Another entity that loves electronic transactions is the credit card companies themselves. They can’t wait to get their grubby fingers on your routing number.

    I always tell ’em: The check is in the mail.

  47. evslin says:

    What the hell is wrong with you check haters? You guys have some serious scheduling problems if losing a minute on somebody writing a friggin check is giving you that much trouble in your lives.

    Like you all have never held anybody up for anything, ever. Good lord.

  48. Traveshamockery says:

    Lol @ all the check lovers :)

    Checks are ridiculous. Plastic is quicker and safer.

  49. wellfleet says:

    @Soldmysoul: I agree. Best Buy uses Certegy as well and we have had some *very* well-to-do customers have their checks declined for no apparent reason other than a bad combination of “issues” at Certegy’s end. We hate it, too, as there is no reason we would want a customer to be declined when he’s being checked out… Complaining to K-Mart is pointless, they can’t override that decision.
    I ditto the plastic comments, use a check card, it’s a lot faster and you can get a refund quicker.

  50. Fly Girl says:

    Are there even any banks that issue checking accounts that don’t give you a debit card, too? And are there even any debit cards that don’t have a Visa or Mastercard symbol on them?

    Chances are, if you can write a check, you can pay with plastic. Either use your debit card as debit or use your debit card as credit– either way, it’s faster and easier.

    Why would someone opt to use a check at a place like Kmart? If you’ve got a checkbook, you’ve got a debit card. Kmart accepts debit cards. And debit cards that look like credit cards. And credit cards.

    I’m sorry, there’s really only one reason to use a check, and that’s because you don’t actually have the money in your account. Otherwise, you’d save yourself the time and just use your debit/credit card.

  51. ThomasD3 says:

    Put that along with coupons; I hate people paying with coupons, I always feel like giving them the difference so that they leave the cashier right now and keep their precious coupons.

    maybe some people don’t value their time, I do value mine. Too many things to do

  52. Tug says:

    I had the same thing happen at a couple different stores with Certegy. CHRISTMAS SHOPPING. Seems that the routing # on my checks didn’t match what they had (different cities – where I opened my bank account, & where I live & bank now – but same bank). They also said that if you order your checks from one of the companies that makes the ‘cutsie’ ones (instead of your bank), that can cause problems. P.I.T.A.

  53. psychos says:



    I will gladly, on my own dime, personally make a trip down to wherever you are, and carry around several hundred dollars worth of unrolled pennies. I will then, at your invitation, accompany you to various stores, and stand in front of you in line and pay for various things in cash with my large bags full of unrolled pennies. Since some merchants may not accept these pennies for reasons (which may very well be illegal), I will also carry around several hundreds of dollars in unrolled dimes and dollar coins. I will also carry a significant quantity of $2 bills, since these seem to confuse cashiers.

    In the spirit of the average check-writer, I will take an unreasonable amount of time to count out my small coinage/$2 bills. Since these are forms of legal tender, this is obviously my prerogative to pay for merchandise in this fashion, even if it requires counting out 50,000 pennies. I do reserve the right to return and request a cash refund of any items I happen to purchase, as I may experience buyer’s remorse.

    In return, you should agree to be perfectly honest as to whether I have inconvenienced you by paying with small change rather than with more reasonable legal tender. If you do feel at all inconvenienced, you would agree to pay for all of my travel-related expenses, and additionally agree to shred all of your checkbooks. Using bill-pay services to automatically mail checks will still be permitted.

    But seriously? “Like you all have never held anybody up for anything, ever.” No, I actually have NOT ever held anybody up for anything, ever, when there was not a logical reason to do so. Nor do I care if anyone else holds ME up in line if they have a logical reason to do so themselves. Paying for things with an inefficient, outdated mode of payment when it gains me absolutely nothing to do so is NOT a logical reason, nor should it be for anyone else, in almost all cases. (Please see my post above, there are certainly exceptions where using a check is perfectly fine.)

    And I am completely serious about traveling down to wherever the hell you are and carrying around giant bags of small change. It’d be fun. And you’d probably get annoyed pretty quickly at the few places I found that would let me spend 30 minutes in line counting out pennies for a $500 purchase while you waited behind me. I would sincerely apologize in advance if I were to spill said pennies, and have to recount them, wasting even more of your time. So, please, do extend me an invitation to your hometowns if you seriously would not consider this an inconvenience to you at all.

  54. psychos says:


    I see nothing wrong with coupons. As I have stated in previous posts, I quite do value my time, but not when it impinges on the financial benefits of someone ahead of me in line. Coupons save them money. So I have no problem with them spending a little more time and using coupons.

