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Direct Deposit for "Surprise" Bonuses

Julie Lam's Profile

Every year our company distributes an annual bonus to our employees of which there is an element of surprise in the amount of the bonus.  It's mostly based on the profitablity of the company so no one really knows how much they are going to get until the day of the bonus.  To maintain the element of surprise the company has always paid this bonus by check and hand delievered the checks to the individuals on bonus day.  And then everyone goes and parties. 

We really want to get rid of the paper part of the process aka checks, but are concerned about the element of surprise.  I know that some banks, particularily credit unions, can prepost the transcations sent via ACH, which would then be viewable by the account holder even though the funds are not available until the value date of the transaction. 

Any ideas?  Pay cards were dismissed as that seemed just as much of an administrative headache as a check.  Wires are too expensive.  Is this possible?


Michael Jameson
Title: VP Finance
Company: Undisclosed
(VP Finance, Undisclosed) |

Our payroll provider (Paylocity) can time our employee direct deposits to the day. No pre-notice, no possibility of warning to employees, just we say "have it hit on X day, and it hits. Can't your guys do the same? What would stop them, I wonder?

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

The timing of the ACH deposit to the persons account is dependent on how often the Bank goes to the Fed to pick up the file and what the Bank's policy is on showing that deposit on the persons account. Bank of America goes every hour and shows the deposit as "in process", where as a small credit union may only go twice a day and may not post it until the Fed actually transfers the money. I would say 90% of your employees will see the deposit at the same time, the other 10% will see it later.

That aside, there is something to handing a check to someone that in my view has a little more positive psychological affect that you don't get with a direct deposit or a prepaid card. While paper is certainly more time consuming, I think your employees probably look forward to have the check handed to them.

Fredrick Moore
Title: Strategic Marketing & Sales Manager
Company: MC Consulting
(Strategic Marketing & Sales Manager, MC Consulting) |

I love using PayPal for my private business. Have you put any thought to using them? Their instant text and or email notice feature could add good surprise element for your employees while you all are out celebrating. However, I'm not certain if this would be less daunting than handing out paper check. You may want to consult with a PayPal account executive. It's a free service for both the sender and receiver.

Recipients in the United States can withdraw money you send using one of the following options:

Spend the money online at thousands of stores that accept PayPal
Transfer it to their local bank account (takes 3-5 days)
Request a check (costs $1.50 and takes about 7 days)
If they have a PayPal debit card, they can use it to access the money you sent.

I hope this provides additional food for thought. Good luck!

Kevin Roones
Title: Senior Accounting Professional
Company: In-between
(Senior Accounting Professional, In-between) |

Once the amount has been settled on for each employee, why not have the employees' boss call them into his/her office one at a time, give them a little pep talk and tell them what the (pretax) amount will be.

This could be done the day before the funds actually hit the employee's account.

Nancy Tso
Title: Head of Client Service
Company: SkyStem
(Head of Client Service, SkyStem) |

I agree with Scott. For something like a surprise bonus, getting a paper check adds to the sweetness and amps up the excitement. Julie I think the "physical-ness" of the check makes the experience better.


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