Thanks to credit cards and direct deposit, many of us expect our financial transitions to go through immediately. At worst, we might have to wait until the next business day. However, as we come to rely on digital finance technology more and more, it’s important to remember the rules for other forms of payment like checks. Many of us are still likely to receive payments via a written check — especially if you’re a landlord or a freelancer — so it’s critical to know the basics of checking, including where you can cash a check, how to cash a check, and how long you have to cash a check after it’s been written.
Banks are not legally required to cash a check that was written more than six months ago, but many may opt to. Remember that you should cash checks at a bank where you or the check writer have an account. Other banks aren’t required to cash your checks, no matter how much time has passed.
Besides the six month limit, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules about when to cash a check. However, whenever possible it’s still advisable to stay within six months, both for financial and etiquette reasons. If you wrote a check over six months ago that hasn’t been cashed, you should reach out to the payee and gently remind them.
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Expiration Dates on Checks
From time to time, you might see something like “void after 90 days” written on a check. This may seem like the check will be worthless after 90 days. In reality, however, check writers don’t have much say in when you can cash their check. Some banks will honor the check writer’s expiration date, but they are not required to. If you forget to cash a check and the expiration date passes, it might still be worth it to bring it down to your bank or credit union and see if they will cash it, but it’s still better to do your best to cash a check sooner rather than later and avoid conflict over expiration dates.
It’s also important to remember etiquette here. If you receive checks from this party often — maybe as part of your consulting job — then you’ll have to consider how cashing a check after the expiration date will affect their opinion of you.
How Long Do You Have to Cash Business Checks?
If you’ve received a check from a business, there is no hard timeline for cashing that check. When cashing an old check from a business, it’s important to think about how stable that company was when you received the check. Although many businesses should have no problem keeping enough funds in their account to pay out a single paycheck, it’s important to remember that that many new startups are likely to fail, so it’s better to cash a check sooner, while that company is still in business.
For more established companies, you shouldn’t worry too much about bringing an old check into the bank. Once again, however, it’s important to remember etiquette and how you want this company to think about you in the future.
How Long Do You Have to Cash Personal Checks?
Personal checks can be more volatile than business checks, because individuals tend to have less money in their checking accounts. In addition, checking fraud can be more of a concern with personal checks. For these reasons, banks may be wary about cashing an older personal check. However, as you may expect, there are no hard rules with this, so it’s always worth talking to your bank and the check writer if you want to cash and old check.
Etiquette and Considerations for Cashing Old Checks
Although there are no laws against cashing old checks, cashing an old check at the wrong time can still really hurt someone. Here are some considerations that you should have with regards to checking etiquette whenever you have an old check on your hands:
- Overdrawn accounts and fees. When someone writes a check for you, they are probably planning on having you cash it within the next few weeks. Any later than that and they may have to move funds around before the check will go through. Your delay can expose the check writer to unnecessary overdraft fees, which is very rude.
- Keeping a balanced checkbook. People who write checks often will probably keep a meticulously balanced checkbook. It’s a good financial habit to constantly be checking your own balance against the bank’s, so checks that aren’t cashed until months after they were written can end up throwing off a person’s checkbook balance and lead to unnecessary worry.
- When in doubt, communicate. If you’re uncertain about whether or not you should cash an older check, contact the check writer before you do so. This will give them time to move funds into the right accounts and correct any mistakes in their own financial records before the check clears.
There are no hard limits about how long you have to cash checks. However, banks aren’t as likely to honor older checks, especially personal checks, and you should always be polite to check writers. Plan on cashing checks within a few weeks after they were written, but know that it’s still possible to cash an older check as long as you communicate with your bank and with the check writer.
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