    Checks are, of course, a different matter. Unless I have failed to come across some magical 5%-off-all-purchase checks that some posters act like they have, that would, indeed, be quite reasonable to use instead of a credit/debit card or cash.

  55. randombob says:


    Check-hater here, reporting for duty.

    I AM minding my own business. When you take a minute to fill out the check, then I or one of my employees has to verify all the info on it, then run it through the check draft machine, it totals up to at least two minutes. Swiping a card NEVER takes that long, sorry.

    So yeah I hate check-writers and I AM minding my own business. I am ALSO minding my own business when I am STANDING BEHIND YOU in line, waiting to buy my $1 milk, as you spend and extra two minutes writing a check for a single pack of cigarettes.

    Checks have their place. You need to buy a new TV or something? Pay a mortgage? OK cool, break out the checks.

    You’re in line at K-Mart? Come on; leave the checkbook at home please, for everyone’s sake!

  56. ellastar says:

    Certegy has really weird guidelines. We have a little stack of cards to hand out to people when/if their checks get declined that list the codes and reasons. I’ve never gotten the code for bad check history on any customers. Mostly it’s just Code 2, which states that there is no information on the customer and that they can’t process it.

    @bohemian: @parad0x360: Old Navy changed their check procedures a few years ago so that they just swipe the check in their machine and it instantly debits the checking account. My mother found out about this when she payed by check and they swiped it and handed it back to her. She was annoyed. She liked paying with checks for the paper trail it left. She told the cashier if she had known that, she would have just used her debit card.

    @ideagirl: @acasto: Yes, but it takes retailers a few minutes to process checks, which is a world of difference when compared to debit or credit cards. And while you and I can fill out a check in 30 seconds, there are a lot of people out there who are inept when it comes to check writing and are sooooooo slow when filling out theirs. “What day is it? Oh, I have to write down who I’m paying it to?” Yes, because that’s why it’s there. Now, could you please hurry so I can get along with typing your information and check number/Driver’s license/amount on check? Oh, now there’s a line behind you. Great.

  57. handalanda says:

    I work at US Bank and a few months ago we seemed to have a lot of people coming in with issues related to certigy. Certigy had lost customer information and sent out letters to a bunch of people. And we’ve had people have checks denied who also have never had issues with bounced checks.

  58. Ragman says:

    Low check number? Are you freaking kidding me? You can order checks with whatever number you want, and they think the freaking number is an issue? My first check I wrote IN MY LIFE was number 500.

    I’m surprised at all the “Oh, just use your debit card” responses. I thought we’d pooh-pooh’d debit card use in here: [consumerist.com]

    I don’t like to carry checks around. Extra stuff to worry about losing, kinda bulky, I don’t get my 1% cashback on them, etc. Speaking of which, to quote Speedwell, “Well, I always write a check for my rent. At my complex, the alternative is to fill out a form authorizing them to charge my credit card each month”
    Man, I would have LOVED to put my $750 rent on Discover and get my 1% cashback. Not having to worry about getting the check to the office every month and getting $90 back each year would’ve been nice.

  59. psychos says:


    In regards to Old Navy apparently instantly debiting your account… awesome. If all merchants simply did an instant EFT on your checking account and handed you back your check, perhaps people would stop writing them.

    I would have to wonder about the legalities of this, though, although Old Navy apparently has it figured out. I assume it could be something as simple as the cashier stating “Since you’re paying with a check, I need to to okay that we can charge that amount to your checking account”, if even that is required. (Cue look of surprise on check-writer’s face when check is then handed back with the receipt, funds having been already debited.)

  60. Chris Walters says:

    @parad0x360: J&R Electronics in New York City does the same thing–if you pay by check, they’ll run the check right there at the register and withdraw the funds from your account. It’s like they’re a little point-of-sale bank. It was freaky the first time it happened to me (several years ago), but since then I haven’t written any checks in retail situations.

    I don’t know what they pay to have that system in place, but I’m sure it must cut their bounced check rate down to 0%.

  61. Buran says:

    @teh: Credit cards are actually safer by quite a lot.

  62. Buran says:

    @randombob: $1 milk? Where?

  63. scoosdad says:
  64. FLConsumer says:

    Not a debit card fan by any means, but Certegy sucks. Had them deny a check for AT&T Wireless (no info on file). The bank had a branch in the same plaza. AT&T refused to take the check in any form, even a call from my personal banker wouldn’t persuade them.

    Having the phone in-hand, I stood my ground and said that’s the only form of payment I have and if they wanted money, they could carry the check over to the bank branch and I’m sure they’d be more than happy to help. If not, tough, they could cancel the account. They eventually cashed it at the bank branch and took it back to the store as cash. Strange.

