Checks don't have expiration dates, but it's best to avoid using checks with a date older than about six months. That being said, there's not really a hard and fast rule, but there are a few things to think about.
Expiration Date vs. Stale Date
When it comes to checks, there's not an expiration date, but there is what's known as a stale date. This is the point at which the check becomes more difficult to cash or deposit because of the potential for complications, which is generally accepted as being six months old or older.
A complication might be that the money isn't in the account anymore, or the account the check was written from is now closed. In any case, your bank potentially can't collect the money, and the check might be no good. This is why many banks generally don't accept checks after it's been six months or more from the date written on the check. However, this doesn't mean the check is completely invalid, and the acceptable date range can be different from bank to bank.
After the check is six months to a year old, it's considered stale. However, check with your bank's policies and local laws to find out when it's considered stale in your area.
If you have a certified check or money order, those are good for one to three years because they're more secure forms of payment than a personal check.
What to Keep in Mind
- As we like to say, different banks tend to have different policies when it comes to checks. Some banks might honor checks beyond the standard timeframe of six months to a year, and some might stick strictly to the stale date.
- State laws vary from one place to another. Some specify a validity period where the check can be cashed, and others leave it up to the banks, so it's a good idea to find out what the laws are in your city, county, or state.
- Check issuer's policies can also play a role. Some might explicitly state the validity period right on the check (it might say on the bottom of the check good for six months after the written date, for example) to provide clarity, but this isn't always the case.
What You Should Do if You Have an Old Check and Are Still Owed Money
First, contact the person or company that gave you the check and ask for a new check and give them the old one so you can take a more recent check to be deposited or cashed. If that's not an option, ask if they know the check cashing policy and whether you can deposit it.
If you do decide to deposit an old check, remember that your bank or the bank the check is issued on might reject it. In that case, any money that was credited to your account because of the check (sometimes called provisional credit) will be withdrawn from your account because the money was not collected from the check. In this case, you'll need to go back to the person or company that gave you the check to get the money you're owed. If your account goes overdrawn because the check bounced, you will owe any money that was spent and any applicable fees.
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