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How Long Can You Keep a Check Without Cashing It?

How Long Can You Keep a Check Without Cashing It?

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How Long Can You Keep a Check Without Cashing It?

There are any number of reasons why you might have a check in your possession that hasn't yet been cashed, but this raises the important question of, “How long can you keep a check without cashing it?” 

At some point, you may be unable to cash the check and get the funds that you need. Your only option at that point would be to go back to the issuing party and to ask for more information about getting a second check issued. This can lead to significant delays and complications, which can be burdensome if you intended to deposit the check and use the funds right away. It is vital to keep track of any and all checks and to make sure that they are still eligible to be deposited at the time that you go to the bank.

Understanding Basic Check Expiration Rules

Some checks will have specific deadlines listed on the front of them that explain the eligibility requirements for cashing them. It is in your best interests to cash these checks as soon as you can. However, you may be holding onto it to help pay for an unexpected expense, using it like a form of savings. After you receive a check, review if there are any things listed on the check regarding its expiration date. Payroll, business, and personal checks are usually good for six months or 180 days. Some companies print statements that say void after 90 days on their checks, although some banks will still continue to cash those checks for as long as 180 days after the date that the check was printed. 

The preprinted language, therefore, is only intended to entice you to deposit a check as soon as possible rather than later. The assigned routing or account numbers could change, or the check writer might not remember the check and it could bounce, meaning that you could end up paying fees for a returned check. 

U.S. Treasury Checks

When it comes to figuring out how long you have to deposit a check before it expires, remember that the type of check can also influence this expiration date. U.S. Treasury checks are cashable for as long as 12 months beyond the check date. That means that if you receive a tax refund check or a stimulus check, you would still be entitled to the money the government owes after that one-year mark, but you would need to contact the check issuer and ask for a new one if that time has passed.

Local and State Government Checks

State laws will vary from one location to another, so there is no one firm answer about how long you have to deposit a local or state government check. You can ask the issuing government agency directly how long you can keep a check without cashing it so that you have clarity on when it might expire. This is most important for state tax refund checks, and it is usually a period of between six months to a year. If you have recently located an expired tax refund check, you must reach out to the State Department of Revenue and request a new check. Simply the fact that the check has expired does not mean you have given up your right to get the money due to you.

Cashier's Checks

Cashier's checks are a different form of checking because they are known as an official, guaranteed check. This makes the rules around them slightly more complex because there is no specific expiration date for cashier's checks. Some experts believe that cashier's checks don't expire because they are guaranteed at the time that they are written. However, others may be hesitant to accept a cashier's check after 60, 90 or 180 days. Cashier's checks are supported by the bank who issued it and therefore should remain valid so long as that bank is open and in operation. 

However, certain banks may also update their individual cashier's checks with an expiration date on them. It could be hard to cash a cashier's check that has since expired or to obtain a replacement cashier's check. Look for any disclaimers listed directly on the check and make sure that you deposit the check prior to that point in time. If you got an old cashier's check or if it was delayed in the mail or otherwise outside of your control, contact the bank or institution who issued the check and determine what is required in order for you to continue with this transaction. Cashier's checks are usually issued for larger transactions, but it is important to still cash those on a timely basis.

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  • Do Traveler's Checks Expire?

    Although traveler's checks are a slightly different form of currency than a check issued by your personal bank or from a government agency, traveler's checks do not have an expiration date. You can cash them or spend them at home just as you would when traveling, and as long as the issuing bank of the traveler's check is still in existence, the traveler's check remains valid.

  • What About Money Orders?

    Money orders are like cashier's checks in that they do not fall under the same rules as traditional checks. For this reason, money orders should be deposited as quickly as possible. If you use money orders to pay your bills, it's a good idea to keep a copy of the receipt for that money order so that you can prove that you did pay the bill. This is the same reason why many people choose to keep canceled copies of their checks to support the fact that they have previously made the payment. 

    But when you are trying to figure out how long you can keep a check before cashing it when it relates to a money order, you'll need to read the text on the check by the issuer. Western Union is one of the most popular providers of money orders, for example. They will charge fees against the value of the money after one to three years from the date the money order was issued. After a certain period of time, the money order may not be worth anything. Money orders from the United States Postal Service, however, retain their value indefinitely and have no expiration date. 

    Remember that you should always look up the rules before attempting to cash an old money order because these rules may have changed over time. Money orders are a popular alternative for checks and are often taken out for smaller transactions. However, it is still important to protect your right to recover the funds that are owed to you. Set aside a time to speak with an experienced lawyer if you are having difficulty trying to cash a check.

  • Should I Spend the Funds Before the Check Clears?

    Many banks today will allow you to cash and deposit a check right away. This is especially true if you have deposited checks from that provider before and those have cleared without any problems. However, always give up to seven days for the check to fully clear in the event it bounces. If a check bounces, you might have to pay a fee with the bank if this overdraws your account. This is why you should cash and deposit a check when you still have it in your possession and when it’s within the deadline for cashing it. This way you don’t wait until it’s too late or when you really need the funds and discover that it doesn’t cash.

    If you deposit an old check at the bank, they might flag it right away as being a problem. However, if you mail the check in or if you deposit it over a mobile app, you might not know there’s an issue immediately. Set a reminder on your calendar to check back in and make sure that the check went through in full. If the check does not clear, you’ll need to contact the issuer to get another one sent to you. The second time you receive it, make sure it clears as well. This will save you frustration and fees. 

  • What if Someone Issues Me a Fraudulent Check?

    If you receive a check that doesn’t clear and you believe it’s related to scam or fraud, you might need to file charges or talk to an experienced lawyer about what to do. If you’ve suffered financial losses, you might be able to file a suit to get help with those losses. If you have more questions about what to do with a check that doesn’t cash or believe that you have been targeted in a scam, share this directly with your attorney to determine whether or not you have grounds to pursue legal action. 

    If you have more questions about your next steps, contact the experts at Morgan & Morgan to receive a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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