By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Small businesses and individuals will be able to accept payment by cheque with more confidence from next November.
Writing and receiving cheques is still popular with businesses
Currently banks can take back the money paid by cheque months or years after it has been cleared into a bank account.
But from November 2007 the banks have said that after six banking days, they will guarantee the money will not be taken back even if the payment is fraudulent.
Banks will also give interest on money deposited by cheque after two banking days and allow it to be withdrawn after four.
The new deal was agreed by the banks after pressure from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
Speaking on Money Box on BBC's Radio 4, OFT director Chris Rawlins explained the new certainty for customers.
"No longer than six days after they pay the cheque in customers will know that the money is theirs and can't be taken back out of their account... that of course has given rise to problems in the past."
Problems like those experienced by Jack Masserano who told the programme what happened to him: "I'd had a cheque that was given to me, it was £2,500, it was cleared and then 23 days later I got this letter from Abbey National saying the money had been withdrawn.
"And I'd naturally spent it, thinking it was mine. I couldn't believe it."
After Jack raised the matter with Money Box in 2004 the banks did look into changing the system, as Sandra Quinn of the UK Payments Association (Apacs) admitted when asked about the new system that would begin in November next year.
"Money Box raised this, we started a review at that time... There are some central cheque processing changes that need to happen, each individual bank needs to do some work," she said.
"We want to make sure that customers get certainty and clarity.
"From November 2007 this will be the first time customers have had certainty that the money is in their account."
But she explained that the days involved are working days: "Cheque clearing happens on working days - that's Monday to Friday and not public holidays."
And Ms Quinn would not be drawn on whether the banks would charge for this new certainty: "It's impossible to say. These new changes will be in the banking code. I can't say definitely, but it is unlikely."
BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 18 November, at 1204 GMT and will be repeated on Sunday, 19 November, at 2102 GMT.