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How Long are Uncashed Checks Valid?

I mailed two checks with the dates of 8/30 and 9/6. To this date, they still have not been cashed. How long before these checks are no longer valid?

Your bank can refuse to pay them (assuming it notices the dates) if they are presented for payment after they are six months old. In practice, however, banks don't look at the dates of most checks and the odds of catching a stale check are pretty low. Because the law also allows your bank to pay a check that is more than six months old, there is no time at which it is safe to say the checks are no longer valid.

At any time you can assume the checks won't get presented for payment and add them back into your account balance, but you take a risk that you're wrong, and one or both of them could show up later. Of course that could happen at the most inopportune time and overdraw your account. A more conservative approach would be to wait the six months, when the risk has gone down a bit more, before deciding whether to take the chance. If you don't want to risk the checks being presented later, you can pay to have stop payments placed on them, but understand that stop payments are only valid for six months at most banks (some accept them for longer periods), and you may want to renew your stop payment later if the check amounts are substantial enough to warrant it.

Published on 12/15/10