Deposit processing appears to be back to normal after a “manual error” caused delays at many U.S. banks on Friday. The Automated Clearing House (ACH) system, which allows banks to send electronic payments to each other, said it had experienced a processing error on the evening of Thursday, November 2, with a batch of bank transactions. ACH said the error originated with the Electronic Payments Network (EPN), its private sector operating partner.
As a result, customers reported deposit delays at many major American banks on Friday morning, including Bank of America, Chase, Truist, PNC, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo. According to the Clearing House, which operates the ACH, the delay affected around 900,000 deposits, which is less than 1% of the daily volume of ACH transactions.
The good news is that the glitch looks like a one-time event that was caused by human error rather than systemic issues or a malware attack.
“There was a processing error with an ACH file last night, said Gregory MacSweeney, Vice President and Head of Communications at the Clearing House, in a statement issued on Friday. “It was a manual error associated with the file.”
On Friday, the Federal Reserve issued a more technical explanation for what had happened: “On November 3, 2023, a processing issue at EPN, the private sector ACH operator, resulted in a number of ACH entries having certain data elements obscured (file dated for November 1, 2023, processed on November 2, 2023, with effective dates from November 2-3). This error was contained in a single interoperator file that was distributed by EPN to its participants during the November 2 6:00 p.m. processing window. These entries contain valid Nacha syntax, but obscured account information and recipient information.”
Banks Scramble to Respond
Banks were caught somewhat flat-footed by the problem. PNC sent out a notice to customers on Saturday, a day after the delays, stating: “PNC will waive any non-sufficient funds or overdraft fees you may incur as a result of this delay.” Bank of America issued the following through its mobile app: “Some deposits from 11/3 may be temporarily delayed due to an issue impacting multiple financial institutions. Your accounts remain secure, and your balance will be updated as soon as the deposit is received. You do not need to take any action.”
The delays appeared to be resolved by Friday afternoon, although consumer complaints continued to trickle out via social media throughout the weekend. The problem was exacerbated—and more widely noticed—given that it fell on the first Friday of the month, a common payday for many Americans.