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Most of my checking accounts use FiServ Checkfree to process bill payments.  If the payee is on file with electronic details, Checkfree sends the payment via ACH (up to $2500 in many cases).  Otherwise it sends a check.  But the check can be a "laser draft" drawn on your account, like any other check except they print/mail it, or a "corporate check."   The corporate check is drawn on Checkfree's account, and they ACH the money from you on the bill pay date.  With a corporate check, the money is out of your account, regardless if the payee received or deposited the check yet.  You also have no confirmation that they recipient deposited the check, because the money's already removed from your checking account. 

Has anyone ever figured out how Checkfree decides to pay with a laser draft or corporate check?  The laser draft is a much better option, since you can see the check cleared, view the endorsement like any other check, etc.  Years ago, you used to be more likely to get a laser draft if there was something unusual in the address, like a C/O, but that doesn't appear to be true anymore.  Worse, Checkfree doesn't even bother telling you what they are doing until the bill pay date has arrived and an ACH to fund a corporate check has already taken place.  Not that I would ever have insufficient funds, but someone trying to play the float can be mightily surprised when the funds are gone before the recipient even gets the check.  Checkfree says they decide based on some secret formula involving your credit score, recipient, phase of the moon, etc.

But seriously, is there any way to make a laser draft more likely? 

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I think it is partially at the option of the bank. USAA switched from laser drafts to corporate checks for a year or so maybe 10 years ago, then it went back to laser drafts. I think all USAA paper checks are laser drafts.

As to electronic vs. check on large payments, I think it has something to do with whether the biller has signed an agreement (or set a dollar limit) on whether or not mistakes made in electronic transfers can be clawed back. The two large payments that I remember ended up being sent by paper check when they were normally electronic were a $10,000 payoff to Toyota Motor Credit, and an $1200 payment to Bill Me Later.

rated:
rooms222 said:   I think it is partially at the option of the bank. USAA switched from laser drafts to corporate checks for a year or so maybe 10 years ago, then it went back to laser drafts. I think all USAA paper checks are laser drafts.

As to electronic vs. check on large payments, I think it has something to do with whether the biller has signed an agreement (or set a dollar limit) on whether or not mistakes made in electronic transfers can be clawed back. The two large payments that I remember ended up being sent by paper check when they were normally electronic were a $10,000 payoff to Toyota Motor Credit, and an $1200 payment to Bill Me Later.

  Interesting about USAA--I don't have a checking account open there, so I can't test.  The credit unions/banks I use with Checkfree bill pay all say that the payment type is determined by their Checkfree partner and not the FI. 

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Here is an old thread with more information:
https://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/531611

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