The majority of checks are good for about 6 months (or 180 days). With that being said, there are some factors that can affect this number. The exact length of time that a check is good for depends on the type of check you’re dealing with. Personal checks are usually good for a period of 6 months, or 180 days. But this length of time is different for other check types, such as U.S. Treasury checks, business checks, cashier’s checks, government checks, money orders, and traveler’s checks.
Banks operate under a set of laws established by the UCC (Uniform Commercial Code). These laws affect how sales and regulations are handled across the United States, and that includes checks. The UCC states that no bank is obligated to accept any check, whether personal or business, that is older than 6 months. So while personal and business checks are good for a period of 6 months, there are some banks that will honor checks older than 6 months. If you happened to come across a check that you forgot to cash and notice that it’s older than 6 months, you should immediately contact your financial institution to see what their rules are for older checks. Conversely, if you wrote a check that has not been cashed in quite some time, you may want to consider contacting your bank so that you can put a stop payment on it. At this juncture, it’s best to contact the person you made the check out to in order to see if they plan on cashing it. You will then simply need to make out a new check in their name.
As we have just established, personal and business checks have a lifespan of 6 months. But what about all of the other check types out there? What are their rules for expiration? Let’s take a look.
Personal and business checks are indeed good for 6 months, and that includes payroll checks. You’ve likely seen many checks that are printed with “Void After 90 Days.” While this may say as much on the check, you’ll find that most banks will honor the established 180-day (6-month) rule set by the UCC. Whenever you see “Void After 90 Days” printed on a check, this is meant to serve as a reminder that you should cash the check as soon as possible. If a check has been made out to you, your best bet is to cash or deposit it as soon as possible. Even though it may appear safe to hold for at least 90 days or 180 days. What’s more, if the person that wrote you the check believes that you cashed it shortly after they wrote it and several weeks or months have gone by, they may not have the funding in their account for you to cash it later. If you were to cash a check that ultimately bounces, you could be stuck with a returned check fee. As such, you should always cash any check written out to you as soon as you can.
By law, this check type is good for one year after the date that the check was written. So if you received a federal tax refund check, it came from the U.S. Treasury and is good for a full year. If you allow this time to lapse, you are still entitled to any money owed to you by the government. However, you will have to request a new check. To do this, you must contact the issuer of the check, which in our tax refund example, is the IRS.
Checks from local government agencies or the state have an expiration date according to state law. However, the length of time that a government or state check is for varies from state to state. On average, this length of time is 6 months. If you have a government or state check that is expired, such as an old tax refund check, you can still get your money, as you are entitled to whatever the government owes you. However, you will likely need to contact the state and request that a new check is made out and sent to you. If you received a check from a government agency, it’s best to cash it as soon as possible. You can usually find information on the check that tells you how long the check is good for. Still, even if it’s good for several months, it’s best to cash it right away so that you don’t accidentally forget about it and miss out on the income.
Cashier’s checks can be complicated, as they are a type of official check with lots of rules associated with them. As far as expiration dates for cashier’s checks, there isn’t a specified length of time. You may hear some people claim that cashier’s checks don’t expire, while other people may say that a cashier’s check is void after so many days (typically 60 to 180 days). While some banks will put expiration dates on cashier’s checks, these checks are financially backed by the issuing bank and should be good as long as the bank is in business. If you fail to cash a cashier’s check in a timely manner, you may find it to be challenging to get a new check issued to you. If you do get a cashier’s check, inspect it for the standard “Void After [so many] Days” printing. It’s best to cash the check at your earliest convenience so you don’t run the risk of losing out on the extra income. If you find a cashier’s check that is old, contact your financial institution to see what their policy is on older cashier’s checks and whether they will allow you to go ahead and cash it. Since cashier’s checks are a unique check type, they are usually reserved for transactions of larger amounts of money.
The expiration date of money orders largely depends on state laws and the rules set by the issuer. For the most part, money orders don’t expire. However, they could be declared abandoned if you allow the check to remain uncashed for a long period of time. As such, you should always read any fine print provided to you by the issuer. Western Union, for example, will charge a fee based on the total value of the money order after 1 to 3 years. After so long, the money order will eventually be worthless, as the fees will eat up the value of the money order. Postal service money orders do not expire regardless of how old they are. What’s more, their value is retained indefinitely. As long as there are still post offices around, you will have no trouble cashing a USPS money order . With that being said, there is always a possibility that the postal service could change their rules as of this writing. For that reason, you should cash all money orders as soon as you can to avoid possibly losing out on any funds.
Traveler’s checks also do not expire. As long as the issuing bank is still in operation, you should have no trouble cashing your traveler’s checks.
If you know you wrote a check at some point and it hasn’t been cashed in a long time, you should contact the person you wrote the check out to in order to see why they haven’t cashed it yet. There’s a possibility that the check was lost or stolen, in which case, you should contact your financial institution to have a stop payment put on that check. If you can’t get in touch with the person that you wrote the check out to, and it’s been longer than 6 months, check with your bank to make sure that they will no longer honor your check past the 6-month mark. Then, have a stop payment put on the check. It’s always best to have secondary protection in case a teller overlooks the date.
Now that you know the rules and regulations that accompany each type of check, you should have an easier time handling the various check types that you may receive. Remember -- as if we haven’t stressed it enough -- it’s always better to act quickly and cash a check or money order at your earliest convenience. Sources https://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc https://home.treasury.gov/ https://www.usps.com/shop/money-orders.htm