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.
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.
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.
- Fair Debt Collection: Statutue of Limitations for Bounced Checks
- National Check Fraud Center: Bad Check Laws by States - Civil & Criminal Penalties
- Bankrate: Overdraft Protection Plans
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. "Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21)." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- San Francisco Federal Credit Union. "Overdraft." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- BBVA. "About Overdraft Fees." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- VeriCheck. "State Allowed NSF Fees." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Connecticut General Assembly. "Bounced Checks - Bank Service Fees." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "When Can I Be Denied a Checking Account Based on My Past Banking History?" Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). "Have You Bounced Yourself Out of a Checking Account?" Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "I Bounced a Check. Will This Show Up on My Credit Report?" Accessed March 31, 2020.
- State of California Department of Justice. "Bad Checks." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- FindLaw. "California Code, Civil Code - CIV § 1719." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Washington State Legislature. "Unlawful Issuance of Checks or Drafts." Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Pinal County Attorney's Office. "Check Enforcement Frequently Asked Questions," Page 1. Accessed March 31, 2020.
- American Civil Liberties Union. "A Pound of Flesh," Pages 4-7. Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "My Bank/Credit Union Offered to Link My Checking Account to a Savings Account, a Line of Credit, or a Credit Card to Cover Overdrafts. How Does This Work?" Accessed March 31, 2020.
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.