WO2000058918A1 - Method and system for providing transactional overdraft protection - Google Patents

Method and system for providing transactional overdraft protection Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2000058918A1
WO2000058918A1 PCT/US2000/008200 US0008200W WO0058918A1 WO 2000058918 A1 WO2000058918 A1 WO 2000058918A1 US 0008200 W US0008200 W US 0008200W WO 0058918 A1 WO0058918 A1 WO 0058918A1
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WO
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
transaction
method
check
account
customer
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/008200
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Jay S. Walker
Daniel E. Tedesco
Magdalena Mik
Jason Krantz
Dean Alderucci
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Walker Digital, Llc
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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F7/00Mechanisms actuated by objects other than coins to free or to actuate vending, hiring, coin or paper currency dispensing or refunding apparatus
    • G07F7/08Mechanisms actuated by objects other than coins to free or to actuate vending, hiring, coin or paper currency dispensing or refunding apparatus by coded identity card or credit card or other personal identification means
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q20/00Payment architectures, schemes or protocols
    • G06Q20/38Payment protocols; Details thereof
    • G06Q20/40Authorisation, e.g. identification of payer or payee, verification of customer or shop credentials; Review and approval of payers, e.g. check credit lines or negative lists
    • G06Q20/403Solvency checks
    • G06Q20/4037Remote solvency checks

Abstract

A method and system are disclosed for providing overdraft insurance for a financial account on a transaction-by-transaction basis, rather than through traditional blanket overdraft protection. In an embodiment where the financial account is a checking account, the account holder may protect an individual check by marking the check with an appropriate indicium, or by using a special check with a pre-printed indicium. Alternatively, the account holder may protect the account from an overdraft by notifying a financial institution that a check is designated under the program. Such notification will preferably include an identification of the check. The notification may take place through, for example, an interactive voice response unit provided by the financial institution, or by modem or Internet connection between the account holder's personal computer and the financial institution's central computer. The financial institution, in turn, may charge a fee for such transactional overdraft protection. The disclosed system and method may further be applied to transactions from other types of financial accounts, such as a savings account, a money market account, a credit card account or the like.

Description

METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR PROVIDING TRANSACTIONAL OVERDRAFT

PROTECTION

Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to insurance for a financial account, and relates more particularly to a method and system for providing overdraft protection insurance for a financial account on a transaction-by-transaction basis.

Background of the Invention

In a commonplace financial arrangement, a customer (e.g. an account holder) of a financial institution (e.g. a bank) opens an account by depositing a value of currency into the account. Thereafter, the account holder may initiate a transaction in which a value of currency is transferred out of the account to a payee, such as a merchant or retailer, in order to settle any debts owed to the payee. This transaction may take the form of a check written against the account and payable to the payee. Additionally, the transaction may be an electronic transfer of funds from the customer's account to an account held by the payee. Also, the transaction may be a cash withdrawal from the account holder's account, after which the cash is given to the payee.

An overdraft on such an account occurs when the value of a transaction as described above exceeds the value of currency in the account from which funds are drawn. An overdraft may also occur where the value of the currency causes the account to drop below a required minimum balance established by the financial institution. Such overdrafts are considered undesirable by both account holders and by financial institutions. Such transactions are not favored by financial institutions because they must cover the overdraft amount with their own funds when the transaction is honored, or must expend time and resources to notify parties that the transaction is refused. As a result, a surcharge is typically assessed against the account holder's account by the financial institution for the overdraft, regardless of whether the transaction was honored. Banks in the United States assess surcharges that typically ranges from $12 to $28 per transaction regardless of the amount of the overdraft. Because of these fees, account holders typically wish to avoid an overdraft on the account as well. Furthermore, account holders seek to avoid overdrafts because when the transaction is not honored, the account holder is left indebted to the payee for the transaction amount. Causing an overdraft can also be embarrassing to the account holder, especially if the transaction involves a transfer to friends or family members.

Traditionally, a financial institution provides account holders with the opportunity to protect their accounts against such overdrafts by offering traditional overdraft protection programs. These programs guarantee payment of a transaction which would normally result in an overdraft. For example, when a check drawn against a checking account bounces, a bank maintaining the checking account will still honor the check if the account has overdraft protection. Such traditional overdraft protection programs provide protection on a continuing basis for the account. In other words, all qualified transactions for an account with overdraft protection are subject to the program's guarantee of payment without discretion. In general, two kinds of traditional overdraft protection programs are available: credit-based overdraft protection and transfer-based overdraft protection.

In a credit-based overdraft protection program, the financial institution holds the difference between the balance of available funds in the account and the amount of the transaction as a credit balance against the subject account. However, these prior art credit- based overdraft protection programs are limited in that the credit balance is usually restricted to a maximum currency value, e.g. $500.00. Additionally, the credit balance typically accrues interest from the first day it is applied. As a result, the accrued interest can quickly exceed the amount that would have been charged as a surcharge for the overdraft. In a transfer-based overdraft protection program, a second account owned by the account holder is linked to the first account from which the transaction is processed. If a transaction as described above results in an overdraft, funds from the second account are transferred to the first account to cover the value of the overdraft. However, these prior art transfer-based overdraft protection programs are also limited in that when funds in the second account are insufficient to cover the amount of the overdraft, the financial institution may still refuse to honor the transaction. Furthermore, even when sufficient funds are available in the second account, a transaction fee may be charged against the overdrawn account for completing the transfer from the second account to the first. The transaction fee typically charged by banks in the United States is $5.00 per transfer.

