Updated on Friday, November 20, 2020
Unlike cash, checks have an expiration date. And while waiting a few days or even weeks to cash a check likely wonâ€™t be a problem, if you wait several months, you may not be able to.
When do checks expire, and what should you do if you find an old check? That all depends. In this article, weâ€™ll cover the expiration guidelines for different types of checks, as well as what to do if you come across an old check.
In general, checks typically are good for about six months, but the expiration window can be shorter, longer or nonexistent. The exact time at which a check will expire depends on the type of bank and the bankâ€™s discretion, as shown in the table below.
|Types of Checks and When They Expire|
|Check Type||When It Expires|
|Personal check||Typically six months|
|Money order||Do not expire, though may be subject to issuer fees and â€śabandoned propertyâ€ť laws in some states|
|Cashierâ€™s check||Varies by issuing bank|
|State/local government check||Varies by state, though typically six to 12 months|
|U.S. Treasury check||12 months|
|Travelerâ€™s check||Do not expire|
These bank-issued paper slips allow account holders to pay an individual, business or other organization without the immediate exchange of cash. Once received, the payee must cash the check at a bank or check-cashing institution. Do personal checks expire? Yes, and much faster than the other types of checks covered in this article. Though you should cash the check as soon as possible, you typically have six months, or 180 days, to do so.
A money order is a secured certificate of payment that is issued by a third party, such as a bank, grocery store, post office or financial service like Western Union. While money orders technically donâ€™t expire, that doesnâ€™t mean they infinitely retain value.
While some issuers, such as the USPS, will honor the full value of a money order indefinitely, other issuers will charge a fee after a certain amount of time has passed. If you have a money order, the best way to determine the expiration date is to check with the issuer.
Fees arenâ€™t the only potential issue. Uncashed money orders can also be subject to state abandoned or unclaimed property laws, which means that, after a certain number of years, the money is turned over to the state, and the payee must file the appropriate paperwork to claim the cash.
Much like a personal check, cashierâ€™s checks are issued by a financial institution â€” such as a bank or credit union â€” and used as a form of payment. These checks are guaranteed by the issuing institution, as opposed to your personal account, and are often used for large purchases.
Cashier check expiry dates are determined by the issuing institution. In some cases, they may expire in two to six months, though they can be valid as long as the bank is in business. Your best bet is to examine the check to see if there is a â€śvoid afterâ€ť or expiration date.
State and local government checks, like tax refunds, do expire, but check expiry dates vary from state to state. Typically, you can expect a local or state government check to expire within six months to a year.
To find out, examine your check for government check dates that indicate when it will expire. Even if the government check has expired, you are still entitled to the money. Youâ€™ll just need to contact the issuing entity and request a new check.
Checks issued by the U.S. Treasury, including federal tax return checks, are good for one year after they are issued. Like state or local government checks, if your Treasury check has expired, youâ€™re still entitled to the money and can request to have a check reissued.
Travelerâ€™s checks are paper slips issued by financial institutions and traditionally used while traveling nationally or globally. They can be used as cash and will not expire. The only time you may have an issue using a travelerâ€™s check is if the issuing bank is no longer in business.
If you have an expired or stale check, the resolution depends entirely on the type of check and the issuing entity. In some cases, you may still be able to access the funds, but it may not be easy. In other cases, the funds may be unavailable or reduced due to fees. As such, itâ€™s always a good idea to cash a check as soon as you receive it.
If you find yourself with an expired check on hand, here are some things to keep in mind:
Finding and attempting to cash a stale check can be a hassle, but waiting for a check to clear can also create issues. Itâ€™s easy to forget about a check that was written months ago. And unfortunately, when the recipient finally does cash the check, your account may no longer have the funds to cover it. That can lead to overdraft fees, bounced check fees or issues meeting other payment requirements. Even if you do have enough funds to cover the check, the unexpected withdrawal can wreak havoc on your budget.
An uncashed check doesnâ€™t necessarily mean the recipient is still holding onto it. The check may be lost or stolen, and since your account number and routing number are located at the bottom of the check, your account security can also become an issue.
If youâ€™ve been waiting for a check to be cashed, there are a few things you can do to avoid unwanted issues: