Why do ACH transfers wait until the "next business day" to process?

I initiated one on Friday but got a message that it wouldn’t be started until Monday. Doesn’t the automated in “ACH” mean that everything is computerized and no human intervention is required? Why would it have to wait that long?

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My limited knowledge is that banks send them out in batches to the intermediary (forgot what it was called - maybe “operator”?). If you miss the particular bank’s ACH deadline for the batch, you’ll have to wait until the next day. It’s possible banks have to pay more if they use different batches, but that’s just a guess.

Also, if I recall correctly, there are only 3 or 4 ACH processing periods per day (a limitation imposed by the whole ACH system - not just your bank or its particular operator(?)). Not sure what the times are, but if you miss the last one, it wouldn’t matter how good your bank is, you’ll have to wait until the next period.

I meant to say, why can’t they do this on Saturday and Sunday as well as on weekdays.

The ACH network doesn’t operate on the weekends. I have no idea if this is a structural limitation, or just a remnant of a time when manual effort was required though.

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Yes, that is my point, why don’t they operate on the weekends. ATMs do. Credit card processors do.

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Planet Money had a great episode explaining how the ACH system works and how outdated it is:


It’s not the banks fault. The Feds decided to not handle transactions on weekends. Credit card and ATMs are all private networks.

However, most modern banks actually handle ACHs on the weekends now for both debits and credits. I think they show up in the batch ACH feed, but are post-dated, so I am not sure how real-time a Friday transaction could show up on Saturday. They just show up as pendings. Most banks make weekend dated ACH funds available (or remove them from available balance if they are a payment).

You need to start using Zelle-linked banks frankly if this is a problem for you. Again, as a private network, they handle funds in real-time among the member banks. Banks are happy to get rid of ACH I think if it was possible.

Paypal thankfully doesn’t charge for the 1-day funding service either, but I wouldn’t use Paypal/Venmo if I had Zelle available.

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Short answer: ACH is an antiquated system started in 1974 that has not been updated to modern technology.

Does your bank do Zelle payments? You can do a transfer in a matter of minutes between accounts.

Zelle is directly supported by most major national banks. If your bank doesn’t support it directly, you can download the Zelle app, link your debit card, and make near instant transfers.

Don’t know about Zelle, but have accounts at PurePoint, Dollar, Capital One, Salem Five, Popular, etc. Looked at the Zelle site and it seems to be vague about fees, transferring money between accounts and the transfer limits. Can I do $50K at once? Is there a charge for using them?

The Zelle transfers I have done have been free.

The amount of money you can send varies bank to bank. Unfortunately, the amount of money you can send starts out small at first and grows over time, but it seems to be in the low thousand to several thousand range, not the tens of thousands.

There’s a list of directly supported banks of the zellepay.com website, which means you can log into your account and initiate payments.

For other banks, you have to link your bank account’s debit card with the Zelle app.

Actually, over the past 6 months there have been a number of improvements to ACH processing times. Less than a month ago they actually moved to same day ACH payroll payments and now process 2x a day!

Beginning March 16, 2018, RDFIs will be mandated to make funds available from same day ACH credits (such as payroll Direct Deposits) to their depositors by 5:00 PM at the RDFI’s local time.

The Rule enables the option for same-day ACH payments through additional ACH Network functionality, without affecting previously available ACH schedules and capabilities:

Originating financial institutions (ODFIs) are able to submit files of same-day ACH payments through two additional clearing windows provided by the ACH Operators (Note: The actual ACH Operator schedules are not determined by the NACHA Operating Rules.):

A morning submission deadline at 10:30 AM ET, with settlement occurring at 1:00 PM.
An afternoon submission deadline at 2:45 PM ET, with settlement occurring at 5:00 PM.


Not always real time – I sent a small Zelle payment to a friend once and even though the $ left my account instantly, it took 3 days to appear on the other side. Near real-time when I sent it to myself a few times.