Many account holders are dissatisfied with the "excessive" fees associated with overdrafts and traditional overdraft protection programs. Furthermore, many account holders do not choose to enlist in an overdraft protection program because of the obstacles involved, such as filling out a credit report and allowing the bank to review an account holder's credit history. Generally, financial institutions do not want to alienate their account holders by charging overdraft surcharges, transactions fees and the like. However, these fees generate revenues for financial institutions while discouraging account holders from engaging in transactions that result in an overdraft.

Thus, a need exists for providing an overdraft protection program which overcomes the limitations described above. In particular, a need exists for an overdraft protection program in which the fees charged by financial institutions are not "excessive" in the eyes of its customers, while at the same time, financial institutions can continue to collect sufficient revenue to cover potential overdrafts.

Summary of the Invention

In accordance with the present invention, a transactional overdraft protection program is disclosed by which an account holder may elect to protect an account from an overdraft by designating one or more individual transactions under the program. This transactional overdraft protection program differs from overdraft protection programs of the prior art in that, unlike traditional overdraft protection programs, the transactional overdraft protection program does not apply to all transactions drawn against the subject account, but rather, applies only to the designated transaction or transactions. In this regard, a transactional overdraft protection program allows an account holder to "insure" a single transaction rather than his entire account. Analogously, a transactional overdraft protection fee acts as a premium for the "insurance" that the account holder has purchased for the transaction. In one embodiment of the invention, "insured" transactions are processed last on a given day so that uninsured transactions can be processed against funds existing in the account holder's account before such funds are depleted by the insured transactions. This procedure diminishes the likelihood that an overdraft will occur due to a clearance of an uninsured transaction which is presented on the same day as an insured transaction. According to a first aspect of the present invention, a method and system for providing transactional overdraft protection to a customer having a financial account comprises: receiving, from the customer, an indication of a transaction for transactional overdraft protection; and processing the transaction, after the receiving step.

According to a second aspect of the present invention, a method for registering a check drawn against a checking account in a transactional overdraft protection program comprises: receiving a bill from a payee; and transmitting to the payee a check having an indicium corresponding to a transactional overdraft protection program, in response to the receiving step.

According to a third aspect of the present invention, a method for registering in a transactional overdraft protection program a transaction drawn against a financial account comprises: initiating a transaction wherein an amount of funds from the financial account will be transferred to a payee; and indicating that the transaction is to be protected by the transactional overdraft protection program.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention, a method of receiving payment comprises: billing a customer; receiving a payment from the customer in response to the billing step, the payment including a check having an indicium corresponding to a transactional overdraft protection program; and depositing the check into a financial account.

According to a fifth aspect of the invention, a method and system for producing a check for use by a customer in a transactional overdraft protection program comprises: printing on the check an indicium for use by the customer in electing transactional overdraft protection for the check; and transmitting the check to the customer.

In this manner, a financial institution's exposure to overdrafts are limited in that only designated transactions are protected. Thus, lower fees for both the transactional overdraft insurance and for an overdraft may be provided without negatively affecting the profitability of the financial institution. The transactional overdraft protection program, in turn, will also satisfy customers of the financial institution since fees may be lower than what is typically charged for traditional overdraft protection programs. Customers will have more control of fees that they may be charged because they determine which of their transactions are to be protected. Additionally, merchants may be more willing to accept a check protected under a transactional overdraft protection program, since payment on the check is guaranteed.

Brief Description of the Drawings

A more complete understanding of the present invention, as well as further features and advantages thereof, will be obtained by reference to the following detailed descriptions when read in conjunction with the accompanying figures, of which:

FIG. 1 is an overview of a check clearing process, well-known in the prior art.

FIG. 2 is a diagram illustrating a check to be used with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG 3. is a block diagram illustrating the exemplary components of a financial institution's central computer used for the check clearing process of FIG. 1 and in conjunction with the present invention;

FIG. 4 depicts an exemplary account database stored in the central computer of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 depicts an exemplary rules database stored in the central computer of FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 depicts an exemplary overdraft protection database stored in the central computer of FIG. 3; FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating the steps performed by the central computer of FIG. 3 during an exemplary transaction clearing process performed under a transactional overdraft protection program of the present invention;

FIGS. 8 A and 8B are a flowchart illustrating the steps performed by the central computer of FIG. 3 during a second exemplary transaction clearing process performed under a transactional overdraft protection program of the present invention; and

FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating the steps performed by the central computer of FIG. 3 during a transaction registration process performed under a transactional overdraft protection program of the present invention.

Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments

The preferred embodiments of the instant invention, discussed in terms of a checking transaction, will now be detailed in the following. FIG. 1 represents a typical path through which a checking transaction is processed, as is well known in the prior art. A check 100 written by an account holder against a checking account is presented to a payee 110. The payee 110 then, for example, may deposit the check 100 into its account, managed by payee's bank 120. From there, the payee's bank 120 may process the check 100 in a number of manners.

