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What is ACH versus direct deposit?

Whereas an ACH payment can be either a credit (adding money) or debit (withdrawing money), direct deposit is always an ACH credit payment. This means that in a direct deposit, money is credited—or “pushed”—into an account via ACH. In other words, all direct deposits are ACH payments but not all ACH payments are direct deposits.

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ACH (Automated Clearing House) is a payment processing network that’s used to send money electronically between banks in the United States. It allows for automated, electronic debiting and crediting of both checking and savings accounts.

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Direct deposits (an ACH credit often used for payroll) and automatic recurring payments (ACH debits for services like utilities) are common examples of ACH payments.

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No, ACH and Zelle are not technically the same thing, although Zelle utilizes the ACH network. Basically, all Zelle payments are (instant) ACH payments but not all ACH payments are Zelle payments.

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Most US banks and other FIs (financial institutions) including credit unions allow ACH transfers. To send and receive ACH payments, an FI must be part of the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network, which is governed by Nacha.

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The biggest reason to use ACH instead of a wire transfer is cost. ACH payments are usually much less expensive than wires.

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The maximum ACH transfer limit varies depending on your financial institution and account type. Potential limits range from $3,500 per day (Bank of America) to $25,000 per day (JPMorgan Chase) for personal checking and savings accounts.

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