ACH Return Codes: Reasons and Meanings

Here is a list of ACH Return Codes, what they mean and the reason they are used in transactions.

ACH Return Codes
ACH Return Codes

In the vast landscape of electronic payments, where financial transactions are conducted digitally at lightning speed, there is a paramount need for a reliable and efficient payment system. Although we can easily mention some, there are still instances of rejections, reversals and mishaps, causing headaches for businesses and customers alike. This is why ACH return codes were established.

Essentially, these special codes were created by NACHA to serve as return reason codes that inform users when an ACH payment cannot be completed. If you frequently make ACH transactions, it is important for you to learn these codes, understand why they occur, what they mean, and how to deal with them.  

What is an ACH Payment?

ACH payments, short for Automated Clearing House payments, are a kind of electronic bank-to-bank payments that people in the United States use. It's processed through the ACH network, instead of through the regular payment gateway or virtual terminal.

ACH payments differ from other kinds of electronic card processing because they make use of the ACH network to transfer funds from one bank to another. Essentially, they provide you with a way to transfer funds from one person’s bank account to another without making use of paper cheques, wire transfers, credit card networks, or cash.

What are ACH Return Codes?

ACH return codes are special numbers that reach back to requesters whenever ACH money can’t be taken from a customer’s account. These codes function just like credit card decline codes, as they give more information about why the trouble occurred.

ACH return Codes List

There are more than 80 distinct ACH return codes, which we will be discussing. However, before we discuss them, let’s take a look at some important terms that you may come across when reading about ACH returns:

1. Originating Depository Financial Institution (ODFI)

The ODFI is the financial institution that has a contract with The automated Clearing House or Federal Reserve (the ACH operator) to transfer entries on the ACH special network on the originator’s behalf. Most prominent banks are ODFI-approved, which means that they’re capable of sending ACH money transfers. Payment gateways, payment processors, and even ACH payment APIs can also be regarded as ODFIs.

2. Receiving Depository Financial Institution (RDFI)

This is the bank that is either being charged (debited) or refunded (credited). Similar to ODFIs, prominent banking institutions are typically RDFI-approved, as are numerous third-party payment processors and even payment gateways.

ACH Return Code


        Code Detail



  Insufficient Funds

This code means that the available balance isn’t sufficient to cover the total value of the debit Entry.

Retry the transaction


  Account Closed

This code means that a formerly active account was closed by the customer.

Call the customer and demand payment details from an entirely different bank account.


No Account/Unable to Locate Account

This code means that even though the structure of the account number is valid, the account number used doesn’t match up with the person identified in the Entry. Also, it may suggest that the account isn’t open.

Call the customer to verify the account number, routing number, and specific name. If the information is different from your initial Entry, ensure the changes are made and submit a new payment.


Invalid Account Number

This code means that the structure of the account number is invalid.

Contact the customer for the correct account number.


Unauthorized Debit to Consumer Account Using Corporate SEC Code

This code means that a debit Entry was sent to a consumer account, however, the receiving member (customer) hasn’t authorized the Entry.

Reach out to the customer to settle any issues causing the disputed payment.


Returned per ODFI’s Request

This code means that the ODFI has made a bid for the RDFI to return the ACH Entry.

Contact to the ODFI.


Authorization Revoked by Customer

This code means that the customer who approved the ACH payment has already revoked authorization.

First, you have to suspend any prepared recurring payments. Then, reach out to the customer and ratify why the payment authorization was revoked. The customer will either remove the block on transactions or debit an entirely different account.


Payment Stopped

This code means that the recipient of a recurring debit transaction has set a stop payment order.

Contact the customer to resolve any issues which may have led to the transaction being stopped.


Uncollected Funds

This code means that although there’s enough ledger balance to meet the dollar value of the transaction being executed, the available balance is still below this dollar value. This can arise in the case of uncollected checks, for instance.

Retry the transaction (you can perform this up to two times within only 30 days of the initial payment authorization date).

Customer Advises Unauthorized, Improper, Ineligible, or Part of an Incomplete Transaction

This code means that the recipient has informed the RDFI that the Entry is either improper, unauthorized, ineligible or just forms a portion of an incomplete transaction.

Suspend any recurring payments, reach out to the customer, and fix any issues that caused the payment to be disputed.

