ACH Return Codes (R01 - R33): Understanding What They Mean

By Jacqueline DeMarco · June 18, 2022 · 8 minute read

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ACH Return Codes (R01 - R33): Understanding What They Mean

ACH return codes are generated when an ACH (Automated Clearing House) payment fails to process and therefore gets returned. Usually, ACH payments can be a huge convenience for so many transactions, like setting up automatic monthly bill pay or receiving direct deposit of one’s paycheck. But when conducting business, there are likely to be times when a transaction doesn’t work as expected. ACH return codes indicate exactly what went wrong.

Here, we’ll take a look at what ACH return codes are, what the most common ones mean, and what to do if you receive one. With this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to understand and respond if you get an ACH return code notification.

What Are ACH Return Codes?

To understand what an ACH return code is, it helps to understand what ACH returns are. ACH returns occur when an ACH payment (in other words, an online payment transaction) can’t be completed.

There are a few reasons why these transactions aren’t successful, including:

•   The originator providing inaccurate payment information or data

•   The originator providing non-existent or inadequate authorization

•   The originator isn’t authorized to debit the client’s account with an ACH payment

•   The recipient doesn’t have enough funds

Once an ACH transaction is returned to the originator (the one who requested payment), a specific return code — sometimes referred to as ACH return reason codes — will be generated. This return code will let all parties involved in the transaction know why the ACH payment needed to be returned. These parties can include originators, receivers, and banks.

Essentially, each ACH return code provides the reason for why the assets weren’t collected from the originator’s account; say, why an automatic bill pay that was previously running well suddenly stopped or why a one-time payment could go through. To put it a different way, it explains why the Originating Depository Financial Institution (ODFI) or why the Receiving Depository Financial Institution (RDFI) wasn’t able to transfer the assets to the recipient’s account.

ACH return codes can help identify the problem with the transaction and quicken the ACH transfer processing time.

If an ACH return occurs, the consumer will be on the hook for an ACH return charge. It’s similar to when a check bounces; the consumer pays a small fee; in this case, usually $2 to $5.

The timing of ACH transactions is usually quite quick. Similarly, ACH returns tend to be processed pretty fast. If you’re tracking ACH transactions, you’ll see that most ACH refunds only take about two banking days to occur. That being said, some ACH return codes can result in the return taking as much as sixty banking days to process.

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Common ACH Return Codes

Now that you have a solid overview of ACH returns, let’s take a look at some common ACH return codes. We’ll explain what they mean, as well as what to do when faced with one.

Code: R01
Meaning: Insufficient funds (the account’s available balance isn’t sufficient to cover the funds transfer, similar to being in overdraft)
What to do: Attempt the transaction again as a new transaction within 30 days of the original authorization date (up to two times)

Code: R02
Meaning: Account closed (a once-active account has been closed)
What to do: Request the customer provide a different bank account or form of payment

Code: R03
Meaning: No account exists or unable to locate account (even though the account number structure is valid, it doesn’t pass the check digit validation)
What to do: Contact the customer to confirm their routing number, bank account number, and the name on the bank account. If this information differs from what was originally entered, submit a new payment with these new details

Code: R04
Meaning: Invalid account number
What to do: Obtain the correct bank account number and submit a new payment with that account number

Code: R05
Meaning: Unauthorized debit entry
What to do: Contact the customer and ask for a new form of payment or for them to call their bank and remove the block on transactions (aka authorize the funds transfer)

Code: R06
Meaning: Returned at ODFI’s request (ODFI requested that the RDFI return the ACH entry)
What to do: Request that the RDFI agree to return the entry and then the ODFI must indemnify the RDFI according to Article Five

Code: R07
Meaning: Authorization revoked by customer
What to do: Suspend recurring payment schedules entered for this specific bank account to prevent additional transactions from being returned. Then address the issue with the customer and try to resolve the issue by getting a new form of paying or asking to debit a new bank account

Code: R08
Meaning: Payment stopped or stop payment on item (the receiver of a recurring debit transaction can stop payment on any specific ACH debit)
What to do: Contact the customer to resolve the issue and then re-enter the returned transaction again with proper authorization from the customer, or get a new form of payment

