How Long Is a Check Good For: Why You Should Cash Your Checks Sooner Than Later

Checks are still a common mode of payment these days. And while it’s easy for someone to hand you a check, it can be difficult to find time to cash in your check by visiting their bank and having it cashed in or depositing the check into your own bank account.

We already know how to write a check, but what about the process of depositing or cashing in a check? And how long is a check good for before we can no longer cash it in? Unfortunately, all checks come with an expiration date, so if you have one, here’s why you should deposit it sooner rather than later.

How Long Are Checks Good For?

Checks do not have an expiration date, but banks are only legally required to honor checks 180 days or six months from the date indicated on the check. If you try cashing in or depositing a check with a date over six months after the indicated date, it is the bank’s discretion to decide whether they will honor your check, contact the account holder for approval, or reject it.

signing-a-checkbook

After six months, a check becomes what’s known as a “stale check.” It’s highly likely that the payor (the one who issued you the check) already forgot about that check. This means they may not have the funds in their checking account to cover the check anymore.

Can I Still Cash In a Stale Check?

You can still try to deposit or cash in a stale check, but there’s no guarantee that it will be accepted. After six months, it becomes the bank’s prerogative whether or not to accept an old check.

To be on the safe side, it’s best to cash in the check as soon as possible to avoid forgetting about it. If you’ve misplaced a check and only found it just now, it may be in your best interest to ask the giver for a new check, bringing the old check as proof that you never cashed it in. Some banks simply bounce the check if it’s stale, which means the payor gets a penalty from the bounced check or overdraft, so it’s also in their interest to give you a new check.

What About Post-Dated Checks?

Let’s say you’re a landlord, and one of your practices is to ask for post-dated checks for every first of the month. Your tenant gives you 11 post-dated checks on January 1. Does that mean all the checks you didn’t cash in after June 1 are now stale? No, it’s not.

These checks are post-dated, which means even if you received all checks on January 1, these checks are dated February 1, March 1, April 1, and so on. That means the countdown for 180 days doesn’t start for these checks until those dates. So, when it’s finally February 1, you have until July 1 to cash in your February 1 check before it becomes stale.

So, for more generous landlords who know their tenant may be behind payments, they can wait a few days or weeks after the rent is due to cash in a check without any problems. But stricter landlords can opt to deposit all the checks to their account immediately. The checks can be verified, but this means the money won’t be transferred until the date indicated, which means tenants will have to have enough money in their account before the due date.

What About 90-Day Checks?

Some checks come with a pre-printed warning saying that the check will be “void after 90 days.” Despite this, however, banks are legally required to honor checks up to 180 days. This print is only meant to discourage people from delaying their check deposits and to cash it in or have it deposited sooner rather than later.

Personal Checks vs. Payroll Checks

In terms of how long banks will accept checks, there’s no difference in terms of stale checks for personal or company-printed checks: banks have a legal limit of checks for up to six months. After six months, banks have the discretion to refuse processing either checks.

checkbook-filing

However, if you really must cash in a stale check, there’s a higher chance of it bouncing with personal checks rather than company checks. Personal checking accounts do not gain interest, so account holders only put enough money to pay off their checks, which can lead to penalties if a check bounces. Company checks, on the other hand, most likely have accounts with more money to offset any payment.

How Long Is a U.S. Treasury Check Good For?

U.S. Treasury checks are good for one year after the date indicated on the check. So, if you receive a check dated January 1, 2020, it will become stale on January 1, 2021. So, if you receive a federal tax refund, you have one year to cash in those checks or deposit it into your bank account.

If for some reason you don’t cash in that check within a year, you are still entitled to that money, but some banks may no longer honor that check. In this case, you need to contact the issuer of that check and request a new one.

How Long Is a Local Government Check Good For?

government-check

This applies to both state or local government agencies: it depends according to the state laws implemented in your area. Generally, state tax refund checks last between six months to a year before they become stale or even expired. Ideally, you should get it cashed in as soon as you have it. If you fail to cash it in within that given time, you may have to request for a new check.

Protect Yourself As a Payor

As the payor, you are the one giving the check to another person to cash in. If it’s not a post-dated check, you may find that they cashed in your check within a week or so. If it’s taking a while for them to cash it in, you may want to contact them and ask why it’s taking them a while.

It’s important you keep track of uncashed checks because you might forget about it and use the remaining money in your checking account to pay for another check. So, when that delayed check finally gets cashed in, you might not have the funds in your account. This could mean a bounced check penalty or overdraft fee charged to you, should the bank decide to process a stale check.

checkbook-writing

For precaution, practice these steps:

  • Always deposit money into your checking account every time you give a check. That way, even if your payee delays cashing it in, there will always be money to pay off every check given.
  • Verify your bank’s checking policies to see if they will honor checks older than 6 months.
  • If your payor loses the check, call your bank and place a stop payment on that check. It helps to balance your checkbook and keep track of all your checks on the checkbook register so that you know the check number of the missing check.

Protect Yourself As a Payee

As a payee, it’s in your best interest to cash in a check as soon as possible. This can prevent you from forgetting about the check and letting it go stale. Requesting for a new check after it expires may be difficult. Even if you are owed money, it can be a nuisance trying to get a new one to get cashed in.

Scroll to Top