Personal Finance

How Long Are Personal Checks Good for?

With electronic payments and credit cards becoming so popular, people are dealing with checks less often. When you aren’t used to managing them, it can be easy to forget to cash a check, leaving you scrambling to cash it so you can get your money.

But how long are personal checks good for? And do checks expire? In general, checks are good for six to 12 months after the date they are issued. However, there are some exceptions to this guideline. Below, find out how long a check is good for and what you can do if a check expires.

How long is a check good for? It depends on its type

7 types of checks and when they expire
Type Expiration date
Personal check None, but may be rejected by the bank if over 6 months old
Cashier’s check 60, 90 or 180 days, or never, depending on state and issuer
Treasury check 1 year from issue date
Certified check None, but subject to state abandoned property laws
State/local government check 6 to 12 months after issue date, generally
Traveler’s check Never
Business check Set by the business, or none

Personal check

Personal checks don’t really have an expiration date. However, banks consider checks older than six months to be “stale.” If you try to cash a personal check after the six-month mark, the bank may still honor it. Or, they may decline it.

Cashier’s check

A cashier’s check is a check guaranteed by the bank. With cashier’s checks, the question of its expiration can be more complicated. Cashier’s checks are backed by the issuing bank. Depending on the bank and the state the bank operates in, the cashier’s check may never expire, or it may expire in 60, 90 or 180 days.

That said, it’s a good idea to cash a cashier’s check as soon as possible. If you don’t cash it before your state’s deadline, it may be presumed as unclaimed property. For example, Florida considers any cashier’s checks that are not cashed within five years to be unclaimed. If that happens, you won’t be able to cash your check. Instead, you’d have to contact your state’s unclaimed property office and submit a claim.

Treasury check

Treasury checks, which are used for tax refunds, Social Security benefits and veterans benefits, are valid for one year from their issue date.

If you have a treasury check that expired, you must contact the federal agency that issued the check payment to reissue another check to you. Visit the Bureau of Fiscal Service website to get contact information for each federal agency.

Certified check

A certified check is a type of check where the bank verifies that there’s enough money in the account owner’s bank account to cover the check at the time it was written.

Certified checks do not have expiration dates. However, they are subject to state abandoned property laws.

State/local government check

When it comes to state and local government checks, the expiration date can vary from state to state. In general, the expiration date can be six to 12 months after the check is issued.

If the check expires, you’ll have to contact the issuing agency to have them reissue you a check.

Traveler’s check

A traveler’s check is a check you purchase from a bank that functions like cash. Unlike most checks, travelers checks never expire.

Business check

Business checks are controlled by the company issuing them. To control cash flow, companies will set an expiration date on the check. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to cash the check. You’ll have to reach out to the company and request a new one.

If the business check doesn’t have an expiration date printed on it, it’s usually subject to the same expiration rules as personal checks.

Why you shouldn’t wait to cash a check

If you were sent a check, it’s wise to cash it as soon as possible. If you forget about it for a few months and try to deposit it later, there could be issues that could keep you from getting your money.

  • The account may close: If you try to deposit a check and the check writer’s account was closed in the meantime, the bank will not honor the check.
  • There may later be insufficient funds: If it’s been several months since you received the check, you risk the check being declined for insufficient funds, meaning the account holder doesn’t have enough money to cover the check.
  • A stop payment may be issued: The person who wrote the check could issue a stop payment on it, making the check invalid.
  • It could later be considered abandoned property: If you have a check that you forget to cash, such as a state or federal tax refund, it could be considered abandoned property. To get the money, you’d have to file a claim with the state.

Checks FAQ

1. Does a personal check I wrote expire?

In general, personal checks are good for six months. After that period, banks are not obligated to honor the check. However, some banks may choose to do so. To prevent the check being cashed unexpectedly months after you wrote it and causing your checking account to be overdrawn, make sure you place a stop payment notice on the check.

2. Is a money order a check, and how long is it good for? Money orders are purchased with cash, so it’s a guaranteed payment; there’s no risk of insufficient funds like there is with a personal check. Money orders don’t expire but they may be subject to service fees after if you wait a year or longer to cash it.

Money orders never expire. However, there may be a service charge if you wait several years to cash it.

3. I wrote a check and it hasn’t been cashed — what can I do?

If you write a check and the receiver won’t cash it, your finances can be thrown off track. Uncashed checks may hurt your account reconciliations. And, if the recipient cashes the check months after you wrote it, you may not expect it and you risk your account being overdrawn.

To prevent that from happening, first reach out to the recipient. They may have forgotten about the check or lost it. By contacting them, you can remind them to cash it or replace it, if necessary.

If you aren’t able to contact the person, another option is to place a stop payment on the check. To do so, you typically have to reach out to your bank and pay a fee, but placing a stop payment on a check will prevent the recipient from being able to cash it.