How Long is a Check Good for: Do Checks Expire?

Most checks are good for 6 months (180 days); however, the details can get tricky. Exactly how long a check is good for varies depending upon the check. Personal checks are typically good for 6 months (180 days), but business checks, government checks, U.S. Treasury checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, and traveler’s checks are different. Read on if you need information about a specific type of check.

How Long are Checks Generally Good For?

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) is a collection of laws and regulations meant to harmonize the laws of sales and regulations across the U.S. The UCC tells banks that they are under no obligation to accept personal or business checks that are older than 180 days (6 months). So, generally speaking, personal and business checks are good for 6 months; however, some banks will accept older checks.

If you found an old check made out to you, you should check with your bank and verify their policy. If you wrote a check that hasn’t been cashed, you may consider putting a stop payment on the old check. After that, you should contact the recipient of the check to see if they want a fresh check to replace the old one.

How Long are Different Types of Checks Good For?

Different types of checks have different expiration days. The 6-month rule is a general rule, but that doesn’t apply to all types of checks and money orders.

How Long are Personal Checks Good For?

Personal, business, and payroll checks are good for 6 months (180 days). Some businesses have “void after 90 days” pre-printed on their checks. Most banks will honor those checks for up to 180 days and the pre-printed language is meant to encourage people to deposit or cash a check sooner than later.

If you’ve been given a check, it’s best to cash or deposit it as soon as feasible. If you hold onto a check for a while you run the risk of the account number or routing number changing or the check writer may have forgotten about the check and spent the money on something else. This may cause you to have to pay returned check fees.

How Long are U.S. Treasury Checks Good For?

By law, U.S. Treasury checks are good for one year after the date on the check. This means that federal tax refund checks are good for one year as those are issued by the U.S. Treasury. After that time, you’re still entitled to money the government owes you, but you’ll need to contact the issuer of the check and request a new check.

How Long are State/Local Government Checks Good For?

Checks from the state or local government agencies will expire according to state law. So, how long a state tax refund check is good for will vary from state to state, but generally it’s 6 months to a year. If you have an expired state tax refund check, you should contact the state and request a new check. Just like with the federal checks, you’re still entitled to what the government owes you.

When you receive a check from a governmental agency, read the check and look for anything that tells you when it expires. The best bet is to deposit or cash the check before the expiration date.

When do Cashier's Checks Expire?

Cashier’s checks are a type of “official check” and the rules surrounding them can be complicated. There’s no set or specified expiration date for cashier’s checks. Some say cashier’s checks don’t expire, while others claim a cashier’s check is stale (out of date) after 60, 90, or 180 days. Cashier’s checks are backed by the issuing bank and, theoretically, should be valid for as long as the bank is in operation, but some banks will put expiration dates on the checks themselves.

It could be difficult to cash a possibly expired cashier’s check or to get a replacement cashier’s check. If you receive a cashier’s check, look for a “void after X days” disclaimer and make sure you cash or deposit the check before then. If you discover an old cashier’s check, contact the issuing bank and ask them what they need from you to handle the transaction.

Cashier’s checks are a special type of check and they’re typically used for larger transactions. Read our article about What’s a Cashier’s Check if you’d like more information about cashier’s checks themselves.

When do Money Orders Expire?

The expiration of money orders depends on the laws of the state and the rules of the issuer. Generally speaking, money orders don’t expire, but they could become so old that they fall under abandoned property regulations or the value is eaten with fees.

It’s important to read the fine print as provided by the issuer. After 1-3 years, Western Union will charge a fee against the value of the money order. If this goes on long enough, the money order will be worthless. U.S.P.S. money orders do not expire and retain their value indefinitely. As long as there are post offices, you can cash a U.S.P.S. money order.

Please note that it’s always possible that Western Union or U.S.P.S. have changed their rules. Contact the issuer of your money order to find out if they have an expiration date or charge fees against old money orders.

Money orders are a substitute for checks and generally used for lower value transactions. If you’re trying to figure out if a cashier’s check or a money order would better suit your needs, read our article Cashier’s Check vs Money Order.

How Long are Traveler's Checks Good For?

Traveler’s checks do not expire. If you have some old traveler’s checks, you can cash them with the issuer or spend them at home just as you would when traveling. If the issuing bank is still in existence, then the traveler’s checks are still valid.

Tips to Handle Checks that You Have Written that Go Uncashed

If you wrote someone a check and you've been waiting an unusual amount of time for it to be cashed, you may want to contact them to make sure the check hasn't been stolen or lost. Here are some tips about dealing with outstanding checks.

How to handle outstanding checks if you know the payee:

  • Contact the payee and inquire about the status of the check.
  • If the check has been lost or stolen, place a stop payment on it and give the payee another check.

How to handle outstanding checks if you can’t contact the payee and it has more than 6 months:

  • Verify with the bank that they will not honor a check that’s older than 6 months.
  • Place a stop payment order on the check. This is to protect you if a teller misses the stale date on the check and cashes it.
  • Put the funds to cover the value of the check in a savings account. Eventually the payee of the check will want their payment.

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