A cash overdraft is a bank account that contains a negative balance. This situation typically arises when a person or business is too optimistic in assuming that deposited funds have cleared the bank and are available for use, and so writes checks for which funds are not yet available. The situation may also occur when a bank reconciliation is not properly updated, resulting in the belief that there is more cash in a bank account than is really the case.
For example, ABC International believes it has $5,000 in its checking account, but due to a reconciliation error, the actual amount is only $2,000. ABC then writes a check for $3,500, which results in a cash overdraft of $1,500.
The cash overdraft situation arises when a bank accepts presented checks, despite the lack of cash in the account on which the checks are drawn, and advances funds into the account to cover the shortfall. The funds must be repaid within a stated period of time, and the bank will charge a high interest rate for the funds used, as well as a large overdraft fee.
If a company is in a cash overdraft situation as of the end of its reporting period, it should record the amount of the overdraft as a short-term liability. Since interest is charged, a cash overdraft is technically a short-term loan.
A variation on the concept is when the bank shifts funds from another company account to cover the amount of the overdraft. In this case there is no loan from the bank, though an overdraft fee is still charged to transfer the required amount of funds. In this case, the company must remember to shift the funds in its accounting records from the source account to the target account to match the movement of cash enacted by the bank.