How Long is a Check Good For?

Updated on April 8, 2024

Checks – it’s been a while since anyone’s heard about them, right? However, even if everyone is now busy with bank transfers and debit cards, there are still some people that just prefer signing checks. It saves them the trouble of going to the bank – and let’s face it, they feel fancy.

That being said, let’s say that you just receive a nice check with a lot of zeros on it – or maybe you plan on giving someone a check like that. How long is a check good for? Can you still cash it if it was signed, like, five years ago? Well, that depends. This article will tell you everything that you should know about the longevity of checks.

What Is a Check?

A check is a banking instrument that directs the bank to pay a certain amount of money to the person whose name is added to that list. In an age when Internet banking has taken the power, checks might seem a relic – but they are still a useful and practical way to give money without having to deal with entire stacks of it. It’s written by a payee for a drawee, and the person for whom the money is intended will have to claim the money at a bank.

Checks may either be deposited or cashed, depending on the preferences of the drawee, Once the drawee presents themselves at the bank, the money will be pulled from the payee’s account deposited to the beneficiary’s. A check is often written against the payor’s checking account, but they may also be pulled from savings or any other type of account.

How Long Are Checks Good For?

Most of the time, a check is only good for about 6 months. After those 6 months pass, you may have a hard time trying to cash that check – but under certain circumstances, you may still get them to cash that check for you. Some checks say that they go void after 90 days, so you need to be extra careful about which check you are receiving.

According to the Uniform Commercial Code, it is expressed that a bank is not required to honor an old check, but may still do so. You may just have to take a few extra steps before that – or find a bank that is willing to cash your check anyway.

Although the validity remains the main concern, there are two ways in which you may proceed in regard to checks.

Written to You

Unless the check you have is a certified one or a government-issued one, the wise move would be to cash that check within six months of the day it was signed. If those six months pass, you may request for the check to be reissued. By doing that, you will be preventing confusion and you’ll let the writer of the check know that you are willing to collect the cash now.

Written by You

For a check that was filled out by you, you pretty much have the same rule: 6 months. If someone fails to cash a check that you wrote for them, then they might not have such an easy time negotiating that check afterward.

With that in mind, you still owe them the money, so you may want to make sure the money stays in your account for at least 6 months or more – especially if they find a bank willing to process the payment. You may also decide to write a replacement check, but if you do that, remember to cancel the old check. Otherwise, you might find yourself with two cashed checks. One may never know, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Types of Checks

Various types of checks have different validities. For this reason, you need to know what kind of check you are receiving. Depending on the check, you may have more or even less time to cash in your check.

Personal checks

A personal check has a standard validity of 6 months. However, depending on the bank that you are cashing the check at, they may or may not take notice of the date. Sometimes, they may choose to process even stale-dated checks for their customers.

U.S. Treasury Checks

U.S. treasury checks may include sums of money representing income tax refunds or any other amounts of money coming from the government. In most cases, these checks are valid for about one year after they have been issued. If you have an old check, then you must contact the agency that owes you that money. They can check the fact that you did not cash in the check, and should release you a new one.

Cashier’s Checks

Cashier checks are slightly more complicated, and usually, the respective state law should tell you exactly how long that check is valid for. In most cases, banks might not cash in a cashier check after 90 days, as the issuing bank might set the check to “unpaid.” If that happens, you may want to get in contact with the issuing bank and see if they can give you a replacement check.

Money Orders

In most circumstances, money orders do not expire. With that in mind, the issuer of the money order might begin charging fees for every missed day, eroding its value. The more you wait on cashing in the money order, the more you may find out that eventually, it will become worthless. At the same time, while a USPS money order may have a longer validity or may be indefinite, an international money order may still expire.

Traveler’s Checks

Traveler’s checks are often signed for yourself or someone else so that they may use them while they are traveling. These types of checks usually do not expire. Therefore, as long as the person that issued them is still in business, then you may still cash in these checks.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait

You may have your reasons for waiting to cash in a check. However, the longer you wait, the riskier it might become for you. There are several reasons why you shouldn’t wait to cash in or deposit a check:

Closed Account

The person that wrote the check might close the account by the time you decide to cash it in. Whether they decided to switch banks or decided that a new account was needed, the old one will be closed – which means that the check will likely bounce.

Insufficient Funds

Even if the person had the funds in their account at the moment of writing the check, it doesn’t mean they will still have it six months later. No one expects their checks to hit six months, so they might not have the money placed aside for you anymore. Maybe they thought you didn’t want it.

Stop Payment

If you don’t cash in the check for a long time, the payee might think that you lost it – so, to protect the money, they will cancel the check. Once that happens, the bank may reject your claim and the check will bounce back.

The Bottom Line

Depending on the type of check, the validity may be as short as 90 days and as long as a year. However, to make sure you do not lose that money, you may want to cash in the check as soon as possible.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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