  65. MayorBee says:


    Okay- substitute “personal check” for the above example and you may see a pattern. These are things that once functioned as money- a means of exchange that both parties recognized- that are no longer fungible.

    However, checks are considered negotiable instruments and are governed by Articles 3 and 4 of the UCC. Personal checks never functioned as money. There is a distinct and significant difference between money (something used to gauge the value of something else) and a negotiable instrument (which specifies how much of that something used to gauge the value of something else). Checks are, as long as the merchant accepts them, as valid as credit cards as a method of payment.

    @InfiniTrent: You say that plastic is safer, but if someone steals your credit card or forges one, that’s considered a second form of ID in many places. So they create a fake ID and your credit card and can perpetrate identity theft against you. A paper check is never a form of ID, so you don’t have that risk.

  66. psychos says:


    I would be far more concerned with someone withdrawing up to my balance (or well past it, with quite a few overdraft fees applied) from a checking account, than with someone stealing my credit card and using it as a second form of ID.

    Consider that a thief can simply create a credit card with no more information than my name and use that as their second ID. In fact, even just using a check would leave me open to this, since they can just create a credit card with my name and whatever valid or invalid number on it; in my experience with non-picture secondary IDs, all they care about is that you have a piece of some sort of plastic-like substance that happens to have your name on it. They’re extremely unlikely to RUN that credit card and do an pre-auth charge on it to make sure it is actually valid.

    So I would say you are MORE vulnerable to fraud from using a check, since both checks and credit cards reveal your name, and thus allow a fake secondary ID to be created. And on top of that, checks generally reveal your address as well. And of course, checks will allow your bank account to be mistreated at will, as noted above.

    I’d rather trust my credit card company in this situation. Our banking system is much more of a pain to deal with when fraud is involved, and fraud is far too easy when you have someone’s routing number and account number in this country, not to mention their full name and address for whatever other nefarious purposes you have in mind past simply withdrawing all of their money.

  67. StevieD says:

    Been there and got the T-shirt to prove.

    I was with good ole Dad at a department store (national chain). Dad has had the same checking account since Moses was in charge of issuing checks. I think his personal check numbers are well over 15000. There ain’t no problem with money in the checking account (6 digits) and if there was he has overdraft protection that can tap into his savings accounts. He has lived at the same residence for more than 40 years and owned his own business employing for most of that time.

    And his check is rejected.

    Yep, he ain’t in the system.

    That got him all fired up. Really pissed off. So he bought the ice cream stand in the mall. Weird? No. First day as the new owner of the ice cream stand he started a new policy…. the ice cream stand would give a 10% discount to all employees of the stores in the mall that paid for their ice cream by check…. except the employees of the national chain as their checks were no good and would not accepted under any condition.

    Got him into all kinds of hot water with the mall owner, but all of sudden the national chain (at least that one store) stopped using the check clearing house. Dad sold the ice cream stand for no profit, but what the heck he got his point across quite nicely.

  68. MayorBee says:

    @psychos: Good points there. I was specifically thinking more about the debit/check cards (with the Visa/MC logos) that would allow someone with the card number to drain your checking (and savings if it’s tied to overdraft) account. With those cards, you can be held liable for up to $50. I know most banks won’t hold you accountable for that amount, as long as you report in time. If a bank honors a fraudulent check, however, you’re never liable for any amount of fraud (there’s probably a time limitation on that, as well). You’d still have the same headaches either way dealing with the bank, so that’s a wash.

    In my opinion, it’s easier to deal with a bank regarding check fraud than a credit card company regarding credit card fraud. The main reason is that you usually have a physical point of presence for your bank. Unless you have a credit card that’s tied to one of the national banks (BoA, WaMu, Capital One), the option of sitting down face to face with someone isn’t available to you. But, if it’s a CC with great customer service, like I’ve gotten from Amex, then the face to face thing isn’t all that important.

  69. goodkitty says:

    @Dakine: The reason your bank cares, if true, is BECAUSE you have $xxx,xxx in your account. They could care less if you only have $xx,xxx in your account, nevermind only $xx.xx. Either that or your bank is a superhero credit union.

    As far as debit/credit cards is concerned, they take too long also. Maybe it’s just me, but every time I’m waiting for 30+ seconds for the store’s pin-pad thing to respond and authorize the purchase, I always think of that Visa commercial. Sometimes I write a check BECAUSE the stupid debit/credit system isn’t working or too slow. Life never works like it’s supposed to.

  70. Buran says:

    @Soldmysoul: Because k-mart refused to take the payment when they could have said “that’s BS”, that’s why.

