How Long Does It Take For A Check To Clear

Article Summary:

Checks usually take two business days to clear. Your bank or credit union clears a check when they verify the payment with the payer’s account. Usually, this process takes around two business days, but it varies depending on the amount of money, your relationship with the bank, and whether it is a regular deposit. Here’s what you need to know.

Two business days is the standard time for a check to clear, but it is important to note how and why this time can vary. It is common for at least a part of funds from the check to be available sooner than two business days. There are also instances in which the bank may hold the check for longer.

Get familiar with your bank and the type of check you are depositing. This could save you the trouble of trying to access funds from a check on hold. The Federal Reserve lays out guidelines for financial institutions which regulate the following:

  • Reserve balances requirements for all depository institutions.
  • Bank hold timing requirements.
  • How financial institutions should communicate with account holders.

Know your bank’s policies, and don’t be afraid to communicate with them. This will make the whole process easier and more efficient.

How long can it take for funds from my check to appear in my account?

Deposited checks will usually appear on your account instantly, but that doesn’t mean the check has cleared or that the funds are available. Two business days is the average time it takes for a check to clear. There are some circumstances that the bank hold time could be longer. It is common for part of the funds to become available sooner. How much is available varies by bank or credit union. The table below shows the average time major banks take to clear a check. Notice that some banks will make funds available before a check is cleared.

The Federal Reserve provides banks guidelines depending on the characteristics of the check. Holding times generally range from the next business day to the five business days. A longer holding time may be up to 10 business days. Financial institutions can extend a hold for a “reasonable period of time.”

  • ​One extra business day for on-us checks. This means a total of two business days. On-us checks are between accounts within the same bank.
  • Five extra business days for local checks. This makes a total of seven days for non-same bank exchanges.
  • The financial institution must provide an explanation if a longer holding period is necessary.

A business day is Monday-Friday, excluding any bank holiday.

What can cause longer bank holds?

The Federal Reserve lists circumstances that may warrant longer bank holds.

  • Large deposits (greater than $5,000).
  • Redeposited checks.
  • Deposits to accounts that are repeatedly overdrawn.
  • Reasonable cause to doubt collectibility of a check.
  • Emergency conditions such as natural disasters or communications malfunctions..
  • New bank or credit union account holder.

You can call your bank or credit union to ensure that a deposited check has cleared.

If a check greater than $2,500 bounces, Federal law requires banks to notify the recipient of the check. This is not the case for checks for less than $2,500. This is why it is important to call your financial institution if you are unsure about a check that is for less than $2,500.

What types of checks clear faster?

Although you have little control over how long your bank holds a check, there are some things you can do that may lead to a quicker clearing. For example, if your check falls within one of the following categories, it is more likely to clear faster.

  • Cashier’s checks, certified checks, or teller’s checks
  • Postal money orders
  • U.S. Treasury checks (government checks)
  • Check drawn on a Federal Reserve Bank or Federal Home Loan Bank
  • Any check issued by a state, city, county, or other municipality
  • Any check drawn from another account at the same depository institution

What can you do to encourage that your check clears faster?

Ultimately, your bank will determine how long it takes to clear a check. However, there are things you can do to move things along. Here are a few tips on how to get a check to clear faster:

    1. Deposit your check in person at the banking institution.
    2. Deposit the check in an account that has been open for more than 30 days.
    3. Don’t overdraft your account balance.
    4. Deposit checks for less than $5,000 when possible.
    5. Only accept checks from trusted sources.
    6. Deposit checks from sources with whom you have a consistent track record.
    7. Deposit checks as soon as possible to ensure the payer’s account has enough funds.
    8. If you are a good customer at your bank, you probably won’t have to wait more than two business days. If the same goes for the person or institution writing the check, even better.

Alternatives to checks

Checks are rarely used for consumer payments, but they are still very much alive as a method of payment for businesses. About 9 in 10 businesses still report receiving check payments according to a survey by Versapay. However, checks are an inefficient payment method. They are expensive to process and you’re at the mercy of mail delays. There’s also check fraud to deal with and they really slow things down when you’re working remotely and have to physically go to an office or PO Box to pick them up. Here are some alternatives to consider.

  • Credit cards and debit cards. Typically more expensive than other methods, such as ACH and EFT, but processing times are much faster (minutes to 48 hours).
  • Virtual cards. Same benefits as using a credit card and provide an extra layer of security.
  • Digital wallets. Processing times can vary depending on the digital wallet you use and the funding method, but payments are usually instant.
  • EFT and ACH (Electronic Funds Transfers and Automated Clearing House payments). Faster than checks (one to three business days).

Key takeaways

  • Understanding how long it takes for a check to clear can save you time and money in your future deposits.
  • It usually takes two business days for a check to clear, but it can range from minutes to 10 business days.
  • When a check clears, this means that the funds are now available for you to access. If a check bounces, you will not be able to access the money. This happens when the writer of the check is fraudulent or doesn’t have enough funds to cover the check.
  • The federal reserve regulates holding times and how your bank communicates with you.
  • There are certain circumstances in which your check could take longer to clear. Large deposits or a deposit into an account that has been open for less than 30 days may lead to an extended bank hold.
  • Communicate with your bank, avoid overdrafts, and only accept checks from trusted sources.
  • Opening a checking account with a reliable bank you trust will be beneficial to you. If you are looking for the best bank for you, try using SuperMoney’s comparison tools.
Article Sources
  1. Compliance with Regulation CC – Federal Reserve
  2. Bank Accounts – Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
  3. Check Services – Federal Reserve
  4. Where to Cash a Check – SuperMoney