How Long Do You Have to Pay a Bounced Check?

by Valerie Fox ; Updated July 27, 2017

If you’ve ever bounced a check, you probably know that it is imperative that you deposit funds into the account to cover it as soon as possible to avoid escalating check fees. Depending on the state in which you live, the amount of time you have to pay for the bad check varies, and your failure to meet the deadline could lead to civil or criminal action taken against you.

Time Allowed by Bank

When you bounce a check, your bank may pay the check for you. This courtesy means the check does not return to the payee. This helps avoid fees the merchant or individual may charge you for writing them a bad check. If the bank pays the check for you, they provide you time to pay them back. The amount of time allowed for payback is at the sole discretion of the bank and can range from a few weeks to three months. If you fail to repay the bank during that time, it will close your account. That doesn’t mean the bank will stop trying to collect the debt, however. It will hire a collections agency to do recoup its funds.

Time Allowed by the Payee

If the bank does not pay the check for you, it will be returned to the individual or merchant to whom you wrote the check. The amount of time that person or business allots you to pay off the bounced check can vary. Small businesses, especially those where you are a regular customer, are much more likely to work with you on paying off the bad check than are larger businesses or chains. The onus will be on you to contact them and explain the situation, including the exact date you plan on making good on the check.

State Laws

The amount of time merchants can allot for you to pay off a bounced check is rooted mainly in state laws. Familiarize yourself with your state’s law and act accordingly in terms of paying of the bad check. In general, laws allow for bad check writers to be given anywhere from two to three years to pay their debt.

Timely Payment

At any point during this two to three year period, the payee can seek civil or even criminal charges against you. Writing bad checks is a crime, and is considered an act of fraud. Therefore, it is imperative that you rectify the situation by immediately paying off the bounced check. Don’t wait until charges are brought against you.

About the Author

Valerie Fox is a business reporter and editor specializing in consumer affairs and debt management. She has been a writer since 1994, also covering politics, housing and the stock and bond markets. Fox has written for Cox, Gannett and Knight-Ridder newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Florida.