When you deposit a check into your bank account, it can take several days before your bank actually receives the money represented by the check. Consequently, banks can place a hold on your account in order to prevent you from spending money that your bank has yet to receive. However, federal Regulation CC limits the amount of time that a bank can place a check on hold.
Certain kinds of checks are next-day availability items, meaning your bank cannot place a hold on the check, and must make funds available on the day after you deposit it. Treasury checks, other kinds of government checks, U.S. postal money orders, travelers checks, cashier's checks, certified checks and teller checks are next-day items, but only if deposited into an account that belongs to the check payee. Additionally, if you deposit a check drawn from another account held by your bank into your account, then your bank cannot hold that check if the check writer made it payable to you.
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Case by Case
The regulation CC case-by-case rule allows banks to place two-day holds on next-day availability items when those checks are deposited into an account that does not belong to the payee. Other checks, such as personal checks and payroll checks, are also subject to these holds, although banks do have the discretion to waive them. However, on a case-by-case hold, the bank must make the first $100 of the check available on the next business day, so only funds in excess of $100 are subject to the two-business-day hold. For checks that are written for amounts in excess of $5,000, banks use the case-by-case hold rules for the first $5,000 of the check amount; the remaining funds in excess of $5,000 are subject to an even longer hold, known as an exception hold. This means $100 of funds are made available the next day, and $4,900 of funds is held for two days.
When you deposit a check that exceeds $5,000 your bank can place a hold that lasts for seven business days on the portion of the check that exceeds $5,000. The remaining funds are subject to the case-by-case hold. On a new account, defined as one that has been opened for less than 30 days, banks can place nine-day holds on the entire check, barring the first $100, which becomes available on the next business day.
During emergency situations, like after an earthquake or during a war, no limits apply to hold times, as long as the bank can justify placing a hold. Such holds are often applied when a bank loses electricity or access to the computer network. Regulation CC only applies to checking accounts, and although most banks use the same hold times for savings and money markets, in theory there are no limits on the hold times that banks can place on checks deposited into those accounts.