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Old Checks

Years ago banks would not pay checks if they were stale dated (six months old or older) Has that changed?

In the old days, more checks were processed manually and it was easier for a bank to determine a check was old and thus choose not to pay it. Now, with all the automated processing, about the only time a date is noticed is if the check is presented for payment over the counter at the paying bank, or it's such a large dollar item that it is subjected to sight examination.

A check is considered "stale-dated" after it's six months old, but that doesn't mean it can't be paid. The law says the bank is under no obligation to its customer having a deposit account to pay a check that's more than six months old, but it may pay it, so long as it acts in good faith.

Section 4-404 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) is the pertinent legal provision.

Here's what it says:

"A bank is under no obligation to a customer having a checking account to pay a check, other than a certified check, which is presented more than six months after its date, but it may charge its customer's account for a payment made thereafter in good faith."

A bank can choose to pay it, and be protected by the law, or it may reject it for stale-dating. Either way, the bank is within its rights.

If you're a customer who has a check outstanding that's more than six months old, you need to realize it can still come through. If you don't want it to, put a stop payment on it.

If you're the recipient of a check that's getting old, get to the bank and get that thing deposited! Once you've passed the six-month mark, you run the risk of the paying bank rejecting it. If they do, you're going to have to go back to the writer of the check to try to get your money, and that may not be too feasible.

Published on 8/30/06