Substitute Checks and Your Rights - Check 21 F A Qs

Find the answers to all your questions about Check 21.

What is Check 21?

​​​Check 21 is a federal law that was designed to improve the efficiency of the nation's check processing system by decreasing processing time and transportation costs. Check 21 accomplished this by allowing original paper checks to be removed from the check collection process, processed in electronic form, and later replaced with a new kind of paper document called a "substitute check." Check 21 provides that "substitute checks" are the legal equivalent of the original check. 

These checks are similar in size to original checks, with a slightly reduced front and back image. The front of a substitute check states: "This is a legal copy of your check. You can use it the same way you would use the original check." A substitute check that meets these requirements is generally subject to similar federal and state laws that apply to an original check.

​Check 21 contains a special procedure that allow consumers to file a claim and obtain a refund of certain losses related to a substitute check. These provisions apply only to consumers. However, all customers have the right to pursue the correction of errors under other provisions of Check 21 – as well as under existing law.

Federal law provides a special procedure that allow a consumer to request a refund for losses you suffer if a substitute check is posted to your account. For example, if you think we withdrew the wrong amount from the account or we withdrew money from the account more than once for the same check. The losses that are attempted to be recovered under this procedure may include the amount that was withdrawn from the account and fees that were charged as a result of the withdrawal:​

  • The amount of your refund under this procedure is limited to the amount of your loss or the amount of the substitute check, whichever is less
  • Up to $2,500 (plus interest if the account is interest bearing) of a refund may be received within 10 business days after we receive a claim and the remainder of the refund not later than 45 calendar day after we receive a claim
  • We may reverse a refund if we later are able to demonstrate that the substitute check was correctly posted to the account

Federal law limits a refund to the amount of the consumer's loss, up to the amount of the substitute check plus interest if the account earns any.

​​​​If you believe that you have suffered a loss related to a substitute check that you received and that was posted to your account, please contact us by:​

  • Calling 1-800-724-2440 or  
  • Writing to us at M&T Bank, P.O. Box 767, Buffalo, NY 14240-9975

If a customer speaks to us about a claim, we may require that the claim be submitted in writing. If you are an M&T Online Banking customer, you may send us a secured message at   

You must contact us within 40 calendar days of the date that we mailed (or delivered by a means to which the consumer agreed) the substitute check in question or the account statement showing that the substitute check was posted to the account – whichever is later. We will extend this timeframe if the consumer was not able to make a claim within the 40 days because of extraordinary circumstances.

A consumer's refund claim must include:

  • A description of why you have suffered a loss. For example, you think the amount withdrawn was incorrect;
  • An estimate of the amount of your loss;
  • An explanation of why the substitute check you received is not sufficient to confirm that you suffered a loss; and
  • A copy of the substitute check and/or the following information to help us identify the substitute check:
    • ​​The check number
    • The name of the person to whom the check was written
    • The amount of the check