How Long Are Checks Good For?

Young woman depositing check by phone in the cafe.
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Due to the popularity and ease of electronic payment and cash transfer apps, the use of paper checks is slowly declining. Despite this decline, paper checks are not yet obsolete, so there might be an instance in which you have to write, cash or deposit one. But how long is a check good for? Keep reading to learn more.

How Long Is a Check Good For?

Although checks don’t have an official expiration date, they become “stale dated” after six months. At this point, it is up to the bank to decide whether it will honor or reject it.

How Can You Tell if a Check Is Expired?

Some checks, especially those made specifically for businesses, come printed with a caveat that they are void after only 90 days. Even with this, many banks will still accept them up to the usual 180-day limit without difficulty. Generally, the 90-day warning is often just meant to encourage the check holder to cash or deposit the check as soon as possible for the sake of convenience for both parties. If you have a check and need to tell if it is expired, there are a few steps you can take.

How To Tell if a Check Is Expired: Step by Step

You can follow these steps to tell if your check is expired:

  1. In the upper right corner of a check is a line that is labeled “date.” 
  2. Count 180 days past the date written on this line. 
  3. If today’s date is within 180 days of the check’s date, the check is eligible to be cashed or deposited at a bank or check-cashing location

Legally, banks are obligated to honor checks within the 180 days, but banks are not required to cash or deposit checks that are past this date.

How Long Can a Check Be Uncashed?

No bank in the United States has any obligation to cash checks that are more than 180 days old. However, this does not necessarily mean that all is lost if an expired check resurfaces.

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It is at the discretion of the individual bank to choose whether or not to cash or deposit an old check. If the bank is familiar with the issuing account and knows that the account holder can support the check balance, the bank can choose to deposit or cash the check anyway. So, although banks can still honor old checks, honoring them is determined on a case-by-case basis.

While payroll, personal and business checks expire within six months,  money orders do not have a common expiration date. Generally, money orders do not expire, but state laws and issuer rules can influence the money order’s life expectancy. This means that, in theory, you can cash a money order at any point in time. Although, each state and financial institution can instate rules like considering old money orders to be abandoned property or charging a fee after a certain amount of time.

What Happens if You Don’t Cash a Check?

There is no kind of penalty or fee for not cashing or depositing a check before its date of expiration. If you try to cash it after the expiration date, it might not be accepted by the bank. However, you might be contacted by the person who issued the check to verify that the check was received and that it has not been lost or stolen. 

The person who issued the check can also contact the bank to verify that the check will not be accepted beyond its expiration. They can also place a stop payment order on the check. A stop payment order is a formal request to cancel a check that has not been processed.

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What Happens if You Deposit an Expired Check?

When attempting to deposit an expired check, it is possible that the bank will refuse to release the funds. The issuing bank and the recipient’s bank might also honor the expired check and process it without difficulty.

However, if a check is unprocessed beyond its expiration, the issuer might use the funds in other ways. This could lead to the check bouncing — a bounced check occurs when the account holder has insufficient funds. These checks are returned to the bank and the issuer is charged a fee as a penalty. In some situations, the recipient can also be charged a fee in addition to having to refund the deposit.

Final Take To GO

As checks are money, once you receive a check, the best thing to do is to cash or deposit it as soon as possible. If time goes by, you might find yourself wondering “How long is a check good for?” You have 180 days from the date written on the check to deposit or cash the check. Early action will help you avoid issues that might arise upon the check’s expiration, like banks refusing to honor the payment.

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about checks.
  • Do checks expire if not cashed?
    • Yes, checks will expire if they are not cashed. You have 180 days, or six months, from the date written on the check to deposit or cash it. After that period, it is up to the bank to decide whether it will honor or reject it.
  • How long is a certified check good for?
    • Certified checks typically don't expire since UCC guidelines about timing generally don't apply to them. However, U.S. Treasury Checks are typically good for one year after the issue date.
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Jared Nigro and Caitlyn Moorhead contributed to the reporting for this article.

The article above was refined via automated technology and then fine-tuned and verified for accuracy by a member of our editorial team.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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