Check Floating Days Thing Of Past

Like college kids everywhere, Tamara Hampton is strapped for cash.

How tight is her budget?

"Before I got paid, which was today, I think I had $5," says Hampton.

So, as CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, she occasionally floats a check - buying time to put money in her account - because she figures that check will need a couple days to clear.

Soon a major banking change called Check 21 could turn check-floating into automatic check-bouncing. The original check would no longer physically move from bank to bank.

"It has to go by planes, trains and automobiles in order to get processed," says Nessa Feddis of the American Banking Association. "What Check 21 does is it allows that process to be electronic."

Instead of physically moving from bank to bank, a processed check will fly through cyberspace and clear within 24 hours.

Bankers say Check 21 will also cut fraud, and increase security.

But consumer advocates are worried that Check 21 puts no obligation on banks to credit deposits any faster. They say even people who don't float checks will get caught short.

"It becomes much more important to know whether the bank is putting a hold on your paycheck or other deposits," says Gail Hillebrand of Consumers Union. "If they are, you're going to have to wait longer before writing checks on that deposit."

Atlanta resident Rebecca Lias is a fixed-income senior.

She's suspicious of Check 21, because her bank statement would include only photocopies of her original checks.

"So where's the original?" she says. "Let me throw out the original. Don't you do it. That's the part I am really concerned about."

For Hampton, Check 21 could really hit home and affect not only how she spends her money, but when.

"You'll be way more cautious," she says. "I know I will be from now on."