Personal Finance

7 min read

November 05, 2021

When Do Checks Expire?

Checks are an easy option to send and receive payments. But, what happens if you forget to deposit them for months, or even years? Do checks expire after a certain time? We break down the facts.

Misplacing a check is easy. The hard part is when you find the check after months. or even years, and wonder if they are still valid or not. After some point, checks can become stale. But, when do checks expire? Does the obligation to pay still exist? Read this guide to know more.

When Do Checks Expire?

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), a set of laws governing checks, states that banks are not allowed to accept checks that are more than six months (180 days) old. However, they can still cash an old check if the institution believes the funds are good.

In such a case, banks may contact the account holder (issuer) for approval and to check if they have the required funds in their account to cover the payment. But, if they doubt being able to collect the cash from the issuing bank, they simply reject the check.

Do Blank Checks Expire?

Usually, blank checks do not expire. But, there could be a few reasons that you might be unable to cash it. A blank check is likely to last for years if you don’t write anything on it. But, if there’s some writing on it, such as a date and a signature, this will expire after six months.

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Do Unused Checks Expire?

If you have an unused check for an account that is still open, it remains valid, regardless of how old the check is. On the other hand, if the account is closed, the checks become invalid.

Furthermore, the bank name, routing numbers, or account numbers may change after some years or even if your bank merges with another bank. So, if you have an old, unused check and its details do not match the account information, the check may be invalid.

Do Cashier's Checks Expire?

Cashier’s checks aren’t governed by the UCC. So, the expiration dates may vary from bank to bank. Usually, the expiry dates are determined by the issuing institution. In some cases, the expiry date ranges between two to six months. But, these checks can be valid as long as the bank is in business.

However, if the bank holds cashier’s checks for too long, it goes into a process called “escheating”, in which the check is turned over to the state as unclaimed property. The time frame before the check is escheated depends upon the state, but is usually between three to five years.

Do Personal Checks Expire?

Personal checks are bank-issued paper slips that allow account holders to pay others without the immediate exchange of cash. These checks are good for six months after the date mentioned on the check. After this period, the check becomes “stale-dated,” and it is up to the bank to decide whether to accept or reject it.

The bank may hold the personal check for a “waiting period”, which gives them the chance to contact the issuer and their financial institution before deciding how to proceed.

FAQs 

What can I do if I write a check that goes uncashed? 

When you write a check that isn't deposited yet, you still have an obligation to make the payment. It’s best to keep the required funds in your account for at least six months. Not having the funds to cover the payment can lead to overdraft fees or bounced check fees, which can cost around $35. Further, if your check is stolen or lost, your account security can also become an issue. 

To avoid this, here are a few things you can do: 

  • Contact the person to whom you wrote the check;
  • If you’re unable to reach them, or they reveal that the check has been stolen or lost, immediately stop the payment for the check;
  • If your check is older than six months, ask the bank about its check expiration policies. 

How can I cash an expired check? 

In most cases, you cannot cash a check that is more than six months old. Instead, you can contact the person who issued the check and ask them for a replacement check. 

Why should I cash a check as soon as possible? 

While there may be situations where you have to hold the check for longer, it’s always best to deposit the check as soon as possible, such as: 

  • When a person initially writes you a check, they will have the required funds to cover the payment. But, when you wait for months, their situation may have changed, and they may have insufficient funds in their account;
  • If the issuer is concerned that their check is lost or stolen, they may stop the payment on the check, which can result in a bounced check fee;
  • If the issuer changes or closes their bank account, the check is likely to get bounced, and you may be asked to pay a bounced check fee. 

Bottom Line 

So, the answer to your question — do checks expire? — is a big YES. However, the expiration date usually depends on the type of check, your current situation, and the bank or credit union you’re dealing with.

While many checks may not have a fixed expiration date, it’s always a good idea to avoid any potential problems (such as bounced checks) by cashing the checks when you receive them. And if you fear your written check may be lost or stolen, immediately ask the bank to cancel it.

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Aishwarya Aggarwal
Aishwarya Aggarwal is a content writer passionate about helping brands create value-packed content that connects and converts. When not writing, she finds solace in dabbling with the beauty of colors on a white canvas.

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