How to account for a check that's never been cashed?
April 7, 2009 7:52 PM   Subscribe

A check we recently sent to the insurance company didn't make it there. We've sent a new one, but what should we do about the old one?

I was surprised to find a late payment notice from our insurance company in the mail in January. The checkbook showed that we wrote a check on time, but it apparently never reached them. The company said they'd just apply it to my account if it ever turned up, so I sent them a new check right away. But even three months later, the first one has never been cashed.

Does a personal check eventually expire? Putting a stop payment on it doesn't seem worth the trouble or expense in this case, but since I'd like to eventually spend that money on something else, a bounced check would be even worse.

What's the best way to handle this?
posted by tomwheeler to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Contact your bank and put a stop-payment on it. There may be a fee to do that depending on the bank policy.
posted by JayRwv at 8:01 PM on April 7, 2009

Best answer: Call your bank to see what the time limit of for their honoring a check is to help you decide. I also wanted to mention that at many banks, a stop-payment will expire after a certain period of time, leaving you open to that charge again until their honoring time-limit is up.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:08 PM on April 7, 2009

Can't you just cancel it? You have the cheque number, ring your bank branch and cancel it.
posted by mattoxic at 9:36 PM on April 7, 2009

You should probably also put a flag on your credit report. It's possible someone stole the check not to cash that particular check but to get enough information on you to steal your identity in other ways.

Definitely contact your bank to find out how long they would honor the check, and determine whether a stop-payment fee is worth it. It can be quite high--like $35--so depending on the amount of the check and how much padding you keep in your account, it might not be worth it.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:45 AM on April 8, 2009

If you have enough in your balance to cover the extra check temporarily (or overdraft protection to do the same) I'd sit tight and see if it eventually surfaces at the insurance company. If so, they'll probably arrange to send you a refund check.

Stoppinig payment on the check can cost a bit (you ought to find out how much) and if the insurance company were to find the check and have it bounce on them, it just gets messier.

It isn't likely that someone will intercept the check and try to impersonate _____ Insurance Co. to cash it. Worst case, the insurance company cashes it and waits for you to come after them for the refund.
posted by css28 at 3:37 AM on April 8, 2009

It would be next to impossible for someone to cash that check, unless it is for a huge sum of money, forget about it. Worst case is that the insurance company eventually finds it and applies it to your account.
posted by HuronBob at 4:27 AM on April 8, 2009

Best answer: If your bank has halfway decent customer service, go in and ask them. I'm sure they've dealt with this sort of thing before.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:34 AM on April 8, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not worried about someone other than the insurance company cashing the check, since it's made out specifically to them. A stop payment order costs $30, and as thebrokedown suggests, might not be that effective anyway.

I'll phone the bank and get their advice as many have suggested.
posted by tomwheeler at 7:31 AM on April 8, 2009

Response by poster: I phoned the bank this afternoon and found out that they no longer "stale date" checks which means that they can be cashed for an infinite period of time. They suggested that I place a stop payment order on the check for $30, but per thebrokedown's advice, I asked how long that order remained in effect &mdashl -- I'd never thought to ask otherwise. They said it was only good for six months, which doesn't really solve my problem.

I asked the two people with whom I spoke what they'd do in my situation, but neither offered a solution. I did find out that this is simply bank policy, so switching to a bank with a more reasonable policy could avoid this in the future.
posted by tomwheeler at 3:00 PM on April 8, 2009

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