    I don’t go to K-mart anymore, but in this case I’d definitely tell them they lost my business and include a copy of the receipt from the competition that DID take my payment.

  71. Buran says:

    @StevieD: That’s funny. Tell your dad I laughed and that I wish more people would do things like that.

    What’d he get in hot water for? Stores can refuse service to anyone for almost anything (protected classes are an exemption).

  72. pecheckler says:

    HOLY CRAP it’s the year 2008 and people are still using checks at retail stores! Did you ride up to the k-mart in your horse & carriage?
    learn2debitcard plkthnx

  73. psychos says:


    The time limitations you mention are, unfortunately, a problem. With debit cards AND checks, you are potentially out the complete amount of fraud until you get the problem taken care of, which can run from days to weeks depending on the circumstances. Then you have the overdraft fees to fight with on top of that, possible bounced transactions, etc…

    I respectfully disagree that having a physical point of presence is an advantage. Then again, I have never been the victim of check or debit card (never used a debit card) fraud, but I’ve heard enough horror stories from friends and read enough as well about funds being locked up for several days while matters were cleared up. This, in my opinion, negates any benefits of having a physical point of presence, as nice as it is. (However, I do my general checking with small local banks for EXACTLY the reasons that you point out, for the many times that I need to do things like write checks and transfer hard funds between accounts. It’s nice to walk into my local bank’s office and be treated like a person while having my problems acknowledged and dealt with sincerely.)

    I believe the fact that a credit card does not immediately debit an account outweighs any physical presence factors, in almost all cases. This may differ with smaller credit card issuers with lesser customer service. But as you mentioned, face to face isn’t all that important when you know you’re going to get good customer service, as with Amex. And as much as I hate patronizing large, evil institutions as Amex, I do probably around 85% of my transactional volume with Amex itself, another 10% with Citi where Amex isn’t accepted, and the rest via cash/checks when plastic isn’t accepted at all. This is because I have found that Amex and Citi generally provide excellent customer service, and in the few instances that I HAVE had fraudulent charges with them, they have always immediately put them on hold until the matter was resolved.

  74. LUV2CattleCall says:


    It’s especially annoying at Wal-Mart when ‘ol lady blue-hair insists on filling out the entire goddamn check even though the clerk keeps repeating “THE MACHINE WILL FILL ALL THAT OUT YOU DUMB (someone who doesn’t put the “Ry” in “Country”)”

  75. psychos says:


    How is using unrolled pennies not, in some ways, equal to writing out a check? Can you provide me information as to how using a check directly provides you financial/personal benefit over using a credit/debit card or cash? Using unrolled pennies gives me no such benefit, it simply costs you time. By its very nature, the act of you writing out a check simply costs me time as well, without buying you anything that I can see (in MOST situations; there are exceptions.) If using a check DOES gain you something, then I am quite happy for you to use a check, however much extra time it costs me.

    You say writing a check does not cost 31.99% interest like BoA apparently charges you to use your Visa card. I fail to see how you are being charged 31.99% interest unless you are not paying off that card in full every month (and not being a serious delinquent on top of that, considering that ridiculously high interest rate.) Using your debit card costs you 0% interest, anyways, if you are not responsible enough to pay off a credit card monthly. It quickly debits from your checking account just the same as a check. You may lose a day or so of float on that. I’m not bothered to calculate the very small number of cents that might gain you on a given transaction with the miniscule interest rates that are paid on checking accounts.

    And I wouldn’t be waiting to pass you when you’re doing 60 in a 40, because I would be on the subway even if I could drive the same distance in less time. Or a plane if I were going further. Saves me gas/maintenance money, hassle, and cuts down on emissions.

    …and you’re more willing to give your account and routing numbers to a ton of different retailers, than to the (admittedly) grubby fingers of a single credit card company? (Or nobody other than your bank, if you choose to use a debit card, which I suggest given the interest rate you quoted.)

  76. t325 says:

    This happened to me once at Target. I had written checks there many times before (this was when I worked there, and we could only use our employee discount if we paid with gift card, cash, check or their stupid credit card. I never had cash, GCs and didn’t have their credit card as I wasn’t 18 at the time). One day, I went in to buy some stuff and, as usual, wrote a check. More than enough money in my account, and I have never, ever in my life bounced a check or had my debit card declined. The check was run through Certegy and came back declined. I didn’t know what was going on, didn’t have another check, so I had the cashier remove my employee discount, and I successfully paid with my debit card (which was tied to the EXACT SAME ACCOUNT).

    I called Certegy and they weren’t much help. Since I worked at this store, the managers were much more willing to help figure out what was wrong, and they were able to look back at records, and determined that the thing on the register that reads the routing/account number on the bottom of the check read it wrong. So, it passed an invalid account number to Certegy, Certegy couldn’t do their thing and kicked it out.