Code: R09
Meaning: Uncollected funds (even though a sufficient book or ledger balance can meet the transaction value, if the transaction brings the available and/or cash reserve balance below the dollar value of the debit entry, then a return will occur)
What to do: Try the transaction again, and re-enter it as a new one within 30 days of the original authorization date (up to two times)

Code: R10
Meaning: Customer advises not authorized, item is ineligible, notice is not provided, signatures are not genuine, or item is altered (adjustment entries)
What to do: Receiver can request credit from the RDFI for an unauthorized debit within 15 days after the RDFI sends the receiver information regarding the debit entry. It’s also possible to immediately suspend any recurring payment schedules entered for this bank account or to ask the customer for a different form of payment or account to debit

Code: R11
Meaning: Customer advises that the entry doesn’t comply with authorization terms
What to do: The originator can correct the underlying error and resubmit the corrected entry as a new entry

Code: R12
Meaning: Branch sold to another DFI (development financial institution)
What to do: Obtain the customer’s new routing and bank account information, and submit a new transaction

Recommended: What is Liquid Net Worth

More ACH Return Codes

The following ACH return codes are less common than those mentioned previously, but still occur and are worth knowing. Here’s a look at what makes these codes tick:

Code: R13
Meaning: RDFI not qualified to participate in ACH or the provided routing number is wrong
What to do: Confirm originally submitted routing information is correct, or get the correct routing number from the customer to use when submitting a new payment

Code: R14
Meaning: Representative payee is deceased or can’t continue in that capacity
What to do: No further action can be taken

Code: R15
Meaning: Beneficiary or account holder is deceased
What to do: No further action can be taken

Code: R16
Meaning: Account is frozen and funds are unavailable
What to do: Obtain a new payment form

Code: R17
Meaning: File record edit criteria — specify (or, to rephrase it, the entry cannot be processed by the RDFI)
What to do: The fields causing the processing error need to be identified in the addenda record information field of the return

Code: R20
Meaning: Non-transaction account (aka an account against which transactions are prohibited or limited)
What to do: Contact the customer and request the authorization to charge a different bank account or for a new form of payment

Code: R21
Meaning: Invalid company identification
What to do: No further action can be taken

Code: R22
Meaning: Invalid individual ID number
What to do: No further action can be taken

Code: R23
Meaning: Credit entry is refused by the receiver until certain conditions are met
What to do: Work with the customer to clear up the issue, or have them work with their bank to resolve it. The customer needs to confirm the refund will be accepted, and then it’s possible to refund the transaction

Code: R24
Meaning: Duplicate entry
What to do: The originator can generate a reversal transaction

Code: R29
Meaning: Corporate customer advises ACH payment is not authorized
What to do: Suspend recurring payment schedules, and then address the issue with the customer. Have them provide new payment information or contact their bank to authorize the payment

Code: R31
Meaning: Permissible return entry (CCD, or cash concentration disbursement, and CTX, or corporate trade exchange, only)
What to do: The business bank account holder or the bank can request a return and the ODFI can choose to accept this late return. It’s also possible to ask for a different form of payment or bank account

Code: R33
Meaning: Return of XCK, or destroyed check, Entry
What to do: No further action can be taken

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The Takeaway

To recap, what are ACH return codes? In short, ACH return codes represent the reason why an electronic Automated Clearing House payment could not be completed. Knowing what each code represents can help determine what the next steps should be to keep payments flowing smoothly or refunds being completed. Typically, ACH transactions are a convenience and allow for faster, easier transfers of funds. Codes are part of this quick way to conduct transactions.

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What causes an ACH return?

ACH returns occur when an Automated Clearing House payment can’t be completed. When this happens, an ACH return code is generated; this code provides a reason for the return.

What is ACH return fee?

When ACH returns occur, a fee is charged. It’s similar to how a bounced check incurs a fee. How much this fee will cost varies, but generally it costs around $2 to $5. The consumer pays this fee.

How long does an ACH refund take?

ACH refunds move fairly quickly. Typically an ACH refund only takes about two banking days to occur. However, for some ACH return codes, the refund period can be as long as sixty banking days.

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