Who Is an Accredited Automated Clearing House Professional? (AAP)
An accredited automated clearing house professional (AAP) is a professional designation awarded by Nacha, previously called the National Automated Clearinghouse Association, to individuals who are experts in electronic payments.
Successful applicants earn the right to use the AAP designation with their names for five years, improving job opportunities, professional reputation, and pay. Every five years, AAP professionals must complete 60 hours of continuing education or successfully retest to continue using the designation.
- An accredited automated clearing house professional (AAP) can find work in many private industries and public institutions such as state or federal government offices that process electronic payments.
- If you are interested in obtaining a designation, it helps to have a couple of years of experience processing ACH payments.
- Nacha serves as a not-for-profit association and stewards one of the world's largest electronic payment systems.
- Cybersecurity is a huge concern for NACHA, and they have created a designation, accredited automated risk professional to help fight electronic theft and disruption.
- The ACH network is the way that billions of crucial electronic payments reach their designated recipients who rely on the network to receive multiple payments such as direct deposits of paychecks and government benefits.
To pass the Accredited Automated Clearing House Professional (AAP) exam, applicants should understand ACH rules and regulations, operational requirements, ACH products and applications, the electronic payments cycle, risk management, marketing ACH services, providing ACH-related customer service, and more.
It is also helpful to have at least two years of professional experience working with ACH payments in order to be fully prepared for the exam. Individuals with the AAP designation may work for financial institutions such as banks and credit unions and federal or state government entities that process electronic payments. According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary for an AAP is approximately $52,185 a year.
AAP Dates and Pricing
The AAP exam is an annual event held in October. Registrants receive a complimentary handbook to aid in their preparation, and online registration is the preferred method listed by Nacha. However, for those unable to register online, a 2023 AAP Registration Form is available for download.
For 2023, the registration period spanned from Dec. 1, 2022 to Sept. 8, 2023. Fees were $550 for members and $675 for non-members. Late registration, from Sept. 9 to Sept. 29, costed $600 for members and $725 for non-members. Deferrals and cancellations could be made until September 1, 2023, with fees of $125 for members and non-members.
Late deferrals, from Sept. 2 to Sept. 29, cost $150. Substitutions are allowed until Sept. 29, 2023, at a cost of $90. No registration, deferrals, or substitutions are processed after the respective deadlines without a written request, though. In addition, as of September 2023, no dates have been provided regarding the registration window(s) for 2024.
Nacha's influence continues to grow. In 2021, the Automated Clearing House Network, ACH, moved more than $72.6 trillion and 29.1 billion electronic financial transactions annually, according to Nacha's website.
AAP Continuing Education
As an AAP, you're responsible for maintaining your credential through continuing education. AAP accreditation is valid for five years, during which time you must accumulate 60 Continuing Education Credits (CECs). You can earn a maximum of 20 per year.
CECs need to be filed in the spring of the year following their accrual. As of September 2023, the regular filing period is from May 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, with fees of $110 for members and $185 for non-members. There is a late filing period from April 1 to 30, 2024, with an additional $50 late fee.
Nacha only accepts credits within the specific reporting period. If you fail to meet CEC requirements in the fourth or fifth year of your AAP accreditation, you'll need to retake the AAP exam. Nacha conducts 50 audits annually on AAP renewal credits, so it's essential to retain supporting documentation for at least three years, as unsubstantiated credits may be disqualified. Various educational activities can earn you CECs, including attending seminars or training, volunteering on certain committees or boards, publishing relevant articles, books, or papers, or teaching courses on AAP-related topics.
AAP vs. APRP
The AAP certification primarily centers around ACH transactions. In contrast, the APRP certification takes a broader approach, encompassing a wide range of payment systems including ACH, wire transfers, card payments, and emerging payment methods.
APRPs specialize in understanding and mitigating payment-related risks such as fraud prevention, risk assessment, and compliance. The curriculum for APRP certification covers risk management, payment system fundamentals, regulatory compliance, and risk assessment, making it applicable to a wider array of payment methods.
The career scope for AAPs is often more specialized with professionals typically working in roles somewhat strictly related to ACH operations, compliance, and risk management within financial institutions or payment processing companies. On the other hand, APRPs have a broader skill set that allows them to work across different payment systems, making them well-suited for positions related to fraud prevention, risk assessment, and compliance in a variety of payment channels. The AAP certification is ideal for those who want to specialize, while the APRP certification is better suited for those seeking a broader understanding of payment systems.
AAP and Nacha
Nacha serves a dual mandate. Firstly, it administers the ACH Network, which most readers will know from Direct Deposits and Direct Payments occurring as ACH transactions. Secondly, it serves as a not-for-profit association supporting the broad payments industry. As stewards of one of the world's largest electronic payment systems. In addition, Nacha provides access to education and accreditation to professionals interested in the industry.
The ACH Network sends billions of electronic financial transactions every year worth trillions of dollars. For example, if you receive your paycheck or regular government benefits by direct deposit, these payments come from the ACH Network. To address the growing threat of cybersecurity, Nacha's newest designation, accredited payments risk professional (APRP), recognizes professionals for their exceptional payments systems risk expertise.
How Do I Register for the AAP Exam?
You can register for the AAP exam online through the designated registration page provided by Nacha. There is also an option to mail in registration forms. Be sure to review registration deadlines and fees, as they may change from year to year; in addition, there are several different registration windows including periods where refunds are issued.
How Do Deferrals and Cancellations Work?
If you need to defer or cancel your registration for the AAP exam, you must submit a written request according to the specified deadlines. Nacha strictly enforces these deadlines, and after the deadlines have passed, no registrations, deferrals, or substitutions will be processed.
What Are Continuing Education Credits?
Continuing education credits are earned by participating in various educational activities that contribute to your professional development and expertise in the payments industry. These activities include attending seminars, workshops, or conferences, among others. For other finance certifications, CECs are also known as CPE (continuing professional education).
What Activities Qualify for Earning CECs?
Various educational activities can earn you CECs to maintain your AAP certification. Examples include attending professional seminars, volunteering on relevant committees or boards, publishing articles, books, or papers related to payments risk, or teaching courses on topics relevant to the AAP certification.
The Bottom Line
The AAP certification, awarded by Nacha, signifies expertise in the ACH network. AAPs possess a deep understanding of ACH operations, rules, and regulations. This certification is essential for professionals in the payments industry, offering career advancement opportunities and a demonstration of expertise in a narrow but useful Treasury function.