Did you find a two-year-old check and don't know what to do about it? Banks are not legally required to cash old checks, but this doesn't mean you should give up. With some luck, you may be able to get the money. The bank may approve or decline your request, depending on the type of check and when it was issued.
Banks and credit unions may refuse to honor a two-year-old check. Your best option is to contact the issuing bank or ask the payer to write a new check if you're trying to cash old checks.
Do Checks Expire?
Anyone can forget to cash a check. Perhaps you received it as a gift and placed it in a drawer or bookshelf. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), most checks are good for up to six months. After that, they become stale-dated. U.S. Treasury checks, on the other hand, are valid for up to 12 months.
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The six-month rule applies to personal checks and business checks. State and local government checks are good for six to 12 months, explains the Huntington National Bank. Cashier's checks become stale-dated after 60, 90 or 180 days, but they rarely have a specific expiration date. If you have an old traveler's check and the issuing bank is still in business, you can get the money anytime.
While most checks don't expire, you may not be able to cash old checks that are more than six months old. The six-month rule applies to checks that have an expiration date, too. However, some banks and credit unions may agree to process the payment, states Cornell Law School. A two-year-old check could be approved, rejected or held until the bank gets in touch with the payer.
Cash Old Checks
There are several ways to cash old checks, but you may or may not receive the money. One option is to contact the issuing bank. Its name should be printed on the check. You can also go to Walmart, Kmart or another retailer offering cash-checking services. Here are other options you may want to consider:
- Deposit the check into your bank account via an ATM
- Go to any bank and try to cash the check
- Head over to a cash-checking store
- Make a mobile check deposit
- Cash old checks through PayPal
Your best bet is to cash the check at the issuing bank. A different bank or credit union may not honor your request. Even if they do it, they'll likely charge a fee. As the CFPB notes, most banks will cash checks issued by their customers. Also, they will need to make sure there are sufficient funds in the payer's account. Remember to bring your ID card, passport or driver's license.
If you go to the bank you normally use, you'll first have to deposit the check into your account. The funds should be available within a day or two, says the CFPB. Cash-checking stores and other similar establishments charge the highest fees, so it's better to avoid them. Some retailers offer free check-cashing services, while others charge a small fee. Walmart, for example, charges no more than $4 for pre-printed checks up to $1,000.
The problem is that PayPal, cash-checking stores and retailers are unlikely to cash an old check – and that's why you should first contact your bank or the issuing bank. If all else fails, reach out to the payer and explain what happened. He may cancel the check and write a new one. Remember that it's in your best interest to cash a check as soon as possible. If you wait too long, the payer may close his bank account or run out of funds.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Can I Cash a Check at Any Bank or Credit Union?
- U.S. Department of the Treasury: Cancellations, Deposits, Reclamations and Claims for Checks Drawn on the U.S. Treasury
- Huntington National Bank: How Long Is a Check Good For: Do Checks Expire?
- Cornell Law School: Bank Not Obliged to Pay Check More Than Six Months Old
- Walmart: Check and Card Cashing