First, the check 100 may be presented to a Federal Reserve bank 140. Federal Reserve bank 140 will then present check 100 to originating bank 150 which manages the account from which check 100 was drawn against. If sufficient funds are available in the account, check 100 will be cleared and funds debited from the account holder's account will be transferred from originating bank 150 to Federal Reserve bank 140 in the amount for which check 100 was written. In turn, Federal Reserve bank 140 will transfer the funds to payee's bank 120. Payee's bank 120 will then credit payee's account with the received funds. Alternatively, check 100 may be presented to clearinghouse 130 by payee's bank

120. Clearinghouse 130 may then present check 100 to either Federal Reserve bank 140 or originating bank 150. If the check 100 is presented to Federal Reserve bank 140, the checking transaction is processed as described in the preceding paragraph. If the check 100 is presented to originating bank 150, then originating bank 150 will determine if sufficient funds are available in the account holder's account. If sufficient funds are available in the account, check 100 will be cleared and funds debited from the account holder's account will be transferred from originating bank 150 to clearinghouse 130 in the amount for which check 100 was written. In turn, clearinghouse 130 will transfer the funds to payee's bank 120. Payee's bank 120 will then credit payee's account with the received funds.

Additionally, payee's bank 120 may present the check directly to originating bank 150 which will then determine if sufficient funds are available in the account holder's account. If sufficient funds are available in the account, check 100 will be cleared and funds debited from the account holder's account will be transferred from originating bank 150 directly to payee's bank 120 in the amount for which check 100 was written. Payee's bank 120 will then credit payee's account with the received funds.

It is to be understood that the check transaction processing described above is representative only and, furthermore, may be completed with some variations that would be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art. Referring now to FIG. 2, a check 200 to be used in one embodiment of the present invention is displayed. Check 200 includes several features that are common to checks in the prior art. Account holder identification information 202 lists the name, address and telephone of an account holder. Serial number 204 is a unique identifier provided on each check printed for the account holder's account. ABA Routing Number 206 is used in the processing of a checking transaction involving check 200. ABA Routing Number 206 includes information corresponding to serial number 204 as well as the account number from which the check is drawn and a code corresponding to the originating bank which manages the account holder's account. Payee line 208 is provided so that the account holder may indicate a payee to whom the funds are to be transferred. Date line 209 is provided so that the account holder may indicate a date that check 200 is payable. Amount line 210 is provided so that payee may indicate the amount of funds that are to be provided to payee. Signature line 212 is provided so that the account holder may sign the check, which in turn authorizes the account holder's originating bank to transfer the funds indicated in amount line 210. Finally, memo line 214 is provided so that the account holder may write in reference information, such as an invoice number of a bill that is being paid by the check 200. Other information may provided in memo line 214 as discussed further hereinbelow.

One feature of check 200, which is not present on checks of the prior art, is indicium 216 which is used to designate check 200 for transactional overdraft protection. In accordance with the present invention, indicium 216 is preferably pre-printed on check 200 by a check issuer prior to being sent to the account holder for use in transferring funds. In one preferred embodiment, the indicium 216 printed on check 200 must be altered by the account holder in order to designate check 200 for protection in a transactional overdraft protection program. Such alteration may include marking one or more of the five ovals of indicium 216. Furthermore, the number and position of ovals that are to be marked may be pre-registered with the bank that manages the account holder's account. In this manner, the bank may be reasonably assured that the account holder has truly authorized that the transaction is to be protected under the transactional overdraft protection program and that the payee didn't fraudulently authorize the protection. In another embodiment, indicium 216 may be a pre-printed symbol, a sticker which may be placed on the check, or code (not shown) which does not require alteration by the account holder in order for the check to be protected under a transactional overdraft protection program. For example, the symbol may be selected by the bank and printed on one or more of a series of special checks issued to the account holder. When the account holder uses the check, and the check is received by the bank for processing a checking transaction, the bank will recognize the symbol and process the check under the transactional overdraft protection program.

Additionally, it is to be understood that indicium 216 is not necessary to practice the instant invention. For example, the account holder may register a check for protection under a transactional protection program of the instant invention by calling or otherwise notifying the bank that the transaction is to be protected. Such notification would preferably include uniquely identifying the transaction by one or more of the series number of line 204, a payee written in line 208, a date written in line 209, the amount of the transaction written in line 210 and the like. Such notification may take place through a telephone interactive voice response unit operated by the bank, or over a communications line connected between a bank computer and account holder's computer. Alternatively, the account holder may notify the bank in person by traveling to the bank's location and providing an identification of the transaction.

In still another embodiment, the bank may provide the account holder with a code to be included on memo line 214. Preferably, the code would be known only to the bank and the account holder. In this manner, when a proper code appears on memo line 214, the bank may be reasonably assured that the account holder has truly authorized that the transaction is to be protected under the transactional overdraft protection program. The provision of a code for use on a check is described in more detail in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/106,888 entitled "METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PROCESSING CHECKS TO RESERVE FUNDS" filed in the name of Daniel E.

Tedesco et al. on June 29, 1998, the application assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incoφorated herein by reference.

