Automated Clearing House (ACH) is an electronic network for financial transactions in the United States. ACH processes large volumes of credit and debit transactions in batches. ACH credit transfers include direct deposit payroll and vendor payments. ACH direct debit transfers include consumer payments on insurance premiums, mortgage loans, and other kinds of bills. Debit transfers also include new applications such as the Point-of-Purchase (POP) check conversion pilot program sponsored by NACHA-The Electronic Payments Association. Both the government and the commercial sectors use ACH payments. Businesses are also increasingly using ACH to collect from customers online, rather than accepting credit or debit cards.
Rules and regulations governing the ACH network are established by NACHA (formerly the National Automated Clearing House Association) and the Federal Reserve (Fed). In 2002, this network processed an estimated 8.05 billion ACH transactions with a total value of $21.7 trillion. (Credit card payments are handled by separate networks.)
The Federal Reserve Banks are collectively the nation's largest automated clearinghouse operator and in 2005 processed 60% of commercial interbank ACH transactions. The Electronic Payments Network (EPN), the only private sector ACH operator in the U.S., processed the remaining 40%. FedACH is the Federal Reserve's centralized application software used to process ACH transactions. EPN and the Reserve Banks rely on each other for the processing of some transactions when either party to the transaction is not their customer. These interoperator transactions are settled by the Reserve Banks.