Can Someone Legally Cash a Check Before the Valid Date?

Can Someone Legally Cash a Check Before the Valid Date?
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A check can be cashed today even if it's made out for a future date. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, without a formal post-dating notice, a bank can cash a check at any time if it's filled out correctly. If your account balance can't cover the check amount, you may find yourself with insufficient fund fees.

Using post-dated checks to pay bills before you have sufficient funds in your checking account may not be the best idea for your personal finances. Take a look at some important FAQs to learn more.

Is Post-Dating a Check Legal?

There's nothing wrong with a payer post-dating a check and asking the payee to hold off on cashing it. People do this all the time with all types of checks. All is well when intentions are good, and the post-dated check clears.

However, playing with dates on personal checks can be a dangerous game. But suppose a check writer knowingly takes advantage of check processing times or begins to float or kite checks. In that case, that activity can be considered illegal, according to the Corporate Finance Institute.

How Can a Check Be Cashed Before Its Date?

A financial institution isn't obligated to wait until the date on the check to cash it. The National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions states that a check is payable against the checking account it is written on even before the date on the check. As soon as a check is written and endorsed, it represents legal tender and can remain so for up to ‌six months‌ after the date on the check.

Likewise, if you are given a post-dated check for a payment, you can take it to your ATM, bank or credit union before the date on the check, and the odds are good that it will be cashed or deposited into your bank account.

How to Ask Your Bank to Wait Before Cashing a Post-Dated Check

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises that state law may require the bank to wait to cash a post-dated check if given reasonable notice. Your bank may honor such notice for up to ‌six months‌ if it is given in writing but for only ‌14 days‌ without written notice. Policies vary by state and financial institution, so check with your bank to determine what applies to your checking account.

Issues and Fees Associated With Post-Dated Checks

If your bank cashes your post-dated check early because you didn't tell it ahead of time that such a check existed, you could find yourself saddled with bounced-check fees, late payment charges and overdraft fees, all of which can add up to a big chunk of change.

In many cases, you'll have no choice but to pay the fees, though you could try calling the lender that assessed the costs and ask them to waive the fee. In some cases, you may be granted grace at the bank's discretion, especially if you are not a repeat offender and have quickly deposited enough money into your checking account to cover the bounced check.

Alternatives to Post-Dating Checks

You might have better options than post-dating a check if you find yourself stretched thin between paydays.

  • Direct deposit‌: If your checking deposit is short on funds because you are waiting on a paper payroll check, switch to direct deposit.
  • Payment plans:‌ When you don't have enough money to cover the whole bill, try contacting the lender or utility service to negotiate a plan that fits your budget.
  • Stop payment‌: If you've written a large check and don't have sufficient funds, stopping payment on the check and calling the payee to discuss options may be better than incurring overdraft fees. Your bank or credit union will probably charge a fee for this, but it may be worth it in certain situations. Note this isn't usually an option if it's a cashier's check.

The issue with using a credit card to cover your check or debit card transaction is that interest fees can really add up. And if you don't have sufficient funds when the credit card bill is due, you can incur late fees on top of the interest.