At most stores, a check can be written when no money is in the account; however, if money isn't deposited to the account before the check clears, the account is overdrawn and the check may bounce. Bounced checks can result in a number of negative consequences, including penalty fees.
A check is a guarantee of payment and a vehicle by which the business can request funds from the purchaser's checking account. One of two things generally happens when a check is written at a store: The check is scanned to create an electronic check, or the store holds the check for a later deposit to its own bank.
According to the FDIC, most checks took several days to clear due to transportation times associated with paper checks in the past. The Federal Reserve states that the Check 21 Act and other recent conversions to electronic processing mean many checks clear the next day. To avoid fees or legal troubles associated with bounced checks, deposit money into an account the same day the check is written for a purchase.