What Is Telecheck? The Complete Guide

Updated: June 16, 2021 

telecheck declined check

TeleCheck is a consumer reporting agency many retailers and merchants use to screen paper checks when a consumer uses one to make a purchase. If you've had a check declined, you can get a free copy of your TeleCheck report and file a dispute to hopefully clear your record.

What Is TeleCheck?

If you've ever had a check declined at the point of sale at a store or other retailer, you might have run afoul of TeleCheck, which is a consumer reporting agency similar to a credit bureau.

Unlike a credit bureau, however, TeleCheck focuses on the data surrounding a consumer's checking history. Specifically, it compiles data on individuals and uses this information to tell retailers whether it's safe to accept a check from someone. 

TeleCheck calculates the risk you pose in real time, which lets retailers make an instant decision to either accept your check or turn you down. Once TeleCheck clears a consumer, it guarantees the payment to the retailer or merchant. 

How Does TeleCheck Work?

TeleCheck compiles data on consumers and then sells access to this data to retailers. When retailers pay for TeleCheck's services, they can scan a paper check at the point of sale and check it against TeleCheck's database for any risk factors.

This occurs in real time because TeleCheck converts a paper check into an electronic transaction. This helps retailers and merchants avoid accepting a check that might later be declined by a bank or other financial institution. 

When TeleCheck scans your check, its system assigns you a level of risk. If TeleCheck determines there is a risk your check isn't good, it will advise the retailer to decline your check.

Retailers aren't required to decline a check just because TeleCheck recommends it. However, TeleCheck will only guarantee the funds if the check passed a TeleCheck scan.

If a retailer or merchant declines your Check due to a TeleCheck scan, they must give you a receipt that includes a code from TeleCheck. This code, which is usually a Code 3 or Code 4, will tell you why your check was declined. 

TeleCheck New Account Screening

In addition to analyzing a consumer's past checking history, TeleCheck also offers new account screening to banks and other financial institutions. This allows banks and credit unions to quickly determine if a potential customer poses a risk due to past problems with their checking or savings accounts.

TeleCheck Verification Process

TeleCheck bases its screening process on your check history and debt history. When it comes to your debt history, TeleCheck keeps track of any debts you owe to retailers or merchants due to fraud, writing bad checks, or other factors.

Checking Status

Just because your check was declined doesn't necessarily mean you have a history of writing bad check, nor does TeleCheck know how much money you have in your bank account.

The TeleCheck system assesses risk based on a number of variables, and it can even decline a check based on a lack of data. For example, if you rarely write paper checks, TeleCheck may come back with a recommendation to decline simply because it doesn't have enough information about you to assign a level of risk. 

How to Request a Copy of Your TeleCheck Report

Just as you're entitled by federal law to receive one free credit report every year, you're also entitled to get one free copy of your TeleCheck report each year. You can also get a free copy if you've recently experienced an adverse outcome with TeleCheck, such as having a check declined. 

You can request your TeleCheck report in three different ways: online, by mail, or over the phone.

  • Online - If you want to request your report online, you simply fill out the report request form on the TeleCheck website. Note that you'll need your banking information, including your account number, to complete the form.
  • By regular mail - To request your TeleCheck report through the mail, you'll need to send correspondence that includes your name, social security number, daytime phone number, and a copy of your driver's license to confirm your identity. TeleCheck also asks for a copy of a voided check, but many financial experts recommend skipping this, as you're under no obligation to offer your account information to TeleCheck.

Once you have all your documentation prepared, you can mail your request to TeleCheck at the following address:   

TeleCheck Services, Inc.

Attn: Resolutions Department - FAP.O. Box 4514

Houston, TX 77210-4514

  • Over the phone - You can request your TeleCheck report over the phone by calling TeleCheck at 1-800-366-2425. 

Why Does TeleCheck Decline My Checks?

There are several reasons TeleCheck declines checks, and not all them are because someone has a history of writing bad checks. If you've had a check declined, don't panic, because the reason might be something as simple as human error or a lack of data in the TeleCheck system.

That said, TeleCheck also declines checks when an individual has a history of fraud or insufficient funds. This is why it's important to check your TeleCheck report, and to investigate any items you believe are inaccurately reported. 

  • Human error - In some cases, TeleCheck declines a check due to human errors that lead to inaccurate data in the TeleCheck system. This can be something as simple as a cashier pressing the wrong button on the register, and it can also include things like the wrong address on your driver's license. 
  • Risk analysis - TeleCheck assigns an individual a level of risk that depends on a variety of factors. While TeleCheck doesn't offer information about how it calculates risk, some of the factors include things like how often you write checks, the amount of the check, and what type of products you're trying to buy. 
  • Check history - If your check is declined, it might be due to a past history of writing bad checks. For example, kiting checks, which is writing a check for more money than you have in your account until your next deposit hits, can get you flagged by TeleCheck. 
  • Outstanding debts - TeleCheck compiles data on your check history and your unpaid debts. If you owe money, this may result in your checks being declined at retailers and merchants. 
  • No check writing history - In some cases, people who don't write paper checks very often are surprised when their check is declined. When TeleCheck doesn't have any data on an individual, it can't assign a level of risk and it may recommend the retailer decline the check as a result.
  • Victim of fraud - Unfortunately, being the victim of identity theft, check fraud, or account fraud can result in your checks getting declined.
  • History of non sufficient funds - If you have a history of bouncing checks, the non sufficient funds (NSF) charges may show up in your banking history, which can raise red flags in the TeleCheck system.

