hand holding pen going over a check

How Long is a Check Good For?

May 30, 2023

How long is a check good for and do checks expire? As a small financial institution, Check City is here to give you the full scoop on what to do when you find an old check you want to deposit.

Have you lost, misplaced, or forgotten about a check you need to deposit? No one means to lose an important check, but sometimes things happen that can make check cashing more difficult.  

Life gets busy, our wallets get cluttered, and before you know it, you're left with an old check and you don't know what to do with it. 

These old checks might also be referred to by your bank as a stale-dated check. So what can you do when you find you have a stale-dated check you need to deposit? 

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How Long Do I Have to Deposit a Check?

How long you have to deposit a check can depend on the type of check you want to deposit and where you want to deposit it. 

But as a general rule for most financial institutions, it's a good idea to try and deposit all your checks within a 6 month time period

After 6 months have gone by and the check still hasn't been deposited, it might be easier for you to explain the situation to the check issuer and ask for a reissued check than it would be to convince your bank to accept the check anyway. You will then most likely need to void the check so the issuer can send you a more current check. 

Asking for a new check is also helpful for the check issuer. If they wrote you this check more than 6 months ago, then they were probably expecting you to cash or deposit that check by now. If you successfully deposit the old check 7 or more months later, their accounts might not be ready for those funds to be taken out. 

As a courtesy to the check issuer, it's usually best to make them aware of the situation and get a more recent check from them, rather than try and deposit a check that is more than 6 months old. 

How Long Is An Old Check Still Good for? 

Courtesy and general practice aside, how long is a check actually good for? According to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) (UCC), checks are good for 6 months.

After 6 months have passed, financial institutions are not obligated to accept your old check. This guideline for financial institutions helps financial transactions across institutions and states be more consistent. 

Consistency with general check cashing guidelines helps financial institutions and customers alike. It helps everyone involved know what to expect when completing their financial transactions. 

Luckily, this rule of thumb doesn't mean that a bank or credit union won't accept your old check if it is older than 6 months. It just means that whether they still accept the old check is up to the bank's discretion. 

If the institution has good reason to believe the check funds are still good, then they are more likely to still cash the check, even if it's old. This can be determined depending on your relationship with that financial organization or who wrote the check. 

Ultimately, how long your check is still good for will depend on who you are, who issued the check to you, what kind of check was issued, and where you are trying to deposit the check. 

A graphic of a green check.

How Long Is A Personal Check Good For? 

Personal checks are usually the most flexible type of check to cash because it's likely you know the check issuer personally. This means that even if you've forgotten to cash a personal check for longer than a year, all you have to do is contact the person who wrote the check. Otherwise, it's best practice to deposit personal checks before 6 months

While cashing old personal checks can be easier because of their personal nature, this same personal nature can also make them harder. Whether you can convince the check writer to issue a new check will depend on your relationship with them. 

Either way, when depositing a personal check it's best to give the check issuer a heads up beforehand so that they can be properly prepared for those funds to be available in their account. 

How Long Is A Business Check Good For? 

There are personal checks and then there are business checks. Personal checks are usually written out by an individual, often for another individual. Business checks might include checks a person has written for a company, but most often include checks that are written from a company. 

A business's checking account will be the account tied to most business checks. A business might use these checks to pay vendors or employees. Usually, this check type is set up to become void after 90 to 180 days

How Long Is A Payroll Check Good For? 

Payroll checks are usually business checks written out to you from the company you work for. This means that the same business check principles usually apply for payroll checks when it comes to how long you have to deposit them. 

Most businesses will set up their payroll checks to expire after 90 to 180 days. You can usually find this information on the check itself. 

How Long Is A Treasury Check Good For? 

US Treasury checks are any checks that have been given to you from the US treasury. This includes checks like your tax refund. 

These checks have a simple 1-year due date to be deposited by the check receiver. The check will become void, or expire, after 1 year

That means that if you forget to deposit a treasury check for longer than a year, you'll need to make a request with the IRS for a new check.
A United states treasury check folded up

How Long Is A State Check Good For? 

A state check or a local government check does eventually expire. In general, government checks will be good for 6 to 12 months. After that, you'll need a new check. 

Often official checks like this will have when they expire written somewhere on the check. Take a good look at your state and government checks when they come in the mail and mark your calendar so you can be sure to get them deposited in plenty of time. 

How Long Is A Certified Check Good For? 

Certified checks are different from regular checks. They are a type of check that has already been paid by you and is secured by the bank or financial institution that helped issue and certify the check.

Certified checks are like a prepaid check. Instead of waiting for the receiver to cash the check funds, you pay the check funds ahead of time when you take out the certified check. Because certified check funds have already been paid by the check issuer, they don't expire.  

How Long Is A Traveler's Check Good For? 

Though not as common as they once were, traveler's checks do still exist. Traveler's checks are much like regular checks accept they operate more like insured cash. 

This helps people who are on vacation or visiting foreign places have more monetary security while they are traveling. 

Since traveler's checks act more like cash or a prepaid check, they don't expire. You can spend them at any time whether you're at home or abroad. 

How Long Is A Money Order Good For? 

Money orders are another great type of prepaid check option. Because they are prepaid by the issuer, they don't expire the way a certified check doesn't usually expire. 

But cashing out a money order too long after receiving it can cost you money order fees. Usually, these fees are taken out of the money order funds, meaning you won't get as much money from the order as you would if you deposited it sooner. You may want to learn more about wire transfers.

What Happens If You Wait Too Long To Deposit A Check? 

Several things could happen if you've waited too long to deposit a check. You might have difficulty getting your financial institution to accept the check. In that case, you'll have to contact the check issuer to request a new check

In Conclusion, 

Ideally, the easiest solution to old checks is to avoid them altogether. Dealing with old checks can be a hassle you just don't need. Avoid letting your checks get old by following these tips: 

  • Keep your wallet, checks, and finances as organized as possible. 
  • Mark your calendar to get all your financial errands done with plenty of time to spare. 
  • Pick a day of the week to get all your financial errands and tasks done. 
  • Set up direct deposit whenever possible. 
  • Use a mobile financial service like Netspend prepaid cards to deposit checks easily from your phone. 

By taking these precautions you can set yourself up for more financial success and avoid the hassle of dealing with stale dated checks in the first place.