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Sec. 229.51 - General provisions governing substitute checks.


(a) Legal equivalence. A substitute check for which a bank has provided the warranties described in § 229.52 is the legal equivalent of an original check for all persons and all purposes, including any provision of federal or state law, if the substitute check–

(1) Accurately represents all of the information on the front and back of the original check as of the time the original check was truncated; and

(2) Bears the legend, “This is a legal copy of your check. You can use it the same way you would use the original check.”

Official Interpretation

XXX. §229.51 General provisions governing substitute checks

A. §229.51(a) Legal Equivalence

1. Section 229.51(a) states that a substitute check for which a bank has provided the substitute check warranties is the legal equivalent of the original check for all purposes and all persons if it meets the accuracy and legend requirements. Where the law (or a contract) requires production of the original check, production of a legally equivalent substitute check would satisfy that requirement. A person that receives a substitute check cannot be assessed costs associated with the creation of the substitute check, absent agreement to the contrary.

Examples.

a. A presenting bank presents a substitute check that meets the legal equivalence requirements to a paying bank. The paying bank cannot refuse presentment of the substitute check on the basis that it is a substitute check, because the substitute check is the legal equivalent of the original check.

b. A depositor's account agreement with a bank provides that the depositor is entitled to receive original cancelled checks back with his or her periodic account statement. The bank may honor that agreement by providing original checks, substitute checks, or a combination thereof. However, a bank may not honor such an agreement by providing something other than an original check or a substitute check.

c. A mortgage company argues that a consumer missed a monthly mortgage payment that the consumer believes she made. A legally equivalent substitute check concerning that mortgage payment could be used in the same manner as the original check to prove the payment.

2. A person other than a bank that creates a substitute check could transfer, present, or return that check only by agreement unless and until a bank provided the substitute check warranties.

3. To be the legal equivalent of the original check, a substitute check must accurately represent all the information on the front and back of the check as of the time the original check was truncated. An accurate representation of information that was illegible on the original check would satisfy this requirement. The payment instructions placed on the check by, or as authorized by, the drawer, such as the amount of the check, the payee, and the drawer's signature, must be accurately represented, because that information is an essential element of a negotiable instrument. Other information that must be accurately represented includes (1) the information identifying the drawer and the paying bank that is preprinted on the check, including the MICR line; and (2) other information placed on the check prior to the time an image of the check is captured, such as any required identification written on the front of the check and any indorsements applied to the back of the check. A substitute check need not capture other characteristics of the check, such as watermarks, microprinting, or other physical security features that cannot survive the imaging process or decorative images, in order to meet the accuracy requirement. Conversely, some security features that are latent on the original check might become visible as a result of the check imaging process. For example, the original check might have a faint representation of the word “void” that will appear more clearly on a photocopied or electronic image of the check. Provided the inclusion of the clearer version of the word on the image used to create a substitute check did not obscure the required information listed above, a substitute check that contained such information could be the legal equivalent of an original check under §229.51(a). However, if a person suffered a loss due to receipt of such a substitute check instead of the original check, that person could have an indemnity claim under §229.53 and, in the case of a consumer, an expedited recredit claim under §229.54.

4. To be the legal equivalent of the original check, a substitute check must bear the legal equivalence legend described in §229.51(a)(2). A bank may not vary the language of the legal equivalence legend and must place the legend on the substitute check as specified by generally applicable industry standards for substitute checks contained in ANS X9.100-140.

5. In some cases, the original check used to create a substitute check could be forged or otherwise fraudulent. A substitute check created from a fraudulent original check would have the same status under Regulation CC and the U.C.C. as the original fraudulent check. For example, a substitute check of a fraudulent original check would not be properly payable under U.C.C. 4-401 and would be subject to the transfer and presentment warranties in U.C.C. 4-207 and 4-208.

(b) Reconverting bank duties. A bank shall ensure that a substitute check for which it is the reconverting bank—

(1) Bears all indorsements applied by parties that previously handled the check in any form (including the original check, a substitute check, or another paper or electronic representation of such original check or substitute check) for forward collection or return;

(2) Identifies the reconverting bank in a manner that preserves any previous reconverting-bank identifications, in accordance with ANS X9.100-140; and

(3) Identifies the bank that truncated the original check, in accordance with ANS X9.100-140.

