If you hold onto a personal check longer than six months, there's a good chance you won't be able to cash it. Under the federal code that regulates these matters, a bank is under no obligation to honor a check that's presented six months after it was written and dated, unless it's a certified check. However, the decision to cash older checks is ultimately left up to the bank.
After Six Months
Many banks will honor a check after six months unless they suspect you're up to no good. In some cases they may hold the check and call the issuer to verify that it's real, although they're under no obligation to do this. If it's a personal check from a friend or relative, consider letting the person know before you cash it. The writer might have assumed you already cashed the check and may no longer have money in the account to cover it.
Many checks, particularly those from government agencies or large companies, contain fine print that voids the check after a certain period, such as 90 days. If you have one of these, contact the issuer and ask for a replacement. However, certain government checks may prove good for up to a year.
Checks That Don't Expire
While personal checks are subject to expiration dates, that's not the case with certain types of checks. If you find an old traveler's check, you're in luck. They are considered a cash equivalent and don't expire. American Express advises customers with old traveler's checks to either use them on a future trip, or simply treat them like cash for local purchases. The same holds true for uncashed certified or cashier's checks, unless the check has an expiration date printed on it. It's always wise to call the bank and find out the check's current status before attempting to cash or deposit it.