Transfer Money by ACH Push, Not Pull


When you transfer money between two accounts you own, the transfer goes through a system called ACH, which stands for Automated Clearing House. You can initiate the transfer either from the sending account or from the receiving account.

When you initiate the transfer from the sending account, it’s an ACH credit, or figuratively an ACH Push — you are pushing the money into the destination account. When you have payroll direct deposit, your employer is doing an ACH push into your account.

When you initiate the transfer from the receiving account, it’s an ACH debit, or figuratively an ACH Pull — you are pulling the money in from the source account. When you give your bank account to a utility for automatic payments, the utility is doing an ACH pull against your bank account.

When you transfer money between two accounts you own, if you have a choice between push and pull, push, don’t pull.

This is because when you push, the sending bank knows how much money you have. It lets you push only if you have enough money in your account. When the money arrives at the receiving account, the receiving bank treats it as good funds because the sending bank already verified you have enough money before sending it. There’s no hold on the money pushed in.

When you pull, they don’t know whether you have enough money in your source account. The source bank can always come back and reverse it. This is for your protection. You don’t want random people to pull money from your bank account and not have recourse. Because of this lack of confidence in whether the money is good or not, the receiving bank often places a hold on the money pulled in. Sometimes the hold can be as long as a full week.

Therefore when you have a choice, push the money from the source. Usually it will go faster and you won’t be subject to a hold. Also see previous post Why Is ACH Slower At Some Places Than Others?

Some banks charge a fee as much as $3 for pushing out money by ACH but they don’t charge for pulling money in. If your bank is like that, look for a better one.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Steve Snodgrass]

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  1. Jim says

    I have always preferred to pull, rather than to push. My logic is as follows: When you push funds out there is always some possibility of a bank error, or an error on your part that may happen, and the funds will not show up in your desired destination account. Now you have to chase around to get your money back. If you pull the funds into your account you avoid this risk.
    There isn’t always a time savings as far as funds availability either. For example when pushing from ING Direct to an external bank account the transaction is delayed two business days on the ING end.
    For these reasons I always pull.

  2. Harry says

    To each their own, of course. I never had any problems with pushes not showing up or showing up with the wrong amount. As to ING DIRECT delaying your pushes, that’s lame. I use Alliant Credit Union for my main checking account. Pushes arrive the next business day if I request before the 1 pm Eastern cutoff time. If I push from Fidelity Cash Management Account, I get next-day arrival if I request before 4 pm Eastern.

  3. Rabbmd says

    I generally agree with pushing over pulling. I also use alliant. However, when buying vanguard mutual funds in my vanguard account I pull from vanguard. This simplifies things because my already linked alliant account allows me to specify with only one log in and a few clicks both the amount I am transfering, and already place the buy order. If I pushed from alliant, then once it arrived in vanguard I would have to sparately place the order

  4. Harry says

    I buy from Vanguard with an implicit pull as well. In that case Vanguard places a week-long hold but you don’t care about the hold because you are holding the shares for the long term anyway.

  5. alanb says

    I have my mortgage holder pull the payment. It was much easier to set up an extra payment to principal from their end. Initially pushing the payment led to a series of irritating phone calls with the bank. Now I just monitor the paying account closely to be sure the funds are available.

  6. planetjanet says

    It’s worth noting that some banks allow you to do an ACH push into an account that is not owned by you (and is therefore “one-way” linked, you can’t pull from it). This is very useful for person to person money transfers as the payment generally clears overnight similar to how a payroll direct deposit works; all you need is their routing and account number (I ask for a voided check). I’ve been paying my alimony and rent this way for years, it’s a great improvement on shuttling around paper checks.

    • Harry Sit says

      Too many to name. Almost every bank you can think of. They all want money coming in. Not every bank offers free ACH push out though. Some offer push but charge a fee.

  7. John says

    Which US banks or credit union that allow ACH push without account verification (trial deposits,etc)

    I can’t find much info about banks that allow ACH push without having to do account verification of some sort (trial deposits or login).

    I want to send money via ACH to anyone using only a routing and account number. You can easily do this in most countries outside the USA without having to do account link or verification of some sort

    • Harry Sit says

      Any responsible bank or credit union will require some sort of verification, sometimes behind the scenes with a prenote. ACH regulations require such.

      Because routing number and account number can be used to pull money from one’s account, Americans are hesitant to give out those numbers. You can send money to anyone easily by some other identifiers, such as the email address, mobile phone number, or Facebook contact, through a number of facilitators, such as banks and credit unions, PayPal, Square, Google, Facebook, Venmo, and so on. The facilitator will then invite the recipient. The recipient only shares their bank account information with the facilitator, sometimes using only a debit card number, which is perceived to be more secure than giving out routing number and account number.

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