FIG. 3 illustrates the exemplary components of a central computer 300 operated by a financial institution for implementing a transactional overdraft protection program of the instant invention. Central computer 300 has a processor 302, a memory 304, a communications port 306 and a data storage device 308. Processor 302 may be any commonly, manufactured microprocessor chip, such as the Pentium II® manufactured by Intel Corporation. Processor 302 runs at a clock speed (typically measured in megahertz (MHz)) determined by a clock (not shown). Processor 302 is operatively connected to a memory 304 which may include random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM). RAM may be one or more single inline memory module (SIMM) chips capable of storing a predetermined amount of data (typically measured in megabytes), and is used by processor 302 for temporary storage of processing instructions during operation of central computer 300. Read-only memory (ROM) is at least one permanent non-erasable and non-rewritable memory chip that stores initializing instructions to be used by processor 302 during, for example, a start-up routine performed by central computer 300. Further functions of random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM) will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Processor 302 is further operatively connected to communication port 306, which may be one or more of the following commonly known computer peripherals used for computer-related communications: a parallel port, a serial port, a network card, a fax/modem/telephone port and/or any combination of the same. Communication port 306 is operatively connected to transfer data between processor 302 and a network (not shown). Processor 302 is further operatively connected to data storage device 308, which may be any one of the following commonly known computer peripherals used for storing computer data: a hard drive, a floppy disk drive, a DND drive such as those manufactured by Phillips Electronics, a ZIP drive such as those manufactured by IOMEGA, a tape drive, a Digital Audio Tape drive and/or any combination of the same or equivalents thereto. Further such devices will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Data storage device 308 is operative to store program 310 which may include an operating system, one or more application programs, or an Internet-accessible web site, each operative to successfully control central computer 300 in accordance with the systems and methods of the present invention. Data storage device 308 is further operative to store an account database 312, a rules database 314, and an overdraft transaction database 316, each discussed further below with reference to FIGS. 4-6, respectively.

FIG. 4 depicts an exemplary account database 312 as stored in data storage device 308 for use with the present invention. Account database 312 contains the following exemplary fields: a name field 401, an account identifier field 403, an account balance field 405, and transactional overdraft insurance selected field 407. Each row in account database 312 represents one record stored therein.

Name field 401 contains, for each record, a name of an account holder having a financial account with the financial institution operating central computer 300. In an embodiment where the transaction to be protected is a checking transaction, the information stored in name field 401 corresponds to the name listed in the account holder identification information 202 of check 200. Furthermore, the information included in name field 401 may include an address and a telephone number of the account holder, as well as other pertinent identification information.

Account identifier field 403 contains, for each record, an account identifier of an account owned by the corresponding account holder listed in name field 401. In an embodiment where the transaction to be protected is a checking transaction, this information corresponds to a portion of the data provided in ABA routing number 206 of check 200.

Account balance field 405 contains, for each record, a current balance of available funds corresponding to the account identified in the corresponding record of account identifier field 403. The balance of available funds is preferably updated with each transaction processed against the subject account. Further information, such as a minimum required balance, may also be stored in account balance field 405, or may be stored in an additional field (not shown) of account database 312. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that there are inherent delays in checking transactions such that the balance of available funds does not track outstanding checks in real time. In other words, there may be a lag between the time a check is issued and the time the check is processed by the account holder's bank such that the balance of available funds may not reflect the actual account balance at any given time. This inherent delay in processing facilitates an overdraft in the account, because an account holder, relying on the balance of available funds obtained from the financial institution, may write a check in reliance on the balance indicated when, in fact, the balance is less than the amount stated due to outstanding checks that have not been processed. Transactional overdraft insurance selected field 407 contains, for each record, an indication of whether the coπesponding account owner has selected some form of transactional overdraft protection for a transaction, such as a check drawn on an account corresponding to the account identifier. When a record indicates that the account holder has elected transactional overdraft protection, a corresponding record for the account will preferably appear in rules database 314, discussed next in conjunction with FIG. 5. FIG. 5 depicts an exemplary rules database 314 that contains the following exemplary fields: account identifier field 500, checks insured field 501, series checks insured field 503, dollar value insured field 505, specified payee field 507, overdraft insurance fee field 509, and priority processing enabled field 511. Rules database 314 stores information regarding which features of a transactional overdraft protection program each of a plurality of account holders has chosen to elect.

Account identifier field 500 contains the same type of information as described for account identifier field 403, described previously. Preferably however, only those account identifiers for which transactional overdraft protection has been elected, as indicated in field 407, will be listed in account identifier field 500 of rules database 314. Furthermore, if an account that previously was not subject to transactional overdraft protection is later designated for such protection, then a new record for such account will be entered into the database.

Checks insured field 501 contains, for each record, one or more individual series numbers of checks for which transactional overdraft insurance is to be applied. The series numbers listed in this field correspond to series number 204 of check 200 as displayed in FIG. 2. Of course, in an embodiment in which the transaction to be protected is not a checking transaction, other identifications of the transaction may be stored in field 501. Such identifications may include a date of the transaction, an amount of a transaction, an identifier corresponding to the payee, and a reference number of the transaction.

