Maybe you think paper checks are a relic from the recent past, but don’t write them off so quickly. Did you know that there are still 14.5 million checks issued in the U.S. every day?
That means there may be many instances when you need to cash a check, such as receiving a tax refund or getting paid for a side-hustle gig. All too often, people set aside that paper rectangle and plan to deal with it later, only to realize weeks or even months have passed before they come across it again.
But is a check still good if it’s not cashed right away? Learn the answers here, including:
• How long are checks good for?
• What are the different kinds of checks? When do they expire?
• What should you do with an uncashed check?
How Long Do Checks Usually Last?
Both corporate checks and personal checks technically expire after six months from the issue date. There may be alternate void dates written on the check, such as 90 days, but that’s more of the issuer’s preference rather than a rule that’s etched in stone. After six months, a bank considers the check “stale” and isn’t legally required to cash it.
Here’s one reason why checks have expiration dates. If you wait too long to cash a personal check, there’s a decent chance that the issuer won’t have enough money in their account to cover the outstanding check.
If this happens, the check bounces and you’ll likely be charged a fee by the bank.
Fees for Bounced Checks
• The maximum amount varies, but typically it costs about $27 dollars when a check bounces as of 2022.
• You may also be hit with overdraft fees, which average almost $30.
When you wait a long time to cash some type of corporate check, you usually run less risk of having it bounce. It could, however, happen.
When a Check Is More Than Six Months Old
So what should you do if you discover an uncashed check that was issued more than six months ago? It can obviously happen, especially in this era when many transactions are done by payment apps and e-checks. Some of us aren’t used to dealing with paper checks.
Here’s the scoop:
• Even if the check doesn’t bounce, the bank can refuse to cash it after the six-month mark. When that happens, you’ll generally need to reach out to the issuer and ask for another check. In that case, the issuer may ask you to return the first copy so they can properly void it.
• In a best-case scenario, the bank could still honor the check. They’re not required to do so by federal law, meaning you could still access the cash despite exceeding six months.
When a Treasury Check Is More Than a Year Old
How long are checks good for when they are issued by the U.S. Treasury? They usually don’t expire until one year after the date it’s issued. Common types of Treasury checks include federal tax refunds, Social Security benefits, and Veterans Affairs benefits. If these checks expire, follow these steps:
• In order to get an expired check reissued, you must contact the paying agency directly and go through the check claims process and appropriate paperwork.
• You can avoid expired U.S. Treasury checks completely by signing up for electronic direct deposit or opting for a direct express card (designed for those without bank accounts). For those who receive federal benefits, like Social Security, receiving payments electronically is required by law.
Note that state and local governments all have their own expiration dates when it comes to checks. Consider looking into those specific guidelines for things like state tax refund checks.
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Expiration Dates for Different Types of Checks
You’ve just learned about how six months is the usual expiration date after a check is issued or one year for Treasury checks.
However, there are some exceptions to these guidelines. These likely occur when the funds attached to a check were secured by the issuing bank in some way.
With a certified check, the issuer’s bank guarantees the funds, but they remain in the individual’s account until you cash the check. However, the bank puts a hold on the correct amount of cash so there’s no risk of the account being overdrawn before you deposit that check.
Still, there’s no hard and fast expiration date for a certified check. The main concern is that eventually, the bank may hand over the funds to the state in your name as unclaimed property if you fail to cash the check. Each state has its own process for reclaiming those abandoned funds, which you may learn more about from the state’s unclaimed property office.
Alternatively, you can visit MissingMoney.com , a multi-state database which may help you find your unclaimed cash from certified checks and other sources.
Recommended: What Is a Business Check vs. a Personal Check?
When you receive a cashier’s check from someone, the funds have already been withdrawn from their personal bank account and transferred into an escrow account with the issuing bank. The money sits there waiting until you cash the check. The bank may still place a void date on the check and no longer guarantee the funds after that point.
If you miss your window of opportunity, the bank may transfer the money to the state as unclaimed property, just as they would with uncashed certified checks.
Cashier’s checks are usually reserved for large amounts of money. When someone pays you with this method, it’s generally smart to cash it as quickly as possible. Plus, it can be very difficult to replace a hard copy of a cashier’s check if you lose it.