Official Interpretation

B. 229.51(b) Reconverting Bank Duties

1. In accordance with ANS X9.100-140, a reconverting bank must indorse (or, if it is a paying bank with respect to the check or a bank that rejected a check submitted for deposit, identify itself on) the back of a substitute check in a manner that preserves all indorsements applied, whether physically or electronically, by persons that previously handled the check in any form for forward collection or return. Indorsements applied physically to the original check before an image of the check was captured would be preserved through the image of the back of the original check that a substitute check must contain. If a bank sprays an indorsement onto a paper check after it captures an image of the check, it should ensure that it applies an indorsement to the item electronically, if it transfers the check as an electronic check or electronic returned check. (See paragraph 4 of commentary to section 229.35(a)). A reconverting bank satisfies its obligation to preserve all previously applied indorsements by physically applying (overlaying) electronic indorsements onto a substitute check that the reconverting bank creates. A reconverting bank is not responsible for obtaining indorsements that persons that previously handled the check in any form should have applied but did not apply.

2. A reconverting bank must identify itself and the truncating bank by applying its routing number and the routing number of the truncating bank to the front of a substitute check in accordance with ANS X9.100-140.

3. If the reconverting bank is the paying bank or a bank that rejected a check submitted for deposit, it also must identify itself by applying its routing number to the back of the check. A reconverting bank also must preserve on the back of the substitute check, in accordance with ANS X9.100-140, the identifications of any previous reconverting banks. The reconverting-bank and truncating-bank routing numbers on the front of a substitute check and, if the reconverting bank is the paying bank or a bank that rejected a check submitted for deposit, the reconverting bank's routing number on the back of a substitute check are for identification only and are not indorsements or acceptances.

Example. A bank's customer, which is a nonbank business, receives checks for payment and by agreement deposits substitute checks instead of the original checks with its depositary bank. The depositary bank is the reconverting bank with respect to the substitute checks and the truncating bank with respect to the original checks. In accordance with ANS X9.100-140, the bank must therefore be identified on the front of the substitute checks as a reconverting bank and as the truncating bank, and on the back of the substitute checks as the depositary bank and a reconverting bank.

4. The location of an indorsement applied to a paper check in accordance with ANS X9.100-111 may shift if that check is truncated and later reconverted to a substitute check. If an indorsement applied to an original check in accordance with ANS X9.100-111 is overwritten by a subsequent indorsement applied to a substitute check in accordance with industry standards, then one or both of those indorsements could be rendered illegible. As explained in §229.38(c) and the commentary thereto, a reconverting bank is liable for losses associated with indorsements that are rendered illegible as a result of check substitution.

(c) Applicable law. A substitute check that is the legal equivalent of an original check under paragraph (a) of this section shall be subject to any provision, including any provision relating to the protection of customers, of this part, the U.C.C., and any other applicable federal or state law as if such substitute check were the original check, to the extent such provision of law is not inconsistent with the Check 21 Act or this subpart.

Official Interpretation

C. 229.51(c) Applicable Law

1. A substitute check that meets the requirements for legal equivalence set forth in this section is subject to any provision of federal or state law that applies to original checks, except to the extent such provision is inconsistent with the Check 21 Act or subpart D. A legally equivalent substitute check is subject to all laws that are not preempted by the Check 21 Act in the same manner and to the same extent as is an original check. Thus, any person could satisfy a law that requires production of an original check by producing a substitute check that is derived from the relevant original check and that meets the legal equivalence requirements of §229.51(a).

2. A law is not inconsistent with the Check 21 Act or subpart D merely because it allows for the recovery of a greater amount of damages.

Example. A drawer that suffers a loss with respect to a substitute check that was improperly charged to its account and for which the drawer has an indemnity claim but not a warranty claim would be limited under the Check 21 Act to recovery of the amount of the substitute check plus interest and expenses. However, if the drawer also suffered damages that were proximately caused because the bank wrongfully dishonored subsequently presented checks as a result of the improper substitute check charge, the drawer could recover those losses under U.C.C. 4-402.

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