How long is a check really good for?
July 13, 2006 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Is an arbitrary "not valid after..." date printed on a check enforceable? I thought checks were good for a year.

Somehow the policy of when a check "expires" seems to be at the whim of the bank, not whoever the check printer is. I can't picture me printing this on a personal check and it being honored.

Basically I found a business check that is 7 months old, and it "expired" a month ago. I've seen other checks that expire after 9 months and 18 months. I'm trying to figure out whether to mail it in to the bank for depositing or get the business to cut a new check.

(U.S. bank, U.S. check)
posted by rolypolyman to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You'll need to get them to cut a new check, if you can. I recently found a refund check that said that it expired six months after the date issued. Just to see what would happen, I deposited it in an ATM. The check was mailed back to me by the bank, with a notice that said that the check was "stale".
posted by interrobang at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2006

It's up to your bank, but generally they will honor the notation on the check itself. My bank's general policy is six months, but when I get checks from school, they either say 90 or 60 days. After that, you need a new check.
posted by klangklangston at 8:12 AM on July 13, 2006

I bet a check that has "expires in 6 months" printed on it is done with the tacit approval of the bank. Why not call up your bank, tell them you want your checks to expire after a certain time, and ask them how to achieve that? Banks will certainly honor notices like "VOID", "SAMPLE", and "NON-NEGOTIABLE" printed on a check by refusing to cash it; this is simply a time-limited version of the same.
posted by kindall at 8:19 AM on July 13, 2006

Most checks stale-date after 6 months, though this is variable. Your bank is doing its duty by honoring that.

That said, as a former teller, I can tell you that if you go in around 5:30 on a Friday, your chances of getting it past the teller's DAMPE filters go up. When the bank is crowded with a bunch of blue collar workers who just want to cash their paycheck and it's near closing time, the date on the check might go unnoticed. YM, of course, MV.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:28 AM on July 13, 2006

I've pushed many a check through (as a customer) that were past the date printed on the check.

Try it, it's not like your bank is going to throw it away.
posted by deadfather at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2006

My idea of checks is that they're just written instructions to your own bank to withdraw and hand over a certain amount of money to the person described on it. In theory you could put "Not Valid if bearer is wearing a blue shirt."
posted by muddylemon at 8:41 AM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Terminal Verbosity, what are DAMPE filters? I take checks several times a day and have never heard of this (apparent) mnemonic.
posted by faceonmars at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2006

Banks will certainly honor notices like "VOID", "SAMPLE", and "NON-NEGOTIABLE" printed on a check by refusing to cash it...

You'd think.
posted by so_necessary at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2006

In fact, banks will often accept for deposit a check that isn't signed or is post-dated, at least to business accounts, or so I'm told.

That this appears to violate the UCC doesn't seem to bother them much.
posted by baylink at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2006

Its not really a question of whether or not cashing the check is a violation, its whether someone can enforce the UCC against the check. If it gets cashed, its unlikely that anyone will sue, so go ahead and try, as long it is your check.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2006

Also, a person trying to cash or deposit a check could be subject to indorser's liability under ยง 3-415.
posted by exogenous at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2006

A personal check going stale is very subjective. I know of a fellow that wrote a check to T-arget about a year ago and it hasn't cleared the bank yet. Talking to the bank they said it could clear at any time and acting like the money is still avaiable at any given point would be taking a risk. So, there might be a double standard. corp check expire, personal checks not so much? Seems like no hard and fast rules
posted by edgeways at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2006


Sorry, thought that was an industry term, but I guess it's just what they taught us.

The main things (we were told) for a teller to look at on a check are

D ate (not post- or stale-dated)
A mount (written and numeric amounts match)
M aker (I forgot this one, something to do with the signature)
P ayee (the name of the payee on the check matches the name on the account it is being deposited into/cashed against)
E ndorsement (if applicable, is it there)

I routinely skipped some/all of these steps as a teller, which may correlate to how often my drawer was off.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:02 AM on July 13, 2006

You'd think. [link to well-known Patrick Combs story]

What that means is that in 1995 they weren't so strict. I would imagine the banking industry pays somewhat more attention after Combs's stunt.
posted by kindall at 10:14 AM on July 13, 2006

I've heard of (but not seen myself) rebate checks with extremely short lifetimes -- like, with an expiry just a few days away.
posted by Rash at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2006

@so_n: I myself hadn't read the Combs story, so thanks.

But yeah, the banking industry is clearly not as watertight as we'd like them to be...

but I'm pretty sure that even succeeding at depositing a check that says it's stale isn't fraudulent, so I would attempt to deposit it, and if it bounces back, then you can chase after a replacement.
posted by baylink at 11:00 AM on July 13, 2006

Be cautioned - I once went out of my way to make sure a check was deposited in the ATM before the "expires on" date on (a rebate check that came with an expiration 9 days after its arrival - grrrrrrrr) it but they decided to honor the date they touched it, not when it was deposited... and charged me a "stale instrument" fee of $7.

I don't do business with them anymore, needless to say. But be careful of trying to sneak it in a night drop or the like.
posted by phearlez at 12:54 PM on July 13, 2006

As others have said, it's worth giving it a whirl. Most likely it will be honored at all levels.

I once found in my envelope (back when banks sent you back your cancelled checks once a month) a check that I simply forgot to sign. It was to pay my phone bill, as I recall. It was submitted, it was paid, and it was charged to my account. And I never challenged it because, of course, I owed the money and intended to pay. I just forgot one step.
posted by megatherium at 8:39 PM on July 13, 2006

Once my boss wrote me a paycheck and accidentally dated it 1954 instead of 1997. I don't know if, say, it happened to be his birthday (on my birthday I tend to write the date as I write out my birthdate without thinking) or if it was some other glitch. The bank teller pointed it out to me and told me that technically it made the check stale, but that she could tell it was a new check and just a human error, so deposited it anyway. I'd imagine that trouble could come in if you "just try it anyway," then the other bank or the issuing company objects on policy, then you are liable for the amount of the check after the fact. It's probably easier to call them and have it re-issued, unless it's for too small an amount to hurt you.
posted by Cricket at 9:31 AM on July 14, 2006

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