Series checks insured field 503 contains, for each record, a sequential series of checks that are to be protected under the transactional overdraft protection program of the instant invention. The series of checks may be designated by the account holder. Alternatively, the series of checks may be pre-designated by the financial institution. Dollar value insured field 505 contains, for each record, an indication of whether the account holder of the account corresponding to the record has indicated a dollar value of a check or transaction for which transactional overdraft protection is to be applied. It is contemplated that the account holder may designate a particular dollar value or a range of dollar values. For example, the account holder may designate that all checks greater $500.00 dollars are to be protected. Alternatively, if transactional overdraft protection is limited to a maximum dollar value of, for example, $1000 by the financial institution, the account holder may designate that all transactions in the range of $500.00 to $1000 are to be automatically protected. Other variations will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Specified payee field 507 contains, for each transaction, an indication of a particular payee, where transactions to such payee are to be automatically protected under the transactional overdraft protection program. This feature is contemplated to include a payee name, as depicted in FIG 5. However, other identifications, such as an account number, a federal taxpayer identification number or a social security number could be used in place of the name of the payee. Overdraft insurance fee field 509 contains, for each transaction, an indication of the fee that is to be assessed against the corresponding account for each transaction that is protected under the transactional overdraft protection program. The fee may be determined in a number of manners. The fee may be based on the types of transactional overdraft features that are selected by an account holder. For example, each marked check listed in checks insured field 501 may incur a fee of $3.00. Similarly, each check in a pre-designated series of checks listed in series checks insured field 503 will incur a fee of $1.00. Likewise, a fee of $2.00 may be assessed for each transaction that falls under the dollar value insured category or the specified payee category, represented by dollar value insured field 505 and specified payee field 507, respectively. Furthermore, the fees charged could equal a percentage of the transaction amount that is being protected rather than a fixed charge.

The fees indicated above are to be understood to be representative only. Many methods for determining an appropriate fee for these features are available and apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art. In particular, the fees could be determined by a method of risk evaluation involving either a particular account holder or a group of account holders. Information such as the credit history or histories of these account holders may be used to determine a statistical expectation of the dollar value of checks that may be bounced in a particular time period. The fees may then be determined based on the number of persons who are statistically likely to elect transactional overdraft protection. Such risk evaluation methods are discussed, for example, in "What is a Credit Score", ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. (http://www.consumerinfo.com).

Additionally, fees may determined progressively. For example, a financial institution may implement a schedule of charges for a transactional overdraft protection program in which the first five protected transactions in a month incur a $1.00 charge each, the second five protected transactions incur a $2.00 charge each, etc.

Priority processing field 511 contains, for each record, an indication of whether transactions processed under the transactional overdraft protection program will be processed after other transactions against the subject account received within a predetermined time (typically, on the same day). Such priority processing may be included automatically when an account holder elects transactional overdraft protection. Alternatively, the account holder may be required by the financial institution to elect priority processing as a separate optional feature, and may charge an additional fee for such service.

In addition to the above description, "priority processing" as used herein may also refer to a transaction clearing process wherein multiple transactions involving the same account, that are received for processing in the same time period, are cleared starting with the lowest value transaction first, and then processing the remaining transactions in order of increasing value. This maximizes the number of transactions that can be processed without an overdraft occurring. For example, if an account holder has a $50 balance in an account and three transactions for $45, $25 and $15 are received for processing, an overdraft condition will occur in the processing of the last two transactions if the largest transaction is cleared first. However, under this additional method of priority processing, the $15 transaction is processed first, then the $25 transaction, and then the $45 dollar transaction. The $ 15 and $25 dollar transactions will both clear. The $45 transaction, however, will result in an overdraft from the account.

A hybrid of these types of priority processing produces a prefeπed embodiment of this aspect of the invention wherein unprotected transactions are always processed in order of increasing value and transactions selected for transactional overdraft protection are always processed afterwards, and also in order of increasing value. Thus, in the example immediately above, if the $45 transaction is protected by transactional overdraft protection, and the $15 and $25 are priority-processed, all three transactions will clear.

Overdraft payment fee field 513 contains, for each record, a value that will optionally be charged against the corresponding account if a transaction designated for transactional overdraft protection causes an overdraft against the account. The fee charged here is contemplated to be an additional fee to that charged for electing to protect a transaction under the transactional overdraft protection program. Thus, even if a protected transaction is cleared, an additional fee may be charge when the account is actually overdrawn.

FIG. 6 displays overdraft transaction database 316 contains the following exemplary fields: account identifier field 601, transaction identifier field 603, overdraft amount field 605 and transaction date/time field 607. Account identifier field 601 preferably contains the same type of information as described for account identifier field 403 and account identifier field 500, as described above. However, it is preferable that only those account identifiers for which an overdraft has occurred will be listed in account identifier field 601. Overdraft protection database 316 stores information regarding accounts which have incurred an overdraft. Overdraft transaction database 316 may further be used to track a number or a value of transactions for a particular account which have incurred overdrafts. In an embodiment where transactional overdraft protection may be applied to a predetermined number of transactions or a predetermined value of transactions, overdraft transaction database 316 may confirm that an account has not exceeded such predetermined number or value.