TeleCheck Codes

If TeleCheck declines your check, it will issue a code that tells you why its system rejected your check. You can use TeleCheck's decline code lookup tool to find out why you were declined, but most rejected checks fall under one of two codes.

TeleCheck Code 3

If TeleCheck declines your check under a Code 3, this means TeleCheck doesn't have sufficient information on you or your banking history to make a decision about your risk. In many cases, people receive a Code 3 when they don't write checks very often.

TeleCheck Code 4

If TeleCheck declines your check and states Code 4 as the reason, this means you have a negative history in the TeleCheck system. With a Code 4, TeleCheck determines that you pose too great of a risk for a merchant or retailer to accept your check.

How to Dispute Information on Your TeleCheck Report

As with your credit report, you have the right to dispute any inaccurate information or errors on your TeleCheck report. Any time your check is declined, it's always a good idea to investigate, as the reason for the rejection could be an error, a sign of fraud, or even something as straightforward as a lack of check-writing history.

You can dispute information on your TeleCheck report by following these steps:

1. Get a Copy of Your TeleCheck Report  

To file a dispute, you will first need to request a copy of your TeleCheck report, which you can get for free once every 12 months or after TeleCheck takes an adverse action against you, such as declining one of your checks.You can order your report online by using the report request form on TeleCheck's website. TeleCheck requires you to submit your personal information as well as your banking info, including your account and routing numbers. You can also request your report over the phone by calling 1-800-366-2425, or you can get it via regular mail by sending your request to: 

TeleCheck Services, Inc.Attn: Resolutions Department - FAP.O. Box 4514

Houston, TX 77210-4514

If you mail your request, TeleCheck requires you to verify your identity by providing your name, social security number, daytime phone, a copy of your driver's license, and a voided check. Some finance experts say you should exclude a voided check from your correspondence, as TeleCheck should be able to verify your identity without it.  

2. Review Your Report for Errors and Inaccuracies

Once you have your TeleCheck report, carefully review it for mistakes, inaccuracies, or bad information. Federal law requires TeleCheck to accurately report consumer information, and you have the right to dispute any items that are wrong or inaccurate. 

3. Dispute Any Incorrect or False Items

If you find mistakes or inaccuracies on your report, you can dispute them directly with TeleCheck. You can do this by using the online dispute form or by downloading the paper dispute form and sending it to TeleCheck via fax to 402-916-8180 or through the mail to the following address: 

TeleCheck Services, Inc.

P.O. Box 6806

Hagerstown, MD 21741-6806

4. Wait for TeleCheck to Investigate

Once TeleCheck receives your dispute it has 30 days to investigate your claim. If you send additional information regarding your disputed item, this time period extends to 45 days under federal law. 

If TeleCheck can't verify that its information is accurate, it must remove the negative item from its system. If TeleCheck responds with proof that the item is accurately reported, the item can stay on your report for up to seven years.

TeleCheck Declined Check FAQs

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding a declined check with TeleCheck.

How Do I Bypass TeleCheck?

If you've disputed a negative item on your TeleCheck report with no luck, you may be stuck with it for the next few years. You can try bypassing the TeleCheck system by using an alternative form of payment, such as a prepaid debit card, or patronizing retailers and merchants that don't use TeleCheck. 

How Do I Know If My Check Will Be Accepted by TeleCheck?

There is no system or website that will tell you in advance if TeleCheck will accept your check. You can contact your bank in advance to verify that you have enough money in your account to cover a check, but keep in mind that TeleCheck may decline your check for other reasons, such as a lack of check-writing history or a check written for a large amount of money. 

How Long Does a Bad Check Stay on TeleCheck?

By law, a negative item can remain on your TeleCheck report for up to seven years. However, it's common to see negative items drop off after five years.

Why Did Walmart Deny My Check?

There are a number of reasons why a retailer, including Walmart, may decline a check. Keep in mind that just because TeleCheck recommends that a retailer deny a check does not mean the person writing it has a negative banking history. 

On the contrary, the denial might be something as simple as a person who rarely writes checks. TeleCheck doesn't know how much money you have in your back account, so you won't get denied based on your checking account balance. 

If you've tried writing a check at Walmart only to get denied, it's important to find the code TeleCheck issues with its denial. You can look up the code on the TeleCheck website and file a dispute if you believe the denial was an error. 

Conclusion

TeleCheck is a useful tool for retailers and merchants, as it can help them avoid accepting bad checks. However, TeleCheck's system isn't perfect, so it's important to flex your rights as a consumer and file a dispute if you believe an item in your TeleCheck report is inaccurate or wrong.


About the Author


Mike Pearson

Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.

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