Image Clearing System

The Image Clearing System (ICS) was launched in 2019, fundamentally transforming cheque processing by enabling digital images of cheques to be exchanged between banks and building societies across the UK for clearing and settlement.

The ICS is used for sterling cheques drawn on UK bank accounts, bankers’ drafts, postal orders, warrants, government payable orders and travellers’ cheques, as well as bill payments (credits) accompanied by cash or cheques.

Importantly, as well as providing more choice, one of the main benefits of an image-based system is that the cheque clearing process has been speeded up, delivering a much-improved customer experience.

The recipient now receives the money in their account more quickly, the money also leaves the account of the person, business or charity that wrote the cheque faster too, especially if the cheque recipient pays it in to their account via a smartphone, tablet or scanner.

Typically, if a customer pays in a cheque on a weekday (before their bank or building society’s advertised cut-off time) they will be able to withdraw the funds by 23.59 on the next weekday (bank holidays excluded, and provided the cheque doesn’t bounce). However, some banks and building societies may allow their customers to access their funds earlier than this.

In 2020, 195m items were processed by the ICS, at a value of £258bn.