How Long Is a Personal Check Good For?

how long is a personal check good for

Your guide to personal checks and their expiration dates

Though dated, many people still use personal checks to pay bills, complete “cash only” transactions, and transfer money quickly and inexpensively. Whether you write a personal check or receive one from someone else, you may wonder for how long it is good. The answer depends on a few factors.

How Long Is a Personal Check Good For?

In most situations, personal checks are good for up to six months after the date they were written. However, while banks do not have a legal obligation to honor old checks, many do, especially if they are cashed by long-term customers. For this reason, if you write a check, you should make sure you always have enough money in your account to cover the amount. If six months pass and the payee still hasn’t cashed the check, consider requesting a stop payment on the original check and writing a new one.

When you receive a check, it would be wise to deposit it ASAP. If you fail to do so, common courtesy dictates that you reach out to the drawer to either make sure the check will clear and/or request a new check.

What Are the Types and Benefits of Personal Checks?

There are five types of personal checks you may write or receive, each of which comes with its own rules and expiration dates. Below is a brief overview of each.

Personal Checks

A personal check is linked directly to a person’s bank account and draws from the available balance. The six-month rule typically applies to this type of check.

Cashier’s Checks

A cashier’s check is a check that draws on the bank’s funds rather than the purchaser’s. Because they are guaranteed by the bank, cashier’s checks are usually required for large transactions, such as real estate deals. Though state laws vary as to when they expire, most cashier’s checks are only good for 90 days.

U.S. Treasury Checks

If you are the recipient of a federally issued check, such as a tax refund, you have up to one year to cash the check.

Money Orders

A money order is like a check, except the drawer prepays the amount before issuing the order to the recipient. Money orders generally do not expire, though some issuers may charge fees against the money order if it sits for too long. Companies that don’t charge fees may turn the assets over to the state after three years.

Traveler’s Checks

Though outdated, traveler’s checks offer travelers a secure way to travel overseas without cash. These checks never expire so long as the issuer is still in business.

Who Would Use a Personal Check?

Next to “how long is a personal check good for,” one of the most common questions regarding this mode of payment is “who still uses personal checks?” The truth is that a lot of people prefer them.

For instance, small businesses that want to avoid credit card processing fees may ask customers to pay their bills via check or cash. Many landlords prefer check over plastic, and a lot of consumers find it easier to pay the IRS and other agencies with a check rather than a card.

Internet access also dictates what type of payment people use. For instance, for lower-income households without access to the internet, paying bills with a check is the only option.

When Should You Use a Personal Check?

There are a few valid reasons to use a personal check, even if it’s not the only payment option. For instance, you might use a personal check to repay a personal loan from a friend or family member so that you may have a record of repayment. If you want to avoid convenience fees associated with a card, a personal check can help you do so. If you need to send money via the mail, sending a personal check offers more security than sending cash or your credit card information. Finally, if you plan to travel, personal checks or traveler’s checks can protect your hard-earned cash from falling into the wrong hands.

Examples of What Might Happen If You Wait To Cash a Personal Check

Waiting to cash a personal check is risky business, for you and the drawer. Below are a few reasons you should cash a check sooner rather than later:

  • Stop Payment: If you take too long to cash a check, the drawer may issue a stop payment, in which case his or her bank will reject the deposit.
  • Closed Account: Though unlikely, there is the possibility that the drawer switched banks since writing the check. If this is the case, your bank may charge you for attempting to cash a bad check.
  • Insufficient Funds: Most people write a check when they have the funds to cash it, but if you wait too long, a drawer’s financial situation may change, and the check may bounce.

Steps for Cashing a Check

If you’re new to the whole check thing, you may wonder what you need to do to deposit one. Below is a step-by-step guide:

  • Take the check to your bank or the institution whose name is on the check.
  • Endorse the back of the check where indicated.
  • Have your ID or debit card ready.
  • Be prepared to pay a fee if you cash the check anywhere other than at your banking institution.

Most banking institutions also allow customers to cash checks via mobile deposit.

Quick Questions

Can you cash a check without a bank account?

While many businesses cash checks, the best place to go to avoid fees and if you don’t have a checking account is to the drawer’s bank.

Can you cash a check that is more than six months old?

Though banks do not have a legal obligation to cash old checks, many will honor dated checks from longtime customers.

What steps should you take before cashing an old check?

Ideally, you should contact the drawer and make sure it’s okay to cash a check that is older than six months. The drawer can then ensure there are sufficient funds in the account.