This article is part of a larger series on How to Do Payroll.
The most common way to pay employees, direct deposit, allows an employee’s pay to be deposited directly into their bank account, usually within days of processing. Setting up direct deposit is simple—you just need your employees’ bank account information, signed approval, and a service to help facilitate. We’ve outlined the steps you’ll need to take below.
For payroll software that can handle your direct deposit payments for you, we recommend Gusto. Employees can fill out their account and routing number, sign a direct deposit authorization during onboarding, and be ready to receive direct deposits right away. Try it free for 30 days.
1. Choose a Direct Deposit Provider
The two most common ways to set up direct deposit are through your bank and with your payroll software. Many payroll software applications have this function and are able to automatically process payrolls as direct deposit. In addition, some HR services or software with payroll capabilities can also provide direct deposit services. If you are paying for payroll services, it makes sense to let them handle the direct deposit work.
No matter which option you choose, your bank is the one that transfers the funds. Thus, if you don’t work with your bank directly, you will need to share your bank account information with the software or service provider to have direct deposits setup.
Direct Deposit Costs
Banks usually charge a setup fee of up to $150. Some will charge monthly or transaction fees, which typically can run from $1.50 to $1.90 per individual transaction.
If you work with a payroll service, like Gusto, it will handle direct deposits at no additional charge to you. It can verify your bank account automatically through its setup process and have you paying employees and payroll taxes in just a few days.
2. Set Up Direct Deposit Service
Once you’ve decided on your direct deposit service, it should tell you the steps you need to take to set up your direct deposit. Remember that it can take a few days to even a week or so to have everything in place. It’s important to set realistic expectations with your team so your employees don’t expect direct deposit with their next paycheck if it’s not possible.
Click the tabs below to learn how to set up direct deposit through your bank or with a payroll service provider:
To arrange a direct deposit with your bank, you can call and talk to a representative to lead you through the process, or use your online portal to do it electronically. Each bank is different, so reaching out to your local branch to find out their process is a good place to start.
You’ll sign the automated clearing house (ACH) terms of agreement, and may need to provide financial statements to prove you currently have and are likely to continue to have the cash available to finance the regular payrolls. At this time, you will also want to discuss how often you plan to run payroll.
If you are using a payroll service, it will set up the direct deposit for you. You need to provide your bank account information (routing number and account number).
There may be a verification process for you to go through that could include a test withdrawal. This means that a small amount (usually under $1.00) will be deposited into your account and then withdrawn (or vice versa) to make sure the service is able to access your funds.
3. Get Employee Authorization & Bank Information
Although direct deposit is the most common way to pay your employees, your workers still must choose to be paid via direct deposit. Many states have their own regulations about how employees can be paid and whether or not you can mandate electronic payments for your team.
For more detailed information on your state’s mandates around direct deposits, check out our state payroll directory for easy access to all of our state payroll guides.
Regardless, you need signed consent to access your employee’s bank account information.
You’ll also need to collect a bit of information from your employees, in addition to consent, to have direct deposits set up properly. You likely will need the following information:
- Bank routing number
- Bank account number
- Bank account type (checking/savings)
- Bank name
- Social Security number
- Employee name and address on the account (for verification to avoid mix-ups in delivery)
Pro Tip: If you have an HR or payroll software with an employee portal, you can have your employees fill out the information through the portal. However, make sure that as the employer you have full access to this information, as some services will store sensitive information such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers masked (ex. **** *** **038).
4. Determine Pay Cycle
While having your direct deposits set up, it’s important to determine a regular pay period that works best for your company and employees to make sure doing payroll runs smoothly. To help make that decision, consider the following:
- Determine required lead time: How much lead time does your bank or payroll service need to finish the deposit after you process payroll? Also, decide whether it needs a longer lead time for holidays or weekends.
- In general, you need to log payroll two to four days before the day your employees get their checks. Some businesses will move that back when payday falls on a weekend or holiday to get deposits out the business day before.
- Determine your own financial schedule: Funds must be available to transfer into your business account before paychecks can be distributed, so be sure your schedule works with anticipated cash flow.
