Understanding Lockbox

Submitted by Chandra Wipro

Objective of this document is to explain the meaning, purpose, advantages and disadvantages of the lockbox. This document also explains various types of formats that can be used to process the lockbox data.

What is a lockbox?

 A company can create accounts called ‘lockbox’ accounts at its bank (or banks) that act as payment collection accounts for customer payments.  The company then informs their customers that all open item payments for their accounts must be submitted to one of the established bank lockbox accounts.  The bank collects these payments along with the customers’ remittance information that indicates what open items the customer payments intend to clear.  Data entry clerks at the bank manually enter the information into an electronic file for transmission to the company to which the lockbox account belongs. These files are typically transferred nightly to the various lockbox owners (companies).  The files adhere to one of two standard banking industry transmission formats: BAI, BAI2, EDI820 and EDI 823.

Advantages of Lockbox:

Lockbox process has several advantages. Some of them can be illustrated as under.

  • Avoid Manual handling of checks
  • Timely processing of Checks
  • Easy reconciliation
  • Reduction of manpower cost
  • Avoid clearing Errors

What is BAI? 

The standards for lockbox transmission files are defined by the Bank Administration Institute (BAI).  Founded in 1924, the BAI organization is a partnership composed of its own BAI membership, a Board of Directors, various banking industry advisory groups and a professional staff.  The organizational mission is “to help bank administrators achieve high levels of professional effectiveness and to help solve significant banking problems.”  Activities include the definition of industry file formats, such as lockbox transmissions.  BAI and BAI2 are the two defined lockbox transmission formats, however, BAI is considered ‘outdated’ by the BAI organization and is no longer supported (ie. standards are no longer updated or improved).  Nonetheless, many banks still offer transmissions in the old BAI format.

BAI vs. BAI2? 

BAI and BAI2 formats differ in their level of information detail.  BAI does not separate out the incoming check line items by invoice subtotal reference.  Instead, one check total amount simply has all invoices listed underneath it.  Thus, in BAI format files, the entire check amount must match perfectly (or within configured payment difference tolerances) the total amount for all invoices listed.  Otherwise, the entire check will enter into SAP as:

  • an “On account” posting (if the payment and invoice totals don’t match), or 
  • An “Unprocessed” posting (if no customer account and documents could be identified from the transmission). 

In these scenarios, your Accounts Receivable cash application clerks will have to perform manual application to clear payments against open items on the proper accounts.

Conversely, BAI2 splits the check total into separate invoice references and associated payment amounts.  Thus, within a large batch, BAI2 format files will allow a “Partially applied” status in which some identifiable payments within the check total will be matched and cleared, others will land on account.  As a result, your ‘hit rate’ percentage of payment-invoice matching from each transmission is likely to be higher when using BAI2 rather than BAI formats.

  Electronic Data Interchange:

Network transfer of structured electronic data from one computer application to another using standard message formats.  EDI is described as the interchange of structured data according to agreed message standards between computer systems by electronic means. This standard format is nothing but a Set of rules, agreed upon, accepted, and voluntarily adhered to, by which data is structured into message formats for exchange of business and operational information.  Lockbox related formats are Edi 820 and 823. 

EDI 820:

The 820 Payment Order/Remittance Advice transactions can be used to make a payment, send a remittance advice, or make a payment and send a remittance advice.  The 820 transaction can be an order to a financial institution to make a payment to a payee. It can also be a remittance advice identifying the detail needed to perform cash application to the payee’s accounts receivable system. The remittance advice can go directly from payer to payee, through a financial institution, or through a third party agent.

 EDI 823

The 823 Lockbox formats are sent by bank as confirmation of payments received from customers of lockbox owner. EDI 823 format contains information like Bank details  of lockbox service provider, total quantity of checks in each format transmission, total amount involved in total checks, number of batch involved ( batch represents maximum quantity of checks in each lot). Further break up like, customer name, customer bank routing number, customer bank account  number, check number and amount, number of invoices paid, amount per invoice, discounts for each invoice, deductions if any involved and credit memos etc. 

Information available in these formats are generally used for clearing customer open items in SAP depends upon the business requirement.  Following EDI configuration is required to read the data from corresponding format and process customer open items. 

Format Idoc type Message type Process code

EDI 820









EDI 823









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