    And therein lies the problem. With a credit card, if it doesn’t read it, or reads it wrong, you can always try it again. When I worked at Target, whenever someone’s card was declined, I would always have them try again and sometimes, it went through due to a read error the first time. Can’t do that with a check, because the register pretty much voids it. On the back, in the endorsement area, it prints out some crap about Certegy and you can’t use the check again.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if a read error was the cause of the problem for this person. But unless you write out another check (which most people don’t do), you’ll never know.

  77. psychos says:


    As I have some free time tomorrow, I am quite tempted to call Certegy as a potential merchant (I am a legitimate incorporated small business, and if they DID reasonably give me a way to safely and cheaply process checks, I would actually be interested) and inquire about all the issues brought up in this thread. I’m quite curious as to how they will spin it.

    It disturbs me that something like a simple read error would basically deny a customer the ability to use a check, regardless or whether I believe said customer should be using a check or not. (In your situation, it’s quite apparent that you were making very reasonable use of checks at Target.)

    I’d be even more concerned if a partial-read error were to lead to being blacklisted; e.g., reading your name and address right, reading your routing or account number wrong, and thus marking you as a “bad” check writer.

  78. forgottenpassword says:

    Ages ago I went to buy one of my first computers at best buy & was planning on paying with a check & the cashier told me I couldnt do that on a sunday because they had no way to verify the funds. I was told to come back on monday to purchase it.

    This was long before check/debit cards.

  79. forgottenpassword says:


    ok NOW you have really stepped on my toes!!!

    I LOVE using coupons! They really add up in savings over time. Often times it is the cashier (or their scanning system) that holds up the line because it cant recognize or allow a coupon. I have had this happen several times at walmart & their cashiers couldnt figure out why their scanner wouldnt accept my coupons. The last time it happened the cashier & csr made up some BS to try to explain it. I ended up just leaving the item the coupon was for paid for the rest of my stuff & walked out.

  80. Kevino says:

    I write checks too and love when people moan about it behind me, I usually go slower then. If you don’t like that then don’t shop, since most business accepts checks and all you know. It’s not like you own the store and if you can’t wait 5 minutes then maybe you have a time issue and need to plan your day better.

    Also if you wish to use your ATM and get charged just to use it through service charges, then by all means keep following the crowd. I’ll be that “jerk” holding you all up writing a check.

  81. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @PricklyPete: Is it necessary for YOU self-centered assholes to wait until the last possible second to START FILLING OUT the check?
    Or wait until they tell you how much your total is before you swipe/insert your card and go through the ‘what’s my PIN’ dance?
    If you would stop calling others self-centered and show a little consideration…maybe this would be a better world for ALL OF US.

    And learn how to f*cking count. “10 items or less” doesn’t mean 15.

  82. mdkiff says:

    @acasto: Just my observation, but it seems to me that the “check writers” I get stuck behind are not exactly whipping out their checkbooks – they always realize after everything is bagged that they have to pay. Then they root around in their purse (no offense women, but it is usually a woman), find the checkbook, then find a pen, and slowly write out the information. I would like to go on with my life, and there is no question that checks a slow compared to cards and cash – it’s the same thing at toll booths with people who don’t have SpeedPass or its equivalent.

  83. mdkiff says:

    @Dakine: Really? 31.99% interest for a debit card? BoA is worse than I thought, ha ha.

  84. Snakeophelia says:

    Back in the late 90’s, when I was still writing checks at stores, I had two occurrences of having a check denied.

    1. Certegy (or some equivalent company) didn’t recognize my credit union account number as a legitimate bank account number.

    2. In one day, I tried to write two checks to Eckerd’s (the first check was around $50, the second check was over $100). The second check was denied, but I remember the clerk telling me that it was because their processing system stopped people from writing multiple checks there in one day. Very frustrating on a day when I’d gone to the doctor after writing the first check and now needed more and pricier medicine!

    And I’m old enough to remember the good ol’ days, when the great thing about writing a check was that the money didn’t need to be in your account then – it just needed to be there in the next day or so. Bad financial practice, I know, but it certainly came in handy at times!

  85. normanm4 says:

    Please stop hating on checks…what am I going to do with my 14 boxes of cute checks with the picture of Garfield looking oh-so-cute with the hilarious thought bubble that I says “I love lasagna”. Cashiers everywhere will no longer have the opportunity to banter with my cute and razor sharp wit!

