a practice employed by banks to make the lives of lazy people such as myself difficult. i'm not sure how it works at other banks, but at my bank, Washington Mutual it can be a real pain in the ass.

basically if you deposit a check when you have a negative balance or if the check is not local or is for a large sum of money, the bank will happily take your check and refuse to give you access to the funds you deposited for anywhere from two to fifteen business days.

if you're lucky, they will happily clear any checks or charges on your account while the hold is in place with the caveat that if your account dips below zero, they will charge you an exorbinant overdraft fee for each transaction.

if your account balance is continues to be negative (as it may be if your deposits are inaccesible for half of a month), they may start bouncing your checks and disable your atm access. bear in mind that at no time during this period they will relinquish your check. this is something to keep in mind if you're broke around christmas time and are depositing a check that will fund your visit home.

finally; if you're depositing a paycheck, they are supposed to not place any holds if you go into a branch and inform a teller that it is a paycheck as deposit the check at a teller window.

if you deposit at an atm or are depositing a regular check, such as a contractor or someone who is self-employed would do, your only recourse is to either use a dingy, derelict-ladled 24 hour check cashing outlet or dive for quarters in your couch.

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