Do checks expire? Here’s what you need to know

Do checks expire? They can, depending on the type. Some checks are good for about 6 months, and others may never expire.

If you’re wondering how long certain checks are good for—and what to do with an expired check—here’s what you need to know.

Key takeaways

  • The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) is a set of laws that governs commercial transactions in the U.S., including the use of personal checks.
  • Personal and business checks are typically valid for 6 months from the date on the check.
  • Checks with an issue date older than 6 months are known as “stale checks,” and financial institutions aren’t legally required to cash them. 
  • Checks that can take longer to expire, or may not expire at all, include U.S. Treasury checks, certified checks, traveler’s checks and money orders.

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How long is a check valid? 

How long are personal checks good for? Like many kinds of checks, they’re generally valid for 6 months. Other types of checks, like certified checks or government-issued tax-refund checks, may have a longer expiration or none at all. 

Expiration dates and other issues regarding check use are governed by the UCC—that’s a set of laws that regulate commercial transactions in the U.S.

If you want to cash a check but aren’t sure it’s still valid, you may want to ask a representative at your bank. These general guidelines around timing could also help:

  • Personal and business checks: Personal and business checks are generally good for 6 months or 180 days. After that, financial institutions aren’t legally required to cash them.
  • Cashier’s checks: How long are cashier’s checks good for? Expiration dates may vary based on local laws. But it’s generally a good idea to cash a cashier’s check before the expiration date printed on it, if there is one. 
  • Certified checks: Certified checks typically don’t expire since UCC guidelines about timing generally don’t apply to them. 
  • U.S. Treasury checks: Checks from the U.S. Treasury are typically good for 1 year after the issue date. If you have a government check that’s expired, you may want to contact the agency that issued it and ask for another. 
  • Money orders: Money orders generally don’t expire. But if you hang onto a money order for a certain period of time—often 1-3 years—a fee may be assessed when it’s cashed.
  • Traveler’s checks: Traveler’s checks typically don’t have an expiration date. As long as the issuer is still in business, they can be used wherever they’re accepted.
A graphic that shows a calendar and states that personal and business checks are typically valid for 6 months.

What happens if you try to cash an expired check? 

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, checks with an issue date older than 6 months are considered “stale checks.” Financial institutions aren’t required to cash them, but they can do so at their discretion. If you have a stale check, you may want to try asking the issuer if they’ll cut you a new one.

What happens if you deposit an expired check?

Some banks may allow you to deposit a check that’s gone stale if they believe the funds will be available. But it may help to keep in mind that if there aren’t enough funds to cover the check, you could run into issues with a bounced check and related fees. Waiting too long could also result in the payer stopping payment on the check.

How long checks are good for in a nutshell 

How long are checks good for? Many checks, including personal checks, have a 6-month expiration date. Other types of checks can take longer to expire or may not expire at all.

Because it can be a good practice to cash or deposit checks soon after receiving them, you may want to consider direct deposit. Learning how to set up direct deposit for regularly recurring deposits like payroll checks could make life a little easier—and give you one less item on your to-do list.

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