Short Answer: Most checks expire, with the exception of bank drafts, traveler’s checks, and certain types of money orders. The exact time frame in which a check expires varies depending on the check type but is usually between six months to a year. For more details on check expiration, see below.
Do Checks Expire?
Most checks expire within six to twelve months. The only types of checks that do not expire are bank drafts, traveler’s checks, and certain types of money orders.
Expiration by Check Type
Personal checks older than six months are sometimes called “stale-dated” checks.
Banks/credit unions have no obligation to deposit or cash a check older than six months, but whether or not to cash a stale-dated check is ultimately at the individual bank’s/credit union’s discretion, depending on the funds available and the financial institution’s relationship with the customer.
If you’re a good customer and rarely overdraft your account(s), or have a mortgage, you’ll be more likely to get your old checks cashed.
If your bank/credit union allows you to cash or deposit a stale-dated check, remember that the check may still not clear. Sometimes, issuing institutions won’t honor the check if the account no longer holds sufficient funds or if the holder of the account requested a stop-payment on the check.
Payroll checks often have expiration dates printed on them. If not, they usually expire six months after issuance.
Major businesses or corporations will often print expiration dates on their checks, and these expiration dates aren’t negotiable.
Large businesses need to closely manage the flow of funds in and out of their accounts, so they’re stricter when it comes to expired checks.
If a business doesn’t print an expiration date on their checks, the check will typically have the same expiration policy as a paycheck or personal check. You might want to contact the business directly to make sure this is the case.
Cashier’s Checks/Teller Checks/Certified Checks
Cashier’s checks, otherwise known as teller checks or certified checks, don’t have expiration dates unless the bank/credit union specifies a guaranteed-funds time frame which will be printed on the check itself.
If no time frame is specified, it’s good practice to call the bank/credit union and double-check that no expiration date is in place.
Government checks carry funds from the United States Treasury and are valid for a year. If your government check is older than a year, it’s considered expired.
You can request a new check by contacting the paying agency. If the check was issued by your state government, your state revenue department can inform you of the check’s expiration date and reissue you one, if necessary.
Traveler’s checks work like cash and are backed by guaranteed funds. Because of this, they don’t expire.
Money orders typically don’t expire, but instead begin losing value one to three years after purchase. For more details about money order expiration dates, see our dedicated research on whether money orders expire.
How to Avoid the Problem of Expired Checks
In all cases, the best practice is to deposit or cash checks promptly or at least before six months have passed.
Late policies vary by state and by the financial institution, so contact your bank and the issuer of the check to make sure funds are available.
The sooner you have the money in your possession, the better. Then you can put it to work for you.
Check to see if your financial institution offers an app for mobile deposits. With such an app, you simply take a photo of the front and back of the check and the check will be processed.
If you can deposit your check directly from home instead of having to go to the bank, you’ll be more likely to avoid forgetting about a check until it’s expired.
If you do have to cash an old check, especially a personal check, practice proper check etiquette. Call the person who gave you the check and make sure they still have sufficient funds in their account. You don’t want to cause them to accrue overdraft fees because you’re cashing late.