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The codes listed above are the major ACH return reason codes that you’re very likely to encounter on a daily basis. However, there are plenty of other, less familiar ACH return codes that you may still come across. Here’s some more information about what these other coves relate to:

  • ACH Return Code R11 – Check Truncation Entry Return: This code is just used when returning a check truncation.
  • ACH Return Code R12 – Branch Sold to Another DFI: A financial institution gets an Entry to an account that has already been sold to another financial institution.
  • ACH Return Code R13 – Invalid ACH Routing Number: The Entry comprises of a Gateway Identification or Receiving DRI Identification which isn’t a valid/accurate ACH routing number.
  • ACH Return Code R14 – Representative Payee Deceased or Unable to Continue in that Capacity: The representative payee is either deceased or not able to function in their initial capacity (i.e., being a legally incapacitated adult).
  • ACH Return Code R15 – Beneficiary or Account Holder Deceased: Either the beneficiary or the account holder is deceased.
  • ACH Return Code R16 – Account Frozen/Entry Returned per OFAC Instruction: Access to this account has been hindered due to legal action or even specific action undertaken by the RDFI, or the OFAC (The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury) has advised the Gateway or RDFI to return the Entry.
  • ACH Return Code R17 – File Record Edit Criteria: The RDFI is unable to process certain fields.
  • ACH Return Code R18 – Improper Effective Entry Date: The effective Entry date for the credit Entry is more than two banking days after the standard processing banking day.
  • ACH Return Code R19 – Amount Field Error: Either the accounting field is non-numeric, zero, or surpasses $25,000.
  • ACH Return Code R20 – Non-Transaction Account: The Entry was fated for a non-transaction account, i.e., an account against which everyday transactions are limited or prohibited.
  • ACH Return Code R21 – Invalid Company Identification: The company identification information supplied isn’t valid.
  • ACH Return Code R22 – Invalid Individual ID number: This is used for CIE and MET Entries when the actual ID number hasn’t been used and the receiver has already indicated to the RDFI that the number with which the Originator has been ID recognized isn’t correct.
  • ACH Return Code R23 – Credit Entry Refused by Receiver: The receiver has already returned the Entry, i.e., because the minimum amount of funds hasn’t been remitted.
  • ACH Return Code R24 – Duplicate Entry: The date, trace number, dollar amount, as well as other data matches another transaction.
  • ACH Return Code R25 – Addenda Error: The addenda record indicator value is either out of sequence, incorrect, or missing.
  • ACH Return Code R26 – Mandatory Field Error: There is missing or inaccurate data in a mandatory field.
  • ACH Return Code R27 – Trace Number Error: The Original Entry trace number is absent or doesn’t fit with the addenda record for a return or a notification of change Entry.
  • ACH Return Code R28 – Routing Number Check Digit Error: The check digit supplied for the routing number is invalid.
  • ACH Return Code R29 – Corporate Customer Advises Not Authorized: The receiver has already notified the RDFI that a precise Entry hasn’t been authorized.
  • ACH Return Code R30 – RDFI Not Participant in Check Truncation Program: The RDFI doesn’t partake in a cheque truncation program.
  • ACH Return Code R31 – Permissible Return Entry (CCD and CTX only): RDFIs can return CCD or CTX Entries that ODFIs accept.
  • ACH Return Code R32 – RDFI Non-Settlement: The RDFI is unable to resolve the Entry.
  • ACH Return Code R33 – Return of XCK Entry: Used to return XCK Entries (at the preference of the RDFI).
  • ACH Return Code R34 – Limited Participation DFI: The RDFI’s state/federal supervisor has already limited their participation.
  • ACH Return Code R35 – Return of Improper Debit Entry: Debit Entries aren’t authorized for loan accounts or even CIE Entries (except in cases of reversing Entries).
  • ACH Return Code R36 – Return of improper Credit Entry: ACH Credit Entries aren’t authorized to use with ARC, BOC, POP, RCK, TEL, and XCK (except in cases of reversing Entries).
  • ACH Return Code R37 – Source Document Presented for Payment: The source document that an ARC, BOC, or POP Entry relates to has been presented for payment.

The following codes listed below are far less common, but it’s still a good idea to have a knowledge of some of the more esoteric problems you could experience with ACH returns:

