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Do Checks Expire If Not Cashed?

Last updated 03/19/2024 by

Jonathan Defosses

Edited by

Fact checked by

Technically, uncashed personal checks have no “expiration date.” That being said, a bank is not required by law to accept personal checks more than six months (180 days) old. In good faith, some banks may cash personal checks older than six months if the account is still active and funds are available for payment. However, the rules are different for certified checks, U.S. Treasury checks, money orders, and traveler’s checks.
Though not many of us write checks anymore, you may still receive one from a grandparent or a new job that hasn’t yet integrated direct deposit. But do you have to deposit a check right after you get it? How long is a check good for?
In this article, we’ll discuss the expiration dates of personal and business checks, how these differ from other types of checks, and what you can do with an old check.

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Do personal checks expire if not cashed?

According to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), a financial institution is under no obligation to cash a check, other than a certified check, presented more than six months after its marked date.
That being said, this doesn’t mean personal checks have an expiration date. If you wrote a check that hasn’t been cashed after six months, some banks may still allow the check to be cashed if you have enough funds in your account. You may consider stopping payment on it and contacting the recipient to arrange for a replacement check to be sent. If you’ve found an old check made out to you that didn’t cash yet, check with the bank or credit union of the check writer to verify their policy.

Pro Tip

Before cashing an old check, contact the issuing bank. They will be able to verify if the account is still valid and if the account holder has enough funds in their checking account to cover the payment.

How do you know if your check is still good?

Given the rise of technology in the financial world, you may have an old check that you either forgot about or can’t cash through a mobile app. To determine whether this check expired, follow the steps below.
  1. Find the name of the financial institution on the front of the check.
  2. Search online for the institution’s official site to get a phone number for customer service.
  3. Tell the representative that you’d like to verify a check written to you.
  4. Provide the account and routing numbers from the front of the check.
  5. List the amount of the check.
IMPORTANT! Do not use the phone number printed on the check. Since this is an old check, that number has likely changed, so calling it wouldn’t do you much good.

Expirations for other types of checks

Are all types of written checks good for up to six months? Outside of personal and business checks, other types of checks have their own expiration dates determined by the financial institutions they are backed by.

U.S. Treasury checks

A U.S. Treasury check has a defined expiration date, which is different from personal or business checks. According to federal law, U.S. Treasury checks can be cashed or deposited for up to one year after the date on the check. This applies to federal tax refund checks, stimulus checks, Social Security checks, and other checks issued by the U.S. Treasury.
If you do not cash or deposit the check within 12 months of the written date, you’re still entitled to receive payment. However, you’ll need to contact the federal bureau that issued the check and request a new one. The government will not automatically send a new check to replace an expired uncashed or undeposited check.

State and local government checks

Checks issued by state or local government agencies will expire based on local law. It will vary from state to state how long a check, such as a state tax refund check, can be cashed or deposited.
Generally speaking, checks issued by state and local government agencies will be good for up to six months or even a year. If your state or local government-issued check has expired, contact the state department that issued the check to request a new one. Similar to federally issued checks, you are still entitled to the money, even if the check is past the expiration date.

Cashier’s check

A cashier’s check is a type of certified check that doesn’t have a federally regulated expiration date. Theoretically, cashier’s checks are backed by the issuing financial institution and should remain valid for as long as the institution is in operation. That being said, you should cash a cashier’s check within three years of issuance.
When issued, some financial institutions mark a specified expiration date on cashier’s checks. This expiration date may vary from institution to institution, but it’s usually between three months to three years.
State laws often regulate how long funds can be held for an undeposited or uncashed certified check (such as a cashier’s check). Funds will be “escheated” (or given over to the state as abandoned) when a certified check hasn’t been deposited or cashed for an extended length of time. How long until a certified check is escheated will vary state by state. You can check this link from the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators for each state’s rules.

Pro Tip

It can be difficult to cash a possibly expired cashier’s check or to get a replacement. If you receive a cashier’s check, look to see if “void after X days” is defined and deposit the check before the specified time frame. If you discover an expired cashier’s check, contact the issuing bank or credit union to find out what’s required to process the transaction.

Money orders

The expiration of money orders depends upon state laws and internal rules of the issuer. Although money orders don’t generally “expire,” they may eventually become “escheated” due to abandoned property laws.
The value of the money order can also be reduced because of fees. To avoid these additional fees, it’s important to read the fine print as provided by the issuer of the money order. Oftentimes you can find the terms and conditions on the back of your money order.
Depending upon the location of issuance, some companies will charge a fee against the value of the money order if not deposited within one to three years. If left unused for long enough, the money order could become valueless. Other companies offer money orders that do not expire and retain their value indefinitely. Contact the issuer of your money order to find out if they have an expiration date or charge fees against old money orders.

Traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks expire after three years of issuance. If you have an old traveler’s check, and the issuing financial institution is still in existence, then the traveler’s check may still be valid.
Keep in mind that security concerns have led many retailers to stop accepting traveler’s checks. To utilize an old traveler’s check, you may need to redeem its value at the issuing bank or company.

Pro Tip

The use of traveler’s checks declined with the international increase of ATMs and use of debit and credit cards. If you’re looking to travel and need access to funds, read our guide to traveler’s checks alternatives.

What can be done with an uncashed check?

If you’ve written a check, and waited a long time for the funds to come out of your account, contact the payee to ensure that the check hasn’t been lost or stolen. Here are some tips to deal with outstanding checks.
When you know the payeeWhen you can’t contact the payee, and more than six months have elapsed
Contact the payee to inquire about the status of the check.Verify that your financial institution will not honor a check older than six months.
If the check was lost or stolen, place a stop payment, and give the payee a replacement check.Place a stop payment order on the check.
Set aside the funds to cover the value of the check. Depending upon the terms of the transaction, the payee may still require payment.


Can a check be cashed after 180 days?

Although financial institutions aren’t obligated to deposit a check more than six months old, some banks will still process an old check if the institution believes that the funds are available. A bank is not required to deposit a check if it has reason to doubt that the funds will be collected from the paying bank.

What happens if a check is never cashed?

A check that has yet to be deposited or cashed by the recipient is an outstanding check. Because the recipient hasn’t cashed or deposited the check, the payor still owes the payee money and is therefore still liable for payment.
When you pay an employee or contractor with a check, there is no legal requirement that the check be cashed right away. A check may be kept by the payee until they need the funds.

Key Takeaways

  • Personal and business checks do not have a set expiration date, but a financial institution can refuse to cash the check if older than six months (180 days).
  • If a personal check is older than six months, call the institution to verify if the check is still good.
  • Checks issued by the U.S. Treasury are good for up to 12 months from their issuance.
  • The expiration of state and local government checks varies by state. Generally, however, these checks expire after six months to a year.
  • Money orders expire at varying intervals, which the issuing institution’s internal rules and state regulations determine.
  • Traveler’s checks and cashier’s checks expire within three years of issuance. Some retailers will not accept this form of payment due to security concerns.

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