Mysterious financial acronyms like ACH or EFT can seem inscrutable until you realize many of us are already well acquainted with them. EFT stands for electronic funds transfer, which is commonly used to pay bills by phone or online. We also use EFTs for direct deposits. ACH stands for automated clearing house. When an EFT is initiated to transfer funds electronically from one bank to another, the funds move through the automated clearing house network, a secure system linking every U.S. financial institution. More than 20.2 billion ACH payments were processed in 2011, according to NACHA -- The Electronic Payments Association.
Contact your employer's human resources department, accounting department or whomever is responsible for payroll and ask if the company participates in direct deposit. If the answer is yes, ask for an authorization form. You may be asked to provide a voided check so the payroll department can set it up for you.
Find the routing and account numbers on a blank check from the account to you which you want your wages transferred. The numbers are printed in groups across the bottom of the check. The longest group on the right-hand side is your account, and the group on the left side is the routing number. The group on the far right-hand side is the check number, which you find also on the upper right of the check.
Fill out the authorization form, including your account information, and turn it in to the appropriate person.
Look on your bill, call the biller, or check its Internet site for the availability of bill payment through EFT. The instructions for an EFT payment, which must be ordered by phone or online, are often printed on the bill. If not, the instructions are a click away on a website.
Tell the customer service representative on the phone the amount you want to pay. If you're using the company website, fill in the amount you want to pay on the online form.
Provide your routing number and account number to the representative or enter it on the online form.
Hit "submit," "enter" or "confirm" to confirm the transaction. If asked, you may be able to give a verbal agreement over the phone.
Peer to Peer
Go to an online payment service such as PayPal or Amazon Payments.
Click the tab or link called "send money."
Fill in the form, including the amount and the recipient's email address.
Use your bank account as the funding source, providing your routing and account numbers. This creates an EFT that travels through the ACH network.
Click "submit" or "enter" to confirm the payment.
- NACHA — The Electronic Payments Association: ACH Payment Volume Exceeds 20.2 Billion in 2011
- Electronic Payments: Direct Deposit Start for Individuals
- Electronic Payments: Payment Start for Individuals
- Electronic Payments: Glossary for Individuals
- Amazon Payments: Sending Money Online
- PayPal: Send Money Now
- TreasuryDirect: Glossary
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency: Dictionary of Banking Terms and Phrases
- Bitpipe: Electronic Funds Transfer
- You can also use a savings account for direct deposit. Call your financial institution for the routing number. Alternately, you can split your deposit between different accounts.
- Many banks offer online bill payment services so you pay your bills through EFT on a recurring basis. If that interests you, contact your financial institution to sign up for online banking.
Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.