Every night, millions of cashed checks fly around the country, headed for their home bank. Starting in October, technology will start to ground many of those flights. And it may ground some consumers, too — those who try to sneak an extra day or two of “float” out of their checking accounts.

Consumers trying to stretch their money have become accustomed to taking advantage of “the float,” the time it takes after they write a check for banks to deduct from their accounts. It’s a bit of a secret loan, but it’s about to be shut down for good.

Also about to be historical artifacts: bank statements packed with canceled handwritten checks.

The new era of banking begins in October. Banks will slowly get away from the business of flying checks around the country each night. Instead, checks will be cleared electronically, and often destroyed when they are cashed.

“We are bringing the industry out of the Pony Express era,” said John Hall, spokesman for the American Bankers Association.

Congress passed the legislation authorizing the change last year. The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, commonly known as Check 21, cleared the way for the simplified process by allowing digital images of checks to be deemed legal representation of payment — so-called substitute checks can now be presented to angry landlords or telephone companies as proof of payment.

More here.