  86. Just another *GOOD* reason not to shop at Kmart or Sears. The sooner they go bankrupt the better.

  87. winstonthorne says:

    I usually don’t “blame the victim,” but seriously; she used a payment method as insecure, outdated (welcome to the new millenium), and time-consuming as a check, so she gets no sympathy here.

    To avoid this problem in the future, she should use a credit card, debit card, or cash, like a civilized human being.

    I hope Certegy sells her checking account number to a Nigerian expat with a $500k interest-only option ARM and a gambling problem.

  88. Dobernala says:

    @Kevino: uhh ATM cards are free at most banks

  89. PricklyPete says:

    @doctor_cos: Wow, you seem to be an angry
    person. I never said I wrote checks, in fact, I don’t. I just don’t
    freak out when someone else does. Oh, and thanks for the advice on how
    to make it a better world for all of us.

  90. WhirlyBird says:

    @renegadebarista: “You can be a good, honest person and still be made to look like a criminal by these companies.”

    In this post 9/11 world, everyone is a criminal. We just haven’t caught you yet.

  91. WhirlyBird says:

    @Dobernala: uhh ATM cards are not debit cards. My 16-year old has one, and it’s only useful at an ATM machine, not a retail POS.

  92. eben56 says:

    Yeah.. Everyone should use check cards instead of checks. That way when the store has a security problem you get to fight with the banks over your stolen info. (Hannafords anyone?).
    I wonder how many check writers at those stores had their accounts stolen?

  93. WhirlyBird says:

    @doctor_cos: “Is it necessary for YOU self-centered assholes to wait until the last possible second to START FILLING OUT the check?”

    Yes, because it pisses off the inbred tools in line behind us, and you are all am inexpensive source of amusement (at least until they start airing new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy).

  94. tmlfan81 says:

    Checks still have their place. Lets face it, we don’t want to give just anyone our banking information so they can pull a variable amount of money out of our accounts each month for a payment. [It’s one thing if it’s a fixed monthly payment for a car note, insurance, or a mortgage – it’s another if it’s a utility or credit card]

    I work with people that refuse to use Debit cards. They would rather have the cash in hand, or write a check. Credit cards are a last resort, and only if they have the means to make the purchase. But no one makes money off of those people.

    You make money off the desperate. Those that write checks a day or two before payday in hopes it doesn’t clear until then. Maybe, just maybe, their direct deposit will hit and they won’t have a bounced check, plus the associated fees, which will prevent them from taking the wife and kids out to dinner that weekend.

    And Certegy’s business practices only go on to show you that even if you are on the up and up, they will still flag you with a “false positive” based on their devised way of evaluating the pending purchase. So the immediate solution is to stop writing checks outright?

    Whatever happened to accountability? Certegy should be held to a higher standard – and work to eliminate the false positives that cause embarrassment for customers otherwise in good standing. Customers should stop lying to themselves and only purchase what they can truly afford. They know whether or not that check will clear the bank. If it won’t, don’t write it. Pay with cash if you have it or wait until you can actually afford to make a purchase.

    And the stores aren’t without fault, either. Sure, they are trying to protect their stores from fraudulent activity. But they are also causing grief for those that are honest. They should do something to compensate them. [Gift cards, an actual letter of apology that doesn’t just pass the buck over to another company]

    And if the complaints are high enough, switch to a different check verification service. Checks aren’t going away, they just aren’t being used as much any more for smaller purchases.

    And is that really a bad thing?

  95. Pro-Pain says:

    I had that Certegy company decline a check of mine once a few years ago for absolutely NO reason at all (I wrote two other checks that day (small amounts too) so it MUST be fraud. FUCK CERTEGY! I have never written another check again after that day.

  96. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Whatever happened to accountability?

    @tmlfan81: Apparently, not only should companies not be held accountable but should go out of their way to defraud their customers. After all, one of those customers at some point may or may not have annoyed someone who doesn’t use said companies’ services! We all know how evil it is to annoy people.

    Seriously, some of the anti-check rants here are completely ridiculous.

    Kroger needs to find an alternative to Certegy. There’s got to be some company that doesn’t completely fail at processing checks.

  97. RagingBoehner says:

    This happened to me at Midas a couple years ago for a $1,100 brake job. At that time I didn’t have that much available credit, and the money was in a money market account that didn’t have a debit card linked to it. So basically the check is the only way that I could pay. So Midas finishes the work and then won’t let me take the car with the check because it doesn’t pass the Certegy test.

    Fortunately I was able to call my folks and use one of their credit cards and mail them a check, but if that wasn’t an option can they really just hold onto my car forever because they don’t like my perfectly good check?

  98. benwellington says:

    You forgot to link to this which is the same thing:


  99. newfenoix says:

    @Terrminal: Ok, I have a question for you. Wal Mart uses Certegy and I recently tried to get my paycheck cashed and it was declined. Explain that one.