- Determine payday frequency: The most common pay cycles are monthly, semimonthly (15th and 31st), or biweekly. Biweekly employees usually get 26 paychecks a year at a slightly smaller amount; semimonthly get 24 paychecks at a slightly higher amount.
- Set deadlines with employees for submitting hours or time cards: Give yourself enough time to review the data and submit the processed payroll for direct deposit.
- Inform employees of the paydays: Generally, funds are available by 9 a.m. local time at the receiving depository institution, but it’s not set in stone; employees should expect funds by midnight of payday.
Your first pay run can take longer than usual, so allow extra time for set up to complete. It’s a good idea to run a test pay run of only a penny or other token amount.
Ask employees to be on the lookout for this and to let you know if they have not received it by a specific date so you can track down any errors.
Understanding Direct Deposit Errors
One of the prime benefits of direct deposit is that it is generally timely and error-free, as long as you enter the correct payroll information. However, errors can occur. Here are some of the most common (though rare) problems people experience with direct deposit and how to handle them.
Wrong Employee Account Number
Prevention is the best way to stop these errors. First, ask for a copy of a canceled check, so you can verify the account and bank routing numbers manually. Next, do a single test deposit of a penny to ensure the payment goes through correctly. Banks often catch errors and will either put the money into the correct account (sometimes with a delay) or refund it back to you.
If, despite all this, the employee claims they are not getting their paycheck, start by verifying you are sending to the account they’re checking (for example, if the employee gave you their savings account information instead of checking).
If somehow, the money does go to a legitimate but wrong account, you have five days to request a reversal. The payee must be notified, as outlined in the form instructions, but this is only a heads-up vs request for permission to transfer. You may first need to put a trace on the money to find where it has gone. In the meantime, you can cut your employee a paper check, put in an out-of-cycle payment to cover the paycheck, or have the employee work with their bank to credit them the money pending the actual deposit.
Payroll Didn’t Deposit on Time
If you completed payroll on time, but your employees are saying they did not get their paychecks, you should first check that you actually did meet the correct deadline and allowed enough time for processing. Direct deposit can take two to four days to process—longer, if payday falls on a weekend or holiday.
If you have your dates correct, check that your account has sufficient funds to cover payroll. If that is not the problem, then call your bank or payroll service.
Wrong Paycheck Amount Deposited
If your employee receives the wrong paycheck amount, check your payroll records. Were hours correctly calculated? Were all withholdings accounted for? Are the decimals in the right place?
Also, check that the employee did not ask for a split payment and if part of the balance was deposited to another account or is going to someone else for child support or other withholdings. You can correct errors by processing an additional transfer or check payment.
If you overpaid, you may be able to dock future paychecks, but be careful. Some state laws have strict rules about how you can retrieve overpayments (for instance, California); you still have to ensure the employee is receiving minimum wage.
Deposits Are Delayed Due to Holidays
Some banks don’t record deposits on holidays. Your best bet is to be prepared and run payroll early. The best employers plan so that deposits are made on Fridays if a payday falls on a weekend or bank holiday. That way, employees have their paychecks for the weekend.
Direct Deposit Payment Made Twice
This is usually due to human error in the payroll. Be sure to check that an employee is not listed twice and their payroll information is correct. You have five days for recalling the erroneous paycheck by putting in a Request for Reversal order. The reversal must be for the full amount, and the employee must be notified about the transaction.
National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) rules stipulate the entire amount must be refunded at once. Thus, if an employee’s account does not have enough funds to bankroll the reversal, then you will need to work with them on some other way to pay back the error.
With a little work upfront, direct deposit can save your business time, money, and headache. Direct deposit is generally error-free, but like anything else, errors are possible. By sending paychecks directly to your employees’ accounts, you don’t have to deal with paper checks, and employees have access to their money right away.
Work with your bank or payroll solution to get direct deposit for employees set up accurately, and then test it out to ensure everything is working. After that, be sure to get payroll done in a timely manner, and direct deposit will handle the rest.
If you’d prefer to use a payroll software that will set up and facilitate all of your direct deposit for your team, check out Gusto. Employees can authorize direct deposit payments during their onboarding process and Gusto will handle the rest. Try it free today for 30 days.