It is always a good idea to cash checks and balance personal finances promptly and regularly. There may be instances when you cannot get around to cashing a check for a period of time. An expired check is known as "stale-dated." In these cases, it is important to look at some FAQs about when a check expires and what can be done to collect your payment.
Expiration Date to Cash Check
Unlike cash, checks have an expiration date. The treatment of expired checks will depend on the financial institution or issuer from which the check is drawn. How long is a check good for deposit or cash? Generally speaking, you have up to 180 days (approximately six months), to cash a check before it expires, according to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).
Many checks, especially payroll checks, contain fine print that voids the check after a certain period, such as 90 or 180 days. Government checks are typically good for up to a year. Other types of checks will have specific expiration timelines.
Checks drafted to a specific recipient, known as a payee, over six months old are at risk of not being cashable. Waiting to cash a check also increases the chances of insufficient funds being available to cover the check. There is very little benefit to waiting to cash a check.
Check Cashing After Six Months
Many banks will honor a check after six months unless they have reason to be suspicious of the transaction. Each bank will handle cashing an expired check according to its own policies. Be aware that the issuing bank is not under obligation to cash a check for a noncustomer, regardless of expiration.
If it is a payroll check, contact the employer to have them replace the business check. Depending on the length of time, you may have to file an unclaimed property claim to recover expired wage payments. The California State Controller indicates wages can become unclaimed property one year after issue. Cashier’s checks should be cashed within three years, and money orders should be cashed within seven years before they become unclaimed property.
If it’s a personal check from a friend or relative, as a courtesy, consider letting the person know before you cash it. The check writer might have assumed you have already cashed the check and may no longer have sufficient funds in the bank account to cover it.
When you find an old check, it’s always wise to call the bank and find out its current status before attempting to cash or deposit checks into your account. Consider setting up direct deposit into a checking account or savings account for recurring payments like wages.
Expiration Dates for Other Checks
While personal checks are subject to expiration dates, that’s not the case with other types of checks. Other types of checks, such as cashier’s checks or tax refund checks, do not expire as quickly as personal checks. American Express advises customers with old traveler’s checks, which do not expire, to simply use them as they would normally.
Cashier’s checks do not officially have an expiration date, but this does not mean they are good to use indefinitely. Each bank will treat cashier’s checks differently and funds may be considered dormant after three to five years. If this happens, the funds will become unclaimed property according to state law. A lost cashier’s check will require an indemnity bond before it can be replaced.
If you find yourself with an expired government check, hold onto it. You’re still entitled to these funds but will now have to contact the agency that wrote the check to have a new check reissued. U.S. Treasury checks can be sent back for reissue. For tax refunds and stimulus payments, contact the IRS to have the check replaced.
Alan Sembera began writing for local newspapers in Texas and Louisiana. His professional career includes stints as a computer tech, information editor and income tax preparer. Sembera now writes full time about business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.