Best Buy Accepts Check For $2,500, Rejects One The Next Day For $320

Believe it or not, some people still write checks for large retail purchases. And even with all the new-fangled technology that gives consumers and retailers nearly instant access to account balances, there is still some mystery about just how some checks get approved or denied. Take, for example, the Best Buy customer in Ohio who had no problem with a $2,500 check, but who couldn’t get approval on a $320 check from the same store the next day.

This was the situation brought by a reader named CG to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Theresa Dixon Murray.

CG had used a check to pay for a $2,500 TV at Best Buy. The check was electronically cleared and the transaction went through without a hitch. But when CG returned the following day to buy a $320 stand for the pricey new TV, it was a no-go.

“A statement on the back of the check returned to me was from TeleCheck and stated that the check could not be accepted,” writes CG. “But there was more than $2,000 in the account.”

As Dixon Murray points out, this appears to be an issue with TeleCheck’s cloaked-in-secrecy approval process and not with Best Buy.

See, TeleCheck doesn’t look at a check-writer’s available balance when determining whether to approve or decline. If it had, then CG’s purchase would have sailed through. Instead, it weighs other potential risk factors and warning signs of check fraud, like how much is being spent, where is it being spent, and is the item being purchased a favorite of check-kiters?

What Dixon Murray suspects — and we agree with her — is that the $320 check wasn’t approved because of the $2,500 check. The fact that these are both relatively high-value purchases at the same store within a two-day period is probably enough to set off the auto-denier at TeleCheck.

This sometimes happens with debit and credit card companies, where the issuer will flag a purchase — especially an online transaction — if there are multiple expensive purchases in a short period of time. Of course, most card issuers have simple ways for you to resolve this immediately by calling customer service and verifying your identity and that you are indeed making those purchases.

With the TeleCheck example, the customer doesn’t even have any recourse at the store level, as this determination is all being done by a third party. So complaining or appealing to a manager gets you nowhere.

If you insist on writing checks, especially for several hundred or thousands of dollars, be prepared for being given a hard time, and be prepared to pay with plastic or cash in case that check isn’t accepted.

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  1. SingleMaltGeek says:

    Or be prepared to take your business elsewhere and tell the retailer it’s because they’re using a broken system.

    • CommonC3nts says:

      I used to work at walgreens and they used certegy.
      It would deny checks from time to time.
      I dont even know why anyone would use a check anymore except in cases where they lost their card and were waiting for a new one.

  2. BikerGeek79 says:

    So Best Buy really didn’t have much to do with it then? Almost all retailers use third-party companies to verify checks, such as TeleCheck or Certegy. It wouldn’t have mattered if the customer had gone to any other store if they use the same company. Her check would have been declined anyway.

  3. CommonC3nts says:

    I would never accept a check for $2,500 let alone $320.
    These people need to grow up and get a debit card or better yet a credit card that has purchase protection.

  4. econobikerredux says:

    Rejection of the check should allow the person to get a free credit report from Telecheck.

  5. charmander says:

    I work in a large retail store, and believe me, there are plenty of people who still write checks. Okay, they tend to be older folks, but they are out there. I still have checks, and I use them from time to pay certain once-only bills or donate to charitable organizations, because I want that paper trail (i.e. a copy of the cashed check visible online at my bank’s website).

    Also, I send checks along with my kids to school if they need to pay for something – field trips, yearbooks, etc. – that way when they show up online, I know they have been cashed, and it serves as an acknowledgment and a receipt. I never send cash with my kids – too easy for it to get lost.

  6. CzarChasm says:

    Meh, I’m not sure there is really anyone to blame here. There is so much fraud out there I am not surprised they flag purchases that seem unusual.