When Do Checks Expire and How Do You Know?

Checks won't legally go bad, but there is a stale date.

Did you find an old birthday check and want to know “do checks expire?” The holidays are over and maybe you still haven’t had time to run to the bank or ATM to cash grandma’s check. The good news is you may still have time.

A check does not technically have an expiration date, however, the check becomes “stale-dated” after six months. Once a check becomes stale-dated, it is up to the bank to decide whether it will honor or reject it.

Depending on the type of check and its void date, you may be able to still have it be honored by your bank or credit union. Consider the payment method and your unique situation to see what’s possible for you and your money:

How Long Are Different Types of Uncashed Checks Good For?

Not all checks are the same and not all are processed by financial institutions the same way. Because of that, uncashed checks are good for different lengths of time. This determination does not vary from bank to bank, however; these expiration dates are widely recognized either state-wide or nationally.

How Long are Personal Checks Good For?

A personal check is good for six months (180 days) from when it was initially dated. However, a bank or credit union may still honor it. If you wrote a check that is now stale-dated, consider putting a stop payment order on this check.

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Do Cashier’s Checks Expire?

There is no official expiration date for a cashier’s check (or official check), but if held too long it goes into a process called “escheating” which means it will be turned over to the state as unclaimed property. The length of time before a cashier’s check is escheated depends upon the state, but usually is in the period between three to five years.

When do U.S. Treasury or Tax Refund Checks Expire?

U.S. Treasury (Tax Refund): The limit for a U.S. Treasury check or tax refund check is one year. You can apply for a reissuing of the check after it expires.

When do Money Orders Expire?

Much like a cashier’s check or a certified check, a money order has no official expiration date. However, it can go into the escheating process if held too long.

When do Traveler’s Checks Expire?

Traveler’s checks never expire.

Learn More: Certified Checks Explained — Including How To Avoid Fraud

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Should You Cash a Check as Soon as You Get It?

You should cash a check as soon as you get it if you want the funds to be available as soon as possible. Most banks will post all the funds or a portion of the funds to your account on the next business day.

You should also consider cashing a check in a timely manner because the account the check came from (the payor) may have closed, it may have insufficient funds or there may even be a stop payment order on your check.

If you cash a check and the payor or the bank issuer demands repayment because the check was forged, unauthorized or missing an endorsement, your bank account will automatically have the cashed amount deducted from your account via a process known as “charged back.”

Find Out: What Is the US Bank Cashier’s Check Fee? 

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Can You Still Cash a Check After the Void Date?

You can certainly try. Banks are not obligated to honor the restrictive language on your checks like “void after 90 days.” In fact, there was a court ruling in the case Aliaga Medical Center S.C. v. Harris Bank N.A. that stated a check can go stale after 90 days, but it is not void. Checks are processed with Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) technology, which does not read the date on a check’s face.

While this may benefit you when cashing a check, remember that your check with the “void after 90 days” restriction you’ve sent someone could still possibly be cashed.

Read: What Is PNC Cashier’s Check Fee?

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What To Ultimately Do When Checks Get Old

While you can always try to cash a check after its “stale date,” the best possible solution is to contact the check payor and have them cut you a new check. Legally, you can always cash a check because a check can never be voided.

The best action to always take is to simply cash your checks in a timely manner. Now that mobile check deposit is widely available, cashing a check can take seconds, and you can do it from anywhere.

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About the Author

Jared Nigro is from Pittsburgh, which is obvious by the way he gravitates toward cheese at parties. He is a comedy writer from The Groundlings Sunday Company, Upright Citizens Brigade and has his own digital show on Comedy Central called “Broken People.” When he isn’t being funny, he’s reading books on debt and finance and listening to his favorite finance podcast, ChooseFI.