In an era of direct deposits and personal funds transfers, personal checks can become confusing. From concerns about cashing a personal check with insufficient funds to dealing with people who want to issue a post-dated check, it's only natural to have a few questions. One of those questions usually relates to undated checks, which actually can be deposited or cashed at many financial institutions, although you may need to show some identification.
You can cash a check that isn't dated thanks to the Uniform Commercial Code.
Cashing an Undated Check
Financial institutions follow the Uniform Commercial Code, which governs all commercial transactions in the United States. According to UCC § 3-113, if a financial instrument, such as a check, is undated, its official date is the date on which it first came into the possession of the person or business listed on it. Since banks follow the UCC, your undated check will be deposited.
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It's important to resist the urge to jot the date down yourself, even if you think it won't be detected. If you have access to the person who wrote the check, you can always return to that person and ask that the date be written in. If not, a blank date line is better than altering the check by sliding that date in there yourself.
Requirements for Cashing a Check
No matter what is written in the UCC, though, a bank still has the right to scrutinize a check, particularly if you're cashing it. You may be asked to show ID, even if it's your own bank. It may also be easier to cash a check before the date on it or without a date if you have enough money in your bank account to cover it if it ends up bouncing.
It's important to note that you may not always be able to turn that piece of paper into cash, even if you present ID at a bank where you've been a longtime customer. Some banks require a delay so that the funds can be verified. There are services that will turn a check into cash, but you'll often pay a fee for those services.
Depositing a Post-Dated Check
An old trick for those with limited funds is to issue a post-dated check, which is given with the understanding that the recipient will hold it. Unless you know you're cashing a personal check with insufficient funds, this is a "win" for both parties. You get your money and the other person has time for a payment to come through to cover it.
Each bank has its own policies on whether or not to cash a postdated check. This is also governed by local laws. That means if you've written a later date on a check in the hopes that the recipient will do the right thing, you may not be able to count on the bank to reject it. If someone can cash a check before the date on it, it might not be wise to write one unless you're sure the money is in place to cover it.
Check That Has Expired
One of the biggest risks of cashing or depositing an undated check is that, unlike a post-dated check, you may have no idea of the date of issue. Checks are set to expire after a number of months for a reason. The person who issued it needs to make sure she has the money in her account to cover the amount. If you're depositing the check, out of the blue, six months later, the funds may no longer be in the account to cover it.
If you're sure of the date, though, and it's been a number of months, you should first contact the payer with a heads-up that you're collecting your payment. You should also be aware that under the UCC, banks can reject a check that's more than six months old. Some checks even have an expiration date on them, and your financial institution can honor that limit at its own discretion, but you still run the risk of cashing a personal check with insufficient funds.