  • ACH Return Code R38 – Stop Payment on Source Document
  • ACH Return Code R39 – Improper Source Document/Source Document Presented for Payment
  • ACH Return Code R40 – Return of ENR entry by Federal Government Agency
  • ACH Return Code R41 – Invalid Transaction Code
  • ACH Return Code R42 – Routing Number/Check Digit Error
  • ACH Return Code R43 – Invalid DFI Account Number
  • ACH Return Code R44 – Invalid Individual ID Number/Identification Number
  • ACH Return Code R45 – Invalid Individual Name/Company Name
  • ACH Return Code R46 – Invalid Representative Payee Indicator
  • ACH Return Code R47 – Duplicate Enrollment
  • ACH Return Code R50 – State Law Affecting RCK Acceptance
  • ACH Return Code R51 – Item Related to RCK Entry is Ineligible or RCK Entry is Improper
  • ACH Return Code R52 – Stop Payment on Item Related to RCK Entry
  • ACH Return Code R53 – Item and RCK Entry Presented for Payment
  • ACH Return Code R61 – Misrouted Return
  • ACH Return Code R62 – Return of Erroneous or Reversing Debt
  • ACH Return Code R67 – Duplicate Return
  • ACH Return Code R68 – Untimely Return
  • ACH Return Code R69 – Field Error(s)
  • ACH Return Code R70 – Permissible Return Entry Not Accepted/Return Not Requested by ODFI
  • ACH Return Code R71 – Misrouted Dishonored Return
  • ACH Return Code R72 – Untimely Dishonored Return
  • ACH Return Code R73 – Timely Original Return
  • ACH Return Code R74 – Corrected Return
  • ACH Return Code R75 – Return Not a Duplicate
  • ACH Return Code R76 – No Errors Found
  • ACH Return Code R77 – Non-Acceptance of R62 Dishonored Return

Lastly, the following codes listed below are used primarily for International ACH Transactions (IAT). You can only hope to deal with these return codes if you’re dealing directly with the office of a financial institution/agency that isn’t located within the US.

  • ACH Return Code R80 – IAT Entry Coding Errors
  • ACH Return Code R81 – Non-Participant in IAT Program
  • ACH Return Code R82 – Invalid Foreign Receiving DFI Identification
  • ACH Return Code R83 – Foreign Receiving DFI Unable to Settle
  • ACH Return Code R84 – Entry Not Processed by Gateway
  • ACH Return Code R85 – Incorrectly Coded Outbound International Payment

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What Happens if an ACH Payment is Returned?

When an ACH return happens, it simply means that the money couldn’t be taken from the customer’s account. ACH payments can come back as returned for numerous reasons, which have been listed above. Some of the common reasons include an invalid account number, insufficient funds, or revoked authorization.

An ACH operator can call for a return of funds by simply generating an ACH debit return directly from the receiving depository financial institution (RDFI). Below  are the important steps a returned ACH payment can take:

  • ACH presents a request for the funds.
  • The request is transmitted to the bank/financial institution holding the accounts.
  • The bank can’t satisfy the request for some reason, hence, the operator transmits the funds back.

ACH return codes are simply what the NACHA uses to justify why the funds came back (were returned). This code will always be returned to the original requester with a specified ACH return fee.

It’s also worth knowing about the concept of “notice of change” (NOC) because it can play a major part in the whole ACH debit return process. Essentially, a customer’s bank account details may change as a result of changes made in bank mergers, account numbering schemes, and so on.

If this occurs, businesses that offer an ACH request using information that is already outdated will have their request processed by the bank, but updated information about the account will be transmitted back to them.

Essentially, this updated information is called a “notice of change”, and it needs the submitter to edit and update the customer’s bank account details before the next request is presented.

If the submitter continues to use outdated information in subsequent requests, the transaction initiated may not be able to be processed, causing an ACH debit return.

What’s the Time Frame for an ACH Debit Return?

ACH return codes generally have a turnaround time of just two banking days. However, some ACH return reason codes can have a little longer turnaround time frame. For example, unauthorized debits made to consumer accounts are likely to have a 60-day return timeframe, since banking regulations are fairly consumer-friendly.

How Much are ACH Return Fees?

It’s a good idea for you to get a better knowledge of the fees associated with the ACH system. Essentially, ACH return fees can vary from $2-$5 per return on average.

Can Returned ACH Payments be Disputed?

Yes, returned ACH payments can be disputed if they meet any of the criteria listed below:

  • The payment was misrouted
  • The payment was a duplicate
  • The payment was not returned within the acceptable time frames
  • Incorrect information
  • The payment resulted in forced credit to the receiver associated with the reversal process

Dishonoured returns have to be sent within five banking days of the date of return settlement, and they can also be challenged by the RDFI. If this occurs, then recovery will have to be done outside of the ACH network.

Bottom Line

Essentially, the primary function of ACH return codes is to give reasons for why an ACH payment was not completed. If you do ACH transactions regularly, these codes will help you identify when there is a problem with processing and what the specific problem is.

The first ten codes listed above should be studied because you are more likely to come across them in your day-to-day ACH payments. Nonetheless, you refer back to this article whenever you encounter codes that you are not familiar with.

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