A colleague told me about a frustrating experience at his local bank.


He deposited an $800 check at his bankís ATM on a Saturday. Knowing it was the weekend, he wasnít expecting to get the money credited to his account until Monday or perhaps Tuesday (this was not a holiday week).


But for reasons still unknown to him, the check didnít post to his account until Thursday. That caused him to bounce two outstanding checks worth about $150 and get hit by two $36 overdraft fees.


A longtime customer of the bank, my colleague understandably was upset. It didnít help that bank employees were not helpful and basically said it was his fault for not waiting for the check to post. Disgusted, he has since closed his account and moved to another bank.


Certainly, the best scenario is to always have a cushion in your bank account to cover outstanding checks that havenít cleared, but I know thatís not always possible.


His experience is a good reason to review availability of funds when you deposit a check with a teller or at an ATM. Direct-deposit transactions, where funds are electronically deposited, are different and usually available as soon as the deposit is made.


I surveyed eight area banks ó Charter One, Chase, Fifth Third, FirstMerit, Huntington, KeyBank, Ohio Savings and PNC ó on their funds availability policies.


For a seemingly easy question, I got a lot of detailed answers with different caveats.


So, itís as clear as mud.


The answer is in general, for many banks, checks you deposit should be available on the next business day, unless thereís a reason the bank needs to place a hold on the funds. Some banks offer part of the funds the same day.


Itís important to know the definition of a business day. Most of us would say Monday through Friday. But when a check is deposited on a Saturday or Sunday, it is the next business day, or Monday, when the bank ďacceptsĒ the deposit and then another business day, say Tuesday, before the funds usually are available for you to use.


Bank policies vary, so ask at your branch or call. Also, most banks have their funds availability information on their computer website.


Even as I was finalizing this column, it seemed that answers from bank officials changed depending on the scenario I was asking because there are so many different rules and policies.


As far as the bank where my colleague had a problem, he wasnít really interested in a reason why it took so long for his funds to be available and did not want me sharing his information with the bank. So that bank was not able to look fully into the situation.


So thatís why Iím not taking that bank to task by naming it.


Hereís information provided by bank officials to questions I asked:


Q: How soon are deposits made at a teller available?


A: At Charter One, FirstMerit and KeyBank, funds from checks will generally be available the next business day. At Fifth Third, in most cases, $100 is available the same day with the remainder available the next day.


At some banks, like Huntington, it also depends on the age of the account. If youíve been a customer for more than six months and deposited at a teller, all of the funds will be available the next day. But if youíve been a customer for less than six months and deposited at a teller, you can have up to $500 the next day.


At Chase, for outstanding checks, all funds are available that evening when the deposits and checks are processed (this is most likely the same thing the banks that say funds are available the next day are also saying). At the teller, if itís a check drawn on Chase, all of the funds are available in cash immediately and if itís a non-Chase check, $200 immediately.


At PNC, if the customer is depositing a check written on a PNC account, the entire balance is available to pay items that evening. If itís a non-PNC account, $100 is available in the evening and the remainder the next business day.


At Ohio Savings Bank, funds from a check drawn on Ohio Savings or its parent, New York Community Bank, will be available the next business day. However, if you are depositing a check written on another bank, you will only have access to the first $200 on the next business day and you will have to wait two business days for the remainder. Adding to the confusion, if the check is more than $5,000, youíd have to wait until the fourth business day after your deposit.


If this information isnít confusing enough, there are cut-off times at the various banksí tellers and ATMs, which might consider your deposit accepted the next business day. So of course, you have to ask, or look at the posted signs.


Q: Are there different rules for funds availability for deposits made at ATMs?


A: Every bank seemed to have different rules.


Charter One and Ohio Savings consider any deposit received at an ATM after 3 p.m. to be received the next business day, so then youíll have to wait another business day to get access to your funds (there is a 2 p.m. cut-off time for FirstMerit and 7 p.m. at KeyBank).


At PNC, cut-off times vary and are posted at each ATM.


Chase gives access to the first $200 (or $100 for accounts less than 90 days old) immediately and the rest the next day.


Fifth Third said the information is posted on its signs and some deposits might have $100 immediately available.


At Huntington, depending on the age of your account, you can get up to $400 per day ($100 and $250 for newer accounts).


Ohio Savings does not accept double-endorsed check deposits at its ATMs, which is a check that is payable to one person, endorsed and then written over to another person, so that could cause processing to take longer. A bank official said there is a statement on its ATM deposit envelopes with this policy (if you read bank deposit envelopes).


Q: Is there a difference if a deposit is made at a foreign-ATM (also known as an ATM not owned or operated by your bank)?


A: Several banks, including Charter One, Huntington, KeyBank and Ohio Savings, do not allow deposits to be made in non-bank ATMs or foreign ATMs.


Chase and Fifth Third officials said the rules are based on that foreign bankís ATM rules. PNC gives access to $100 immediately, however, youíll have to wait another four days to get the remaining balance of the check deposited at a non-PNC bank. A bank official said thatís because it takes time to get the check processed from a foreign-ATM. If you have to wait a possible four days for your deposit, in my opinion, you should make every effort to get to a PNC ATM for quicker access.


Q: What are policies to place extra holds on funds?


A: These are all over the map, with lots of little type for various scenarios. But for checks that have to have longer holds, most of the rules are federal regulations banks have to follow and are meant to thwart bad checks. An example is if the bank employee believes the check will not be paid; or checks totaling more than $5,000 that have been deposited in one day; or the deposited check consists of a redeposited check that has previously been returned unpaid; or the customer has overdrawn his or her account repeatedly in the past six months, or there is an emergency, such as failure of computers or communications equipment.


Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty