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Guide to ACH return codes

Understanding ACH returns, what causes them, and how to handle them is the best way to ensure the ACH process remains as smooth as possible for your business. So, what happens if an ACH payment is returned? We’ve got you covered. Find out everything you need to know about ACH return codes, including our comprehensive ACH return code list, right here.

What are ACH returns?

ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments are a type of electronic bank-to-bank payment for businesses based in the U.S. An ACH return simply means that – for whatever reason – the ACH couldn’t collect the funds from the customer’s account. This results in an ACH return code, a three-character code that provides a little more detail about the specific nature of the problem.

Can ACH payments be returned?

Yes, ACH payments can be returned, and it’s a normal part of standard ACH processing. There are a broad range of reasons for returned ACH payments, including insufficient funds, revoked authorization, or an invalid account number.

ACH return codes list

There are over 80 different ACH return codes. We’ll go over them momentarily, but first, let’s take a look at some of the key terms that you’re likely to come across when you read about ACH returns:

  • ODFI – Standing for Originating Depository Financial Institution, the ODFI is a financial institution that has an agreement with an ACH operator (either The Clearing House or the Federal Reserve) to transmit Entries into the ACH network on behalf of an originator. Most major banks are ODFI-approved, meaning that they’re able to send ACH money transfers, while payment processors, payment gateways, and ACH payment APIs may also be considered ODFIs.

  • RDFI – Standing for Receiving Depository Financial Institution, the RDFI is the bank that is being charged (debited) or refunded (credited). Like ODFIs, major banking institutions are generally RDFI-approved, as are many third-party payment processors and payment gateways.

Now that you know a little more about the meaning behind ODFI and RDFI, here are some of the most common ACH return codes:

 

ACH Return Code

Description

Detail

Solution

ACH Return Code R01

Insufficient Funds

This means that the available balance isn’t enough to cover the value of the debit Entry.

Retry the transaction.

ACH Return Code R02

Account Closed

This means that a previously active account was closed by the customer.

Contact the customer and request payment details from a different bank account.

ACH Return Code R03

No Account/Unable to Locate Account

This means that although the structure of the account number is valid, the account number doesn’t match up with the individual identified in the Entry. Alternatively, it may indicate that the account isn’t open.

Contact the customer to confirm account number, routing number, and exact name. If the information differs from your initial Entry, make the changes and submit a new payment.

ACH Return Code R04

Invalid Account Number

This means that the structure of the account number isn’t valid.

Reach out to the customer for the correct account number.

ACH Return Code R05

Unauthorized Debit to Consumer Account Using Corporate SEC Code

This means that a debit Entry was transmitted to a consumer account, but the receiving member hasn’t authorized the Entry.

Contact the customer to resolve any issues leading to the disputed payment.

ACH Return Code R06

Returned per ODFI’s Request

This means that the ODFI made a request for the RDFI to return the ACH Entry.

Reach out to the ODFI.

ACH Return Code R07

Authorization Revoked by Customer

This means that the customer who authorized the ACH payment has revoked authorization.

First, you should suspend any scheduled recurring payments. Then, contact the customer and confirm why payment authorization was revoked. The customer can either remove the block on transactions or debit a different account.

ACH Return Code R08

Payment Stopped

This means that the receiver of a recurring debit transaction has placed a stop payment order.

Get in touch with the customer to solve any issues which may have caused the transaction to be stopped.

ACH Return Code R09

Uncollected Funds

This means that although there’s a sufficient ledger balance to satisfy the dollar value of the transaction, the available balance is below this dollar value. This can occur in the case of uncollected checks, for example.

Retry the transaction (you can do this up to two times within 30 days of the original payment authorization date).

ACH Return Code R10

Customer Advises Unauthorized, Improper, Ineligible, or Part of an Incomplete Transaction

This means that the receiver has notified the RDFI that the Entry is either unauthorized, improper, ineligible, or forms part of an incomplete transaction.

Suspend any recurring payments, contact the customer, and resolve any issues that resulted in the payment being disputed.

Those are the main ACH return reason codes that you’re likely to encounter on a day to day basis, but there are plenty of other, less common ACH return codes that you could run across. Here’s a little more information about what they relate to:

  • ACH Return Code R11 – Check Truncation Entry Return: This code is only used when returning a check truncation.

  • ACH Return Code R12 – Branch Sold to Another DFI: A financial institution received an Entry to an account that has been sold to another financial institution.

  • ACH Return Code R13 – Invalid ACH Routing Number: The Entry contains a Gateway Identification or Receiving DRI Identification that isn’t a valid ACH routing number.

  • ACH Return Code R14 – Representative Payee Deceased or Unable to Continue in that Capacity: The representative payee is either deceased or no longer able to continue in their original capacity (i.e., legally incapacitated adult).

  • ACH Return Code R15 – Beneficiary or Account Holder Deceased: Either the beneficiary or the account holder is deceased.

  • ACH Return Code R16 – Account Frozen/Entry Returned per OFAC Instruction: Access to the account has been restricted due to legal action or specific action undertaken by the RDFI, or the OFAC (The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury) has instructed the Gateway or RDFI to return the Entry.

  • ACH Return Code R17 – File Record Edit Criteria: The RDFI is unable to process certain fields.

  • ACH Return Code R18 – Improper Effective Entry Date: The effective Entry date for a credit Entry is over two banking days after the processing banking day.

  • ACH Return Code R19 – Amount Field Error: Either the account field is non-numeric, zero, or exceeds $25,000.

  • ACH Return Code R20 – Non-Transaction Account: The Entry was destined for a non-transaction account, i.e., an account against which transactions are limited or prohibited.

  • ACH Return Code R21 – Invalid Company Identification: The company identification information provided isn’t valid.

  • ACH Return Code R22 – Invalid Individual ID number: Used for CIE and MET Entries when the original ID number hasn’t been used and the receiver has indicated to the RDFI that the number with which the Originator has been identified isn’t correct.

  • ACH Return Code R23 – Credit Entry Refused by Receiver: The receiver has returned the Entry, i.e., because the minimum amount hasn’t been remitted.

  • ACH Return Code R24 – Duplicate Entry: The date, dollar amount, trace number, and other data matches another transaction.

  • ACH Return Code R25 – Addenda Error: The addenda record indicator value is either incorrect, out of sequence, or missing.

  • ACH Return Code R26 – Mandatory Field Error: There is missing or erroneous data in a mandatory field.

  • ACH Return Code R27 – Trace Number Error: The Original Entry trace number isn’t present or doesn’t correspond with the addenda record for a return or notification of change Entry.

  • ACH Return Code R28 – Routing Number Check Digit Error: The check digit provided for the routing number isn’t valid.

  • ACH Return Code R29 – Corporate Customer Advises Not Authorized: The receiver has notified the RDFI that a specific Entry hasn’t been authorized.

  • ACH Return Code R30 – RDFI Not Participant in Check Truncation Program: The RDFI doesn’t participate in a check truncation program.

  • ACH Return Code R31 – Permissible Return Entry (CCD and CTX only): RDFIs may return CCD or CTX Entries that ODFIs accept.

  • ACH Return Code R32 – RDFI Non-Settlement: The RDFI is unable to settle the Entry.

  • ACH Return Code R33 – Return of XCK Entry: Used to return XCK Entries (at the discretion of the RDFI).

  • ACH Return Code R34 – Limited Participation DFI: The RDFI’s state/federal supervisor has limited their participation.

  • ACH Return Code R35 – Return of Improper Debit Entry: Debit Entries aren’t permitted for loan accounts or CIE Entries (except in the case of reversing Entries).

  • ACH Return Code R36 – Return of improper Credit Entry: ACH Credit Entries aren’t permitted to use with ARC, BOC, POP, RCK, TEL, and XCK (except in the case of reversing Entries).

  • ACH Return Code R37 – Source Document Presented for Payment: The source document that an ARC, BOC, or POP Entry relates has been presented for payment.

The following codes are far less common, but it’s always a good idea to have a handle on some of the more esoteric issues you could encounter with ACH returns:

  • ACH Return Code R38 – Stop Payment on Source Document

  • ACH Return Code R39 – Improper Source Document/Source Document Presented for Payment

  • ACH Return Code R40 – Return of ENR entry by Federal Government Agency

  • ACH Return Code R41 – Invalid Transaction Code

  • ACH Return Code R42 – Routing Number/Check Digit Error

  • ACH Return Code R43 – Invalid DFI Account Number

  • ACH Return Code R44 – Invalid Individual ID Number/Identification Number

  • ACH Return Code R45 – Invalid Individual Name/Company Name

  • ACH Return Code R46 – Invalid Representative Payee Indicator

  • ACH Return Code R47 – Duplicate Enrollment

  • ACH Return Code R50 – State Law Affecting RCK Acceptance

  • ACH Return Code R51 – Item Related to RCK Entry is Ineligible or RCK Entry is Improper

  • ACH Return Code R52 – Stop Payment on Item Related to RCK Entry

  • ACH Return Code R53 – Item and RCK Entry Presented for Payment

  • ACH Return Code R61 – Misrouted Return

  • ACH Return Code R62 – Return of Erroneous or Reversing Debt

  • ACH Return Code R67 – Duplicate Return

  • ACH Return Code R68 – Untimely Return

  • ACH Return Code R69 – Field Error(s)

  • ACH Return Code R70 – Permissible Return Entry Not Accepted/Return Not Requested by ODFI

  • ACH Return Code R71 – Misrouted Dishonored Return

  • ACH Return Code R72 – Untimely Dishonored Return

  • ACH Return Code R73 – Timely Original Return

  • ACH Return Code R74 – Corrected Return

  • ACH Return Code R75 – Return Not a Duplicate

  • ACH Return Code R76 – No Errors Found

  • ACH Return Code R77 – Non-Acceptance of R62 Dishonored Return

Finally, the following codes are used for International ACH Transactions (IAT). You can only expect to deal with these ACH return codes if you’re dealing with the office of a financial agency that isn’t within the US.

  • ACH Return Code R80 – IAT Entry Coding Errors

  • ACH Return Code R81 – Non-Participant in IAT Program

  • ACH Return Code R82 – Invalid Foreign Receiving DFI Identification

  • ACH Return Code R83 – Foreign Receiving DFI Unable to Settle

  • ACH Return Code R84 – Entry Not Processed by Gateway

  • ACH Return Code R85 – Incorrectly Coded Outbound International Payment

What happens if an ACH payment is returned?

ACH debit returns are generated by the receiving depository financial institution (RDFI) in response to a transaction. Many people believe that after an ACH transaction has been finalized, the process is complete – but that’s not the case. For a variety of reasons, an ACH operator may request the funds be returned. So, how do returned ACH payments work in practice?

Put simply, when a request is submitted to an ACH operator, the funds are granted. Then, the request is dispatched to the bank holding the accounts, and if the request cannot be fulfilled, the operator requires them to be returned. ACH return codes are the method by which the money is taken back.

It’s also worth brushing up on the concept of “notice of change” (NOC), as this can play a part in the ACH debit return process. Basically, a customer’s bank account information may change as a result of changes in account numbering schemes, bank mergers, and so on.

If this happens, businesses that submit an ACH request using outdated information will have their request processed, but updated information about the account will be sent back to them. This updated information is referred to as a notice of change, and it requires the submitter to update the customer’s bank account information before the next request is submitted.

If outdated information continues to be used in subsequent requests, the transaction may not be able to be processed, leading to an ACH debit return.

What’s the time frame for an ACH debit return?

Generally speaking, ACH return codes have a turnaround time of two banking days. However, certain ACH return reason codes may have a slightly longer turnaround time. For instance, unauthorized debits to consumer accounts tend to have a 60-day return timeframe, as banking regulations are relatively consumer-friendly.

How much are ACH return fees?

It’s always a good idea to get a better understanding of the fees involved with the ACH system. On average, ACH return fees range from $2-$5 per return.

Can returned ACH payments be disputed?

Yes, if the return meets any of the following criteria, you can request the ODFI dishonor the return:

  • Was misrouted

  • Was a duplicate

  • Incorrect information

  • Not returned within the proper time frames

  • Resulted in unintended credit to the receiver related to the reversal process

Dishonored returns must be sent within five banking days of the return settlement date, and they can be contested by the RDFI. If this happens, then recovery will need to take place outside of the ACH network.

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