Transaction identifier field 603 contains, for each record, an identifier corresponding to a transaction that results in an overdraft for the subject account. In an embodiment where the transaction is a checking transaction, the identifier stored in this field may be the series number of the check. However, other identifiers of the transaction may be used, such as a date of the transaction, an amount of the transaction, a transaction identification number, a payee of the transaction, and the like.

Overdraft amount field 605 contains, for each record, an indication of the amount by which the subject account has been overdrawn due to the transaction identified in field 603 (i.e. the difference between the balance of available funds and the amount of the transaction). As described above, such an amount may be subject to accrued interest until the balance has been paid by the account holder.

Transaction date/time field 607 contains, for each record, an indication of the date and time that the subject transaction was processed. This information may be used, inter alia, to determine a date from which interest on the overdrawn amount begins to accrue. It may also be used to determine whether the transaction should be processed in accordance with priority processing, as discussed above. This can be accomplished, for example, by comparing the time of the overdrawn transaction to the time of processing of other transactions drawn on the same account.

Referring now to FIG.7, an exemplary transaction clearing process 700 performed by central computer 300 for a transactional overdraft protection program is depicted. In this exemplary process, a checking transaction is presumed although such process may equally apply to other types of financial transactions. The transaction clearing process 700 begins when a check is received by the financial institution for processing. Upon receipt, the financial institution retrieves the account identifier from ABA routing number 206 and the series number 204 of the check (step 702). This information is preferably input into an application program 310 run by central computer 300 to process checking transactions.

Next, the financial institution will determine if the check is protected under a transactional overdraft protection program (step 704). This may be accomplished by determining whether indicium 216 appears on the check and, if required, whether the indicium has been appropriately altered by the account holder. Alternatively, the financial institution may query rules database 314 to see whether the information from the check matches any information provided in marked checks insured field 501, series checks insured field 503, dollar value insured field 505 and specified payee field 507. If the check is determined to be protected by a transactional overdraft protection program (e.g. where the appropriate indicium appears on the check or the check information matches any of the information in fields 501-507 for the account), the financial institution may assess an overdraft insurance fee to the account (step 706). The overdraft insurance fee that is to be applied may be retrieved from insurance fee field 509. The process then continues to step 708. If the check is not determined to be protected by a transactional overdraft protection program, the process, likewise, continues on to step 708.

At step 708, the check is processed in a conventional manner by transferring funds from the subject account to the payee listed on the check at payee line 208, unless an overdraft occurs as a result of the transaction. If such overdraft occurs, the financial institution may not honor the transaction unless the account is protected by either traditional overdraft insurance or by the transactional overdraft protection disclosed in the present invention.

FIGS. 8A and 8B depict a second exemplary transaction clearing process 800 performed by central computer 300 for a transactional overdraft protection program of the present invention. Again, it is presumed that the exemplary transaction is a checking transaction, although such a process may apply to other types of financial transactions. Transaction clearing process 800 begins at step 802 when a check is received by the financial institution for processing. Upon receipt, the financial institution retrieves the account identifier from ABA routing number 206 and the series number 204 of the check. This information is preferably input into an application program 310 run by central computer 300 to process checking transactions.

In response to the input, central computer 300 retrieves a record from account database 312 corresponding to the account from which the check was written (step 804). The account balance is retrieved from account balance field 405 (step 806). Next, a record corresponding to the account is retrieved from rules database 214 (step 808).

From this record, and based upon the check information, central computer 300 receives inputs from which it determines whether the check is protected by a transactional overdraft protection feature (step 810). This may be accomplished by determining whether indicium 216 appears on the check and, if required, whether the indicium has been appropriately altered by the account holder. Alternatively, the financial institution may query rules database 314 to see whether the information from the check matches any information provided in marked checks insured field 501, series checks insured field 503, dollar value insured field 505 and specified payee field 507. If it is determined that the check is protected under the transactional overdraft protection program, process 800 continues to step 814, below. Otherwise, process 800 continues to step 812, where the checking transaction is processed in a conventional manner.

At step 814, central computer retrieves the overdraft insurance fee from overdraft insurance fee field 509 at the record corresponding to the subject account. This fee is then scheduled to be deducted from the account balance stored in account balance field 405. Next, the value of the check is determined from amount line 210 and entered into program 310. Central computer 300 then compares this value to the balance of available funds in the subject account (step 816). If the value of the check is greater than the account balance, process 800 then continues to step 818. Otherwise, process 800 continues to step 820, discussed below. At step 818, central computer 300 determines the amount of the overdraft and stores the account identifier, the transaction identifier, the amount of the overdraft and the date and time of the transaction in the appropriate fields 601-607 of overdraft transaction database 316. Furthermore, central computer 300 optionally applies the overdraft payment fee, retrieved from overdraft payment fee field 513, to the subject account. Process 800 then- continues to step 820 where the transaction is processed by transferring the funds listed on amount line 210 to the payee listed on payee line 208 and debiting the transfeπed funds from the account balance listed in account balance field 405 in accordance with account holder's priority processing instructions.

