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Do Checks Expire?

Checks don't actually expire, though a check more than six months old can be considered “stale dated".
Banks can choose whether or not to cash stale dated checks.
Anyone who may have stale checks floating about may want to put stop payments on them or at least keep an eye on their bank accounts.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2014
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It’s not usually accurate to say that checks expire since they are financial instruments that don’t have a strict end date. Most banks and banking executives agree that checks will become stale after a certain point, usually six months, but this isn’t usually quite the same as an expiration. Stale checks might be refused by the cashing institution, but they also might not; this is largely a question of discretion. There are also many questions surrounding blank checks that are old, particularly if they include things like customer addresses or phone numbers that are no longer valid. As a general rule, checks remain valid as long as the account to which they are linked is open. When it’s not, the checks are invalid — but not technically expired. People who are worried about stale or old checks passing through their accounts are usually advised to keep a close watch on their transactions and contact their bank for guidance.

Understanding Financial Staleness

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Most financial institutions around the world consider checks that haven’t been cashed or deposited within six months of their writing to be “stale.” This is usually a means of consumer protection. When people write checks, they usually assume that the money will be withdrawn by the recipient immediately. If it isn’t, the writer may forget about it and the account balance may dip too low, in which case the check would bounce — or even if it doesn’t bounce, it could surprise the account holder and negatively impact his budgeting and finance.

The decision of whether to honor a stale personal check is usually a matter of discretion for banks. Sometimes, particularly if one or both parties involved has been a long-time customer, cashing is no problem, but in others the check can be held for a “waiting period” or refused outright. A waiting period is usually a chance for the bank to contact the writer’s financial institution and possibly also the writer, and then decide what to do.

Business checks or checks written on behalf of corporations typically grow stale as a matter of course, and many even come printed with “invalid after” dates near the signature line. Sometimes the validity period is as long as six months, but it can be much shorter; 60 days is a common time frame, particularly for larger checks like payroll contributions and major reimbursements. In most cases this is for the sake of streamlining the business’ accounting procedures.

Checks That Are Merely Old

To say that blank checks expire is also inaccurate. If a person has a blank check on an account that is still open, it is still valid regardless of how old it is or whether it includes outdated personal information like address. However, anyone with old checks should be sure that the account itself is still open. It’s also important to be sure that the bank information, like bank name and account routing information, has not changed. If this sort of identifying data is different, the check may be invalid.

Importance of Tracking Accounts

Bank customers who have written checks that have not been cashed have several options to protect themselves. Keeping close tabs on their account and checks that have been written will prevent them from spending money that is allocated elsewhere, even if the recipients haven’t taken withdrawal action. It may be helpful to call people to whom checks were written to find out why they weren’t cashed. Sometimes people just forget, or the check may have gotten lost, in which case a new one can be written.

Stop Payment Orders

If the recipients can’t be contacted, account holders may wish to put what is known as a “stop payment” order on any outstanding checks. Stop payments act essentials as freezes that invalidate the checks, which is really useful in cases where people think checks have been lost and are in danger of being found or altered by people other than the intended recipients. Anyone who tries to cash a stopped check will be refused. It should be noted that many banks charge a fee for this service.

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Discuss this Article

anon321672
Post 8

Someone stole my checkbook. Can they cash it out?

anon296099
Post 7

The "not Valid after xxx days" means nothing as to expiration of a check, business or otherwise.

kylee07drg
Post 6

The fact that personal checks don't expire is really helpful to people like me who don't use them all that often. I can usually go about a year without ordering new checks.

There are a couple of places, like the local water association, that are not set up to accept payments online. I reserve my checks for places like this, and I save a lot of checks by paying with my credit card online whenever possible.

I used to have to order new checks every few months, and that can get expensive. It seems that the price of checks is going up, along with the price of just about everything else these days. It's really a good thing that they don't expire!

JackWhack
Post 5

@wavy58 – I see why a business would set up an expiration date for a check like this. If someone didn't cash the check until five months after receiving it, this could really throw off their records.

However, I can't imagine anyone waiting months to cash a paycheck! I always deposit mine on the day that I receive it.

wavy58
Post 4

Some checks do expire. However, these are usually paychecks or rewards checks.

When my employer sends me my check, there is always an expiration date written on it. It says, “not valid after such and such date.”

I've also gotten rebate checks in the mail that featured expiration dates on them. So, some checks do expire, after all.

seag47
Post 3

Since there's really no such thing as expired personal checks, I always do a stop payment if one of my checks doesn't get cashed after several months. I make sure to contact the person who has the check first, and if they don't answer, I call the bank.

I really hate having to do this, though. My bank charges a stop payment fee of $30. It is awful to have to pay $30 to stop payment on a $12 check, which I've had to do before.

anon122195
Post 2

awesome. just what i needed to know.

anon36003
Post 1

Thanks for this! It answered my question very clearly.

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