  100. thebaron says:

    I hate checks anyhow! Cash or Debit as it should be the only way to fly!

  101. Parting says:

    @tmlfan81: When I worked in a store, I hated wen people paid with check. It was an extra 15 minutes for me on the phone to confirm that check was valid and approved. While other customers WAITED. (If it’s quiet, then check is ok, but when there several people behind you…)

    And when the company finally changed policy and stopped taking payments by checks, then I’ve seen some hissy-fits from check’s customers.

    The impression it left me…

    I believe checks shouldn’t be used in retail at all. It costs to ”process” more than credit cards and debit cards. And the wait is RUDE to your other customers.

  102. mbd says:

    I currently bank though my credit union. When there is insufficient funds in my checking account to cover a check, it automatically pulls the money from my overdraw credit line. If I use the debit card without sufficient funds in checking, it gets rejected. The overdraw credit line only works with paper checks. This makes no sense, and I have argued this directly with the CEO of the credit union, to no avail. Because of this, I do need to write checks every now and again.

  103. TheBestMaxEver says:

    Wow – So you’re that annopying lady in line who keeps us all waiting while you write your check. How did you call Certegy?? Use a rotary phone?

  104. EmmaBean says:

    I work for a company that provides residential services for developmentally disabled adults – ie group homes. Each house has its own checking account, and *gasp* our employees use checks. A debit card would not work – each house has at least a dozen employees and frankly we aren’t going to hand out personalized debit cards to staff. Petty cash? Ha, what a nightmare.
    However, many places won’t take checks anymore. Movie theaters, many gas stations, most restaurants, etc. Then we have to ask our staff to pay with their own money and get reimbursed. And when you have people making $10 an hour, asking them to shell out $50 for an activity doesn’t go over so well. I don’t know what the heck we’re going to do when we can’t write checks anywhere, but I’m sure the day is coming. In the meantime, we’ll be the people ahead of you in line patiently and slowly explaining to the cashier the concept of a “business” check.

  105. Terrminal says:

    @newfenoix: The company I work for doesn’t cash paychecks, only accepts checks for payment. How do you know Certegy was even used in this case? If they were, maybe your employer recently bounced a few paychecks. As far as I know, Certegy only gives risk assessment on consumer checks, so I really have no idea on dealing with paychecks.

  106. jstonemo says:

    At Costco, it is cash, check or AmEx. I don’t carry credit cards, so the checkbook comes out. If the person behind me doesn’t like it, who cares.

  107. cerbie says:

    @ideagirl: um, no. The stuck-up lady with too much make-up buying an overflowing cart of stuff at the 15 item lane never takes as little as 30 seconds, takes a long time to check over the prices before she even starts writing the check (or, sometimes, even getting out the checkbook), waits until the end to bring out her coupons, and it almost always requires a manager type coming over to do something with it. That’s just the ones without kids…

    The above is something I wait on often.

    One lady will take longer with one check than a Mexican immigrant family paying with three or four methods. It’s crazy. Here’s two people keeping two or more kids in check (oh, puns!), paying by food stamp, cash, and one or more debit cards, and they are done in like a minute. But, they were prepared, and their kids tend to behave. I bet if they were paying with a check, too, I wouldn’t notice an extra delay (assuming Certegy doesn’t say no :)).

    @StevieD: your dad is awesome.

    @Dobernala: you are not at a bank. You at a retail store that has an ATM machine within walking distance that is likely to not be your bank’s, and thus, charge you a fee for its use.

  108. Buran says:

    @MayorBee: While you are protected for past the first $50 by federal law, if you use a credit card, that same protection isn’t there for debit cards.

    Yes, banks usually don’t hold you responsible for ANY of it (my bank refunded me for $22 when a business fraudulently denied me a refund for a cancelled order, long story, but legally they didn’t have to — but will do it for longstanding customers) but it’s a lot easier to rest easy when you’re protected by the force of law.

    (That, and not being out any money during fraud investigations is nice. I don’t bounce bills — only did so once in my life and that was a freak accident, also a long story — and I don’t intend to start now because some jerk helped themself to what is not theirs).

  109. eelmonger says:

    @newfenoix: Paychecks are also the target of check fraud, and they have a much bigger payoff, because they can be for larger amounts and be less suspicious. I rejected tons of them while working at a customer service counter. It’s also true that paychecks can bounce, mostly for small companies, but if a small company uses a payroll service and bounces it check, it can screw things up for everyone that uses that service.

