SEC codes are defined and maintained by NACHA, the governing body for the ACH network. For example, the recurring ACH debit for your monthly utility bill will use the SEC code PPD which stands for 'Prearranged Payment and Deposit Entry' when the utility company debits money from your account. Some banks will also include this code on the transaction entry in your bank statement.
It is mandatory for all ACH payments to include a SEC code. Both ACH credits and ACH debits must have a SEC code. Since they tend to be specific to a particular use case, most companies will only use a few different SEC codes in their payments.
How do SEC Codes work in practice?
It is the responsibility of the Originating Depository Financial Institution or ODFI to include the correct SEC code in the ACH payment. SEC codes are attached to the ACH payment request since they are a part of the NACHA file format.
It is also the responsibility of the business using the ODFI for ACH, also known as the Originator, to have the proper authorization in place from the Receiver. The nature of this authorization depends on the SEC code and whether funds are being debited or credited. For example:
- Most ACH debits require written authorization from the recipient while most ACH credits do not.
- Debits authorized on a phone call need to use the SEC code TEL and require the company originating the payment maintain a recording of the customer's verbal authorization. Alternatively, they need to follow up with the customer for a written confirmation of the authorization before initiating the payment.
Including the incorrect SEC code could result in an ACH Return. The ODFI is then responsible for any return fees and resubmitting the payment with the correct code.
NACHA currently allows 13 SEC codes on ACH payments. Note that some codes can be used either for ACH credits and debits, while others can only be used for one. Similarly, certain codes can be used for both one-time and recurring payments while others can only be used for one-time payment authorization. Certain SEC codes can only be used for consumer or retail transactions, while others are reserved for business and government transactions. You will also notice that certain codes like WEB (for online authorizations) and TEL (for phone authorizations) describe where the transaction was authorized.
Modern Treasury currently lets you use 6 SEC codes — PPD, CCD, CTX, IAT, CIE and WEB when making payments. If you don't specify a code, we will default to using PPD if the recipient is an individual. If the recipient is a business, we will default to using CCD.