Monday, November 29, 2010

New Year, New Cheque Requirements


On January 1, The Bahamas will be ushering in more than the New Year. The country will be welcoming a new era in financial services with the introduction of standard cheques for all customers. Announcement of the change was made today by the Clearing Banks Association, which urged businesses and individuals who maintain chequing accounts at any of the domestic banks to contact their bank to exchange any cheques issued prior to 2010 or replace any cheques that may have been printed on in-house chequing machines.

“The transition to standardized bank-printed cheques for Bahamian dollar accounts is being made for two reasons,” explained Barry Malcolm, Clearing Banks Association Chairman. “The first and most obvious reason is because of security. Cheques that are printed in-house are not printed on what is considered safety paper nor do they contain any of the hidden features that protect against fraud. The new cheques will help safeguard against potential fraud. The second reason for the transition is to ensure good imaging.”

Electronic imaging, or cheque scanning, is now used in cheque clearing, replacing the older means of exchanging the cheques themselves between banks and The Central Bank for clearance. The new system took effect earlier this year when the long-awaited Bahamas Automated Clearing House came on stream, dramatically speeding up cheque clearing time, shaving several days off the time it takes for a cheque to clear an account. Through imaging, most cheques clear within one business day.

“The success of electronic clearance is dependent upon a clear image of the cheque on both sides as it passes through the processing system,” said Malcolm, who is also Managing Director of Scotiabank, one of the seven members of the Clearing Banks Association.

Other member banks include Bank of The Bahamas, Citibank, Commonwealth Bank, Fidelity, First Caribbean and Royal Bank of Canada. “If you bank with any of these banks, consult your bank. We urge you to order cheques now so you do not enter the new year without means of paying bills, making payroll or in any other way being inconvenienced.”

Each bank is setting its specific policy, but there is no extra charge for the new standardized cheques with security features and enhanced imaging capture capabilities. Customers will still be able to choose the design of their cheques based on each bank’s offerings.

Source: Diane Philips and Associates

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