  110. Orv says:

    IMHO the biggest problem with checks is they have all the information someone needs to do an ACH debit of your account, right there on the front. I’ve heard horror stories of people who had fraudulent ACH debits against their accounts and had a very hard time getting them reversed — apparently the bank assumes that if someone has your account number and routing code, they must be you.

    @eelmonger: Yup. I once worked for a small company that got in financial trouble and bounced some checks. My bank started holding my paychecks until they cleared. Very annoying. I also hate the way banks charge you a “returned item fee” if a check you deposit bounces. Like it’s somehow your fault you were given a band check.

  111. fernando26 says:

    I used to work at Best Buy and they use the same service. Think of credit bureau for checks (thats the best approximation). People would come in that made 250k+ a year, theyd have titanium amex, and still their check would get declined.

    Basically, if you dont regularly write large checks, any large check you write would get declined 99.9% of the time. Thered’d be nothing we could do, Cetergy was way overconservative when it came to approvals, and we lost TONS of business because people ONLY had a check with them.

    I agree the system is broken, but I dont know how to fix it (that wouldn’t open up the door to MASSIVE AMOUNTS of check fraud, yea we had tons of that btw, but the ones who caught it was usually the employees and not cetergy, when we noticed the person had a fake ID which was easy to spot every time)

  112. Jmatthew says:

    I know CheckSystems (the system most banks, at least here on the west coast, use) is considered a credit reporting agency.

    It seems like not much of a leap to think that Certegy would also fall under that banner. If simply having a checking account is considered req credit, then it would seem likely that using that checking account would also… which means that you may be able to get Cenergy in hot water by pointing out to the Gov’t that they aren’t following Credit Bureau Reporting laws by not explaining specifically why you were rejected.

    Has anyone ever called them to ask for a copy of their credit report with them?

    That might be entertaining.

  113. Blackneto says:

    To all you indignant, “I can’t believe you are using a check” people

    I don’t care if you are pissed with me. Like i’m ever going to see you again in my life.
    I don’t care if you have things to do. You should have shopped faster.

    So stand behind me an fume. Get your blood pressure up. Go home and beat your family, i don’t care.
    Doesn’t bother me at all.

    To be honest I only write 5 or 6 checks a month to various entities. But I think its totally absurd that people give a rats ass what other people in line ahead of them are doing.

  114. nardo218 says:

    Oh for god’s sake, when I was a cashier, I had 50 unjust card or check denials a day. It’s usually modem error. Calm the fuck down and stop posting crap, Consumerist.

  115. drjayphd says:

    @Blackneto: Exactly. It’s nice to see Consumerist bringing out the best in people, no? ;)

  116. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @WhirlyBird: I’ll be the one smiling when you are the one in a hurry, folks.
    Common courtesy ain’t.

  117. destijl says:

    I was hit by that certegy info “breach.” It drove me crazy trying to figure out how this telemarketing company got my info. They’d try to tell you that you’d entered in a contest and won, and blah blah, it’s just a small fee for shipping, do you accept? And then they proceed to drain your bank account. They never got that far with me, but that’s what I read from others online. Anyway, on the upside though I used the opportunity to get the hell away from Bank of America. Initially I thought BOA might have been to blame, because I only write one check a month, to my landlord which I personally hand in at their office. I write absolutely no other checks. And this company specifically had my bank account number, which, according to the BOA fraud specialist I talked to, cannot be obtained through a debit card transaction. So I could not figure out how the hell my info was stolen for at least six months after it happened, until my landlord sent out a memo talking about how they were changing check processing companies because of this.

  118. StacyS says:

    My husband just tried to write a $65 check at Sentry Foods and it was declined. He was given a slip of paper with Certegy’s contact info. I called Certegy immediately to find out why this happened. They were very courteous, and apologized, I will give them that. They asked for our drivers license #s and birthdays and put me on hold for maybe 2 minutes. When they got back on the phone they stated that there is no negative information on file for us and thus the check was declined for other reasons. I honestly had a hard time understanding the exact reasons, they made no sense to me. She mentioned that something about the check either alerted them of possible fraud or that we aren’t preferred check writers with Certegy (and that she could send out a form to fill out), or perhaps we should obtain overdraft insurance (mind you there was no overdraft currently or a history of),… then the word “parameters” was mentioned, but again, I was at a loss as to what that meant exactly. I just wasn’t getting a concrete answer – or a reason why we deserve to be punished when we’ve done nothing wrong (as they even admitted). I simply interrupted and stated that since we have never had a problem writing checks at Piggly Wiggly and Pick N Save, for example, that we would just simply stop shopping at Sentry.

  119. tmlfan81 says:


    They declined my payroll check, too. No reason at all. They honestly told me to wait two weeks and try again.