FIG. 9 depicts a transaction registration process 900 performed by central computer 300 for a transactional overdraft protection program of the present invention. It is contemplated that central computer 300 may communicate through communications port 306 with a web site run by the financial institution on the Internet (not shown), an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) (not shown) and/or a telephone interactive voice response unit (IVRU) (not shown), as is well known in the art. In this manner, an account holder or customer of the financial institution may send and receive information directly to central computer 300 without the need for a bank teller or the like to process a transaction. One purpose for this is to provide the customer an opportunity to perform transactions at his or her convenience on a twenty-four-a-day basis. One type of transaction, to be used with the present invention, allows the customer to register a transaction for a transactional protection program. Transaction registration program 900, described below, allows the customer to perform this transaction.

Transaction registration program 900 begins at step 902 where a customer transmits the customer's account number and, preferably, a security code for the account from an INRU or a personal computer connected to the Internet, through communications port 306 to central computer 300. At step 904, central computer 300 retrieves the customer's account information from account database 312 and may transmit some of the information to the customer. At step 906, the customer transmits an identification of a transaction to be protected by the transactional overdraft protection program. The identification may consist of a series number or a sequence of series numbers for one or more checking transactions. Alternatively, a customer may identify a transaction to be protected by providing to the financial institution, inter alia, a date of the transaction, an amount of the transaction and/or a payee of a transaction. Central computer 300 then stores the received identification information into the appropriate field of rules database 314 for later retrieval when the transaction is being processed by the bank (step 908). An account holder may further register a transaction for transactional overdraft protection through an ATM machine. In one example, an account holder inserts an identification card into the ATM, enters his account number and/or password, and selects an option, such as "Register Transaction for Overdraft Protection" from a menu of functions displayed by the ATM. After the account holder selects the register function, the account holder is prompted to enter transaction identification information as described above. The ATM then communicates this information to central computer 300, which, in turn, stores the data in the appropriate records and fields of rules database 314.

In a second example, an account holder may select a transaction at an ATM device, such as a cash transfer function, and select overdraft protection for the transaction at the same time. This may happen where an account holder selects a function such as "Transfer $1200 from my checking account to my mortgage company on March 31, 1999." Before the transaction is completed, the ATM may inquire "Do you want to protect this transaction against overdraft?" The account holder may then respond that he or she desires transactional overdraft protection for the transaction, at which time the ATM communicates this information to the central computer 300. The central computer 300, in turn, stores the data in the appropriate records and fields of rules database 314 and the appropriate fees are applied against the account.

While the best mode contemplated for carrying out the invention has been described in detail in the foregoing, those of ordinary skill in the art to which the instant invention relates will recognize various alternative designs and embodiments for practicing the invention. In particular, the methods and systems disclosed above, though discussed in terms of transactions involving a check from a checking account, are equally applicable to other types of transactions from other types accounts, such as savings accounts, money market accounts, credit card accounts or the like. In these alternate embodiments, a customer may identify a transaction to be protected by providing, inter alia, an account identifier, a date of the transaction, an amount of the transaction and/or a payee of a transaction. Such identification may take place over a communications network wherein the account holder contacts the financial institution through an interactive voice response unit, a modem connection to a BBS or an Internet web site, an ATM machine and the like. Furthermore, any financial institution in the chain of payment, including but not limited to the financial institution or bank holding the financial account, may provide the transactional overdraft protection. Finally, it is to be understood that the databases and data stored therein, as depicted in the figures, may be rearranged or combined into equivalent structures. Accordingly, it is to be understood that the foregoing description is provided for illustrative purposes only and does not limit the scope of the instant invention, as defined by the appended claims.