A money order is another secure form of payment. It never expires, but, depending on the terms of the money order, there may be fees incurred if it is not cashed in a certain amount of time.
A money order works differently than most checks. The issuer doesn’t transfer funds from their bank account. Instead, they can use cash, a debit card, or traveler’s check to pay for it. The money order then gets assigned a cash value and can be cashed or deposited.
It’s relatively easy to replace a money order if it’s been lost, especially compared to certified and cashier’s checks. If this happens, the original issuer will generally need to go to the place where the money order was purchased to complete the replacement process.
There may also be a fee for replacing the money order (for example, $13.90 at the U.S. Post Office). However, the process isn’t immediate. It can take between 30 and 60 days to investigate a lost or stolen money order. So, if there are any issues with a lost money order, it’s typically best to try and resolve the issue as soon as possible to help expedite the process.
Recommended: What Is a Counter Check?
Traveler’s checks are a sort of check that assumes cash value without ever expiring. You may choose to use them while traveling abroad to avoid carrying around large amounts of cash. When you arrive in your destination country, traveler’s checks can be exchanged for local currency.
How long is a traveler’s check good for if not cashed during your trip? You can bring any unused checks home, and then consider these options:
• Since they’re marked in U.S. dollars rather than foreign currency, you can simply save them to exchange during a future overseas trip, regardless of the type of currency used there.
• You can usually redeem unused travelers checks with the issuing bank. Just check in advance what kind of fees may be involved.
• Traveler’s checks are also accepted domestically, meaning you may be able to use them instead of cash, plastic, or personal checks at some stores.
Why Do Checks Have Expiration Dates?
As mentioned briefly above, checks typically have an expiration date as a way to nudge the recipient to cash it sooner rather than later. When people hold onto uncashed checks, it makes it challenging for the issuer to know how much money they actually have in their account and keep their personal finances up to date.
An expiration date, whether it’s six months or a year, can help them balance their books and not worry about someone cashing a check years later.
Recommended: How to Write a Check to Yourself
What to Do With an Uncashed Check
It’s not uncommon to dig through a pile of unopened mail or a stack of papers and discover a check that you never cashed. What’s next in this situation? Consider these tips:
• If it’s been less than six months for a conventional check, you can likely cash it as usual. Treasury checks are good for up to a year. Mobile deposit can make getting the funds into your bank account quick and easy.
• If it’s past the expiration date, you may check with your bank and see if they will honor it. If they believe the funds are available, they just might cash it.
• If the check cannot be cashed, you will likely have to contact the issuer and request a new check. You may need to return the expired check as part of this process.
If you are the issuer of the check and see that six months have gone by and your check hasn’t been cashed, you may try reaching out to the payee to see if the check has been lost or stolen. If that is the case, or they just let it sit uncashed, you may reissue the check as your next step.
Recommended: How to Sign Over a Check to Someone Else
It’s wise to deposit checks quickly once you receive them. As a general rule of thumb, the six-month mark represents the strictest timeline. Cashing or depositing any check before then can help avoid problems with a check getting stale. Checks issued by the federal government via the U.S. Treasury Department have a little more leeway — a full year from the issue date.
SoFi can help you avoid the hassle of going to a bank branch or ATM to cash your check. With SoFi Checking and Savings, you’ll be able to snap a photo and deposit your check. There are plenty of other great benefits too: We offer a competitive Annual Percentage Yield (APY) and no account fees, which can help your money grow faster (as can savings features like Vaults and Roundups). Plus, you’ll spend and save in one convenient place.
Can I cash an expired check?
It depends. Your bank may still cash a cash that’s past the expiration date if they believe the funds are available. But they do have the right to refuse it if six months have passed since the date it was issued or one year in the case of checks from the U.S. Treasury.
How can banks tell if a check is expired?
The date on the check tells you and your bank when the check was issued. A check typically expires six months after that date or, in the case of U.S. Treasury checks, a year later. Some companies print on their checks “void after 90 days,” but most banks will honor a check up to 180 days.
Can an expired check be reissued?
Yes, an expired check can likely be reissued. Contact the payor to request this.
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