How Long Is a Check Good For? Expiration Dates for All Check Types…

Lots of things come with an expiration date: coupons, promotional offers, money orders, that container of yogurt in the back of your fridge. But, what about checks?

In This Article

Do Checks Expire?

Most checks expire. The only types of checks that do not expire are bank drafts, traveler’s checks, and certain types of money orders.

When Each Type of Check Expires

Bank Drafts

Bank drafts don’t expire because they represent a guaranteed amount of funds and have a set monetary value.

Business Checks

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. Call 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

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.