Claims

What is claimed is:
1. A method for providing transactional overdraft protection to a customer having a financial account, the method comprising: receiving, from the customer, an indication of a transaction from the financial account for overdraft protection; and processing the transaction, after the receiving step.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: charging a service charge to the financial account for the overdraft protection.
3. The method of claim 2, wherein the service charge is a monthly fee.
4. The method of claim 2, wherein the service charge is assessed for each indicated transaction.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the service charge corresponds to a percentage of the indicated transaction.
6. The method of claim 2, wherein the service charge is greater when the indicated transaction exceeds a balance of available funds in the financial account.
7. The method of claim 2, wherein the service charge is assessed only when the indicated transaction exceeds a balance of available funds in the financial account.
8. The method of claim 2, wherein the service charge is determined based on a risk evaluation
9. The method of claim 8, further comprising: performing a risk evaluation based on a credit history of the customer.
10. The method of claim 8, further comprising: performing a risk evaluation based on a group of credit histories coπesponding to a group of consumers
11. The method of claim 1 , further comprising: offering a transactional overdraft protection program to the customer for the financial account; and receiving, from the customer, an acceptance to participate in the transactional overdraft protection program, in response to the offering step.
12. The method of claim 11, in which the step of receiving an acceptance comprises: receiving an indication on a check drawn from the financial account.
13. The method of claim 11, in which the step of receiving an acceptance comprises: receiving the acceptance through an interactive voice response unit.
14. The method of claim 1, wherein the financial account is a checking account and the transaction is a checking transaction including a check
15. The method of claim 14, wherein the indication comprises an indicium on the check.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein the indicium is a predetermined symbol.
17. The method of claim 15, wherein the indicium must be altered by the customer.
18. The method of claim 17, further comprising: receiving, from the customer, an indication of an alteration to be applied to the indicium for indicating the check for transactional overdraft protection; and storing the indication of the alteration of the indicium.
19. The method of claim 15, further comprising: processing the check prior to other transactions coπesponding to the account, the other transactions received within a predetermined time of a receipt of the check.
20. The method of claim 15, wherein the check is a series of checks.
21. The method of claim 15, wherein the indicium is a code written on the check.
22. The method of claim 14, further comprising: receiving, from the customer, an indication that the check is to be registered for the overdraft protection program; and registering the check for the overdraft protection program in response to the receiving step.
23. The method of claim 22, wherein the receiving step is performed through an interactive voice response unit
24. The method of claim 22, wherein the receiving step is performed through at least one of: a telecommunications network, a computerized bulletin board system, and the Internet.
25. The method of claim 22, further comprising: charging a service fee to the financial account, in response to the registering step.
26. The method of claim 22, further comprising: processing the check after other transactions coπesponding to the account received within a predetermined time of a receipt of the check.
27. The method of claim 1, wherein the processing step further comprises: receiving a request to process the transaction; determining whether an amount of the transaction exceeds a balance of available funds in the financial account; and if the amount exceeds the balance: determining whether the transaction is protected under the transactional overdraft protection program; and if the transaction is protected: processing the transaction.
28. The method of claim 27, further comprising: charging a service charge to the account after the processing step.
29. The method of claim 27, wherein the transaction is a checking transaction.
30. The method of claim 27, wherein the transaction is an automatic teller machine transaction.
31. The method of claim 27, wherein the transaction is performed over a cash exchange network
32. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of determining whether the transaction is protected includes: determining whether a limit for a number of transactions that may be protected under the transactional protection program is exceeded.
33. The method of claim 32, wherein the limit is defined as the number of transactions indicated within a predetermined period of time.
34. The method of claim 33, wherein the predetermined period of time is one month.
35. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of determining whether the transaction is protected includes: determining whether a limit for a value of transactions that may be protected under the transactional protection program is exceeded
36. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of determining whether the transaction is protected includes: retrieving, from a rules database, an indication that the transaction is protected.
37. The method of claim 1 , wherein the indication includes a designation of any future transaction over a predetermined value, the processing step further comprising: determining whether the transaction is at least equal to the predetermined value; and if the transaction is at least equal to the predetermined value: processing the transaction.
38. The method of claim 37, wherein the predetermined value is determined by the customer.
39. A method, performed by a customer having a checking account, for registering a check drawn against the checking account in a transactional overdraft protection program, the method comprising: receiving a bill from a payee; and sending to the payee a check having an indicium coπesponding to a transactional overdraft protection program, in response to the receiving step.
40. The method of claim 39, further comprising: altering the indicium on the check, prior to the transmitting step.
41. A method, performed by a customer having a financial account, for registering in a transactional overdraft protection program a transaction drawn against the financial account, the method comprising: initiating a transaction wherein an amount of funds from the financial account will be transfeπed to a payee; and indicating that the transaction is to be protected by the transactional overdraft protection program.
42. The method of claim 41, wherein the indicating step includes: contacting a financial institution holding the financial account; and identifying the transaction to the financial institution.
43. The method of claim 42, wherein the contacting step is performed through at least one of: a telecommunications network, an interactive voice response unit, a computerized bulletin board system, and the Internet.
44. The method of claim 42, wherein the identifying step includes identifying the transaction by at least one of: a date of the transaction, an amount of a transaction, an identifier coπesponding to the payee, and a reference number of the transaction.
45. The method of claim 44, wherein the transaction includes a check and the reference number includes a series number.
46. A method of receiving payment, comprising: billing a customer; receiving a payment from the customer in response to the billing step, the payment including a check having an indicium coπesponding to a transactional overdraft protection program; and depositing the check into a financial account.
47. A method for producing a check for use by a customer having a checking account in a transactional overdraft protection program, the method comprising: printing on the check an indicium for use by the customer in electing transactional overdraft protection for the check; and transmitting the check to the customer.
48. The method of claim 47, wherein the indicium requires alteration by the customer to elect transactional overdraft protection for the check.
49. An apparatus for providing transactional overdraft protection to a customer having a financial account, comprising: means for receiving, from the customer, an indication of a transaction from the financial account for overdraft protection; and means for processing the transaction, after the receiving step.
50. An apparatus for providing transactional overdraft protection to a customer having a financial account, comprising: a data storage device; and a processor connected to the data storage device, the data storage device storing a program for controlling the processor; and the processor operative with the program to: receive, from the customer, an indication of a transaction from the financial account for overdraft protection; and process the transaction, after the receiving step
51. A computer readable medium encoded with processing instructions for implementing a method for providing transactional overdraft protection to a customer having a financial account, the method comprising: receiving, from the customer, an indication of a transaction from the financial account for overdraft protection; and processing the transaction, after the receiving step.
52. An apparatus for producing a check for use by a customer having a checking account in a transactional overdraft protection program, comprising: means for printing on the check an indicium for use by the customer in electing overdraft protection for the check; and means for transmitting the check to the customer.
PCT/US2000/008200 1999-03-31 2000-03-28 Method and system for providing transactional overdraft protection WO2000058918A1 (en)

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US09/282,337 1999-03-31

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