What Is a Force Pay Item on Checking Account Statement?

by Anna Assad
A check you wrote may carry a force pay code for processing.

You should review your checking statements as you receive them to monitor your account activity and confirm everything is correct. You might have noticed different codes used by your bank on your checking statement items, such as your debits and credits. One such bank code, the force pay item code, is for debits out of your account.

Force Pay Codes

Banks have internal coding systems that determine transaction processing, including order. A bank uses a "force pay" code to give a debited item priority over other pending transactions that haven't cleared out of your account yet. For example, if you have pending purchases of $4.29 and $5.67 and a force pay item of $12 appears, the bank will take the $12 out of your account before processing the $4.29 and $5.67.

Checks Drawn from Bank

Banks have their own internal policies that determine what items get coded as a "force pay." One common use of force pay items by a bank involves the cashing of checks drawn from an account at that bank. For example, John writes a check off his Main Street Bank account for $25 to Emily. When Main Street bank cashes that check for Emily, they use a force pay code on the $25 transaction from John's account.

Insufficient Funds

A bank may use force pay if they covered a transaction your account didn't have the funds to cover the day before, but this will not prevent any applicable overdraft fees. The force pay transaction is usually processed once you made a deposit that brings your account back into the positive. You're still liable for the overdraft because your account was or went into the negative by the debit, even though the bank covered it.

Overdraft Rules

Changes in federal law prevent banks from processing debit and ATM transactions you don't have the cash in your account to cover without your permission. Your card is declined if your account doesn't have enough funds to cover your debit purchase or ATM withdrawal unless you opt-in for overdraft protection through your bank. This doesn't apply to checks or payments you scheduled, however, so these may still appear as force pay items if they overdraft your account.

About the Author

Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.

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