Although most people are more apt to pull out a credit card or debit card, sometimes only a check will do. When writing a check, the check writer is supposed to provide a dated check to the payee for the day it was written.
But sometimes, a check writer will write a check with a future date because he or she doesn't have enough money in his or her bank account. These are called postdated checks. But is writing postdated checks legal? And what reasons would someone have for writing them?
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What Does It Mean to Postdate a Check?
Postdated checks are checks that are written with a future date. The check recipient may or may not realize the check writer has dated the check in the future. But the check writer intends to postpone the check from being processed until the future date.
Why Would Someone Postdate a Check?
There are reasons for postdated checks. One may be that the check recipient allows you to make future payments on goods or services. The payee may request postdated checks that they can cash over several weeks.
Another reason may be to avoid an overdraft since there are insufficient funds in the check writer's checking account. For instance, you might pay a bill early and don't anticipate you'll have enough money in your checking account right away.
There are also fraudulent reasons for a check writer to write postdated checks.
Fraudulent Reasons for Postdating
The check writer may knowingly write postdated checks to defraud the payee. For example, they purposely write a bad check because they don't have enough money in their bank account.
If they have insufficient funds, the check writer will be subject to overdraft fees and the legal consequences of check fraud.
Honest Reasons for Postdating
Sometimes a check writer makes an honest mistake. For example, they may not realize they don't have enough funds in their checking account.
Or the check recipient may allow the check writer to pay with a check that doesn't have enough money, with the promise it will be there at a future date.
Is It Illegal to Postdate a Check?
In conjunction with the Uniform Commercial Code, state law doesn't say it's illegal to provide a payee with postdated checks.
But if a check writer purposely writes checks with insufficient funds in his account, this is considered check fraud. Passing a bad check and committing multiple counts of check fraud may have consequences.
What Could the Punishment Be?
Punishment for writing a bad check depends on state law. All states, except for Louisiana, have adopted the entire Uniform Commercial Code. So, most states are consistent with what they deem check fraud.
Passing a bad check comes under criminal law and can be anything from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on how much the check writer wrote the check for.
For instance, a check fraud conviction in California could result in jail time and fines. And besides the legal problems, the check writer still must contend with overdraft fees.
If someone finds themselves in this situation, they will need a criminal defense attorney for legal advice.
What Can a Recipient Do With a Postdated Check?
If a check writer provides a payee with postdated checks, the check recipient is under no obligation to wait until a future date to cash them.
If the check writer has insufficient funds, the check recipient can press charges for check fraud. It is recommended that the recipient first contact the check writer instead, in case it was just a mistake.
How Does a Bank Handle a Postdated Check?
A financial institution is under no obligation to wait until a future date to cash postdated checks.
If the check writer writes a personal check that is postdated, it is recommended that the bank or credit union be notified in advance with check specifics. But still, the financial institution is not required to wait to cash it. And the check writer will be responsible for overdraft fees if there aren't enough funds in the bank account
Relevant Federal Laws
There are no relevant federal laws regarding postdated checks. Instead, state law follows the Uniform Commercial Code and legislates penalties based on the severity of any check fraud.
So…Can You Legally Postdate a Check?
A check writer can write postdated checks. But if the intent is to commit check fraud, the check writer can be prosecuted with possible fines and jail time.
- Consumer Reports: Does Postdating a Check Prevent Anyone From Depositing It Early?
- Illinois Legal and Online: Can the Bank Pay a Post-Dated Check Before the Check’s Date
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Can a Bank or Credit Union Cash a Post-Dated Check Before the Date on the Check
- NOLO: Is I Illegal to Postdate a Check
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency: I wrote a check and post-dated it. However, the bank cashed it before the date written on the check. Can the bank do this?
- State of California Department of Justice: Bad Checks
- California Legislative Information Forgery and Counterfeiting
- Uniform Law Commission: Uniform Commercial Code
- State of Louisiana Secretary of State: what is a Uniform Commercial Code
- National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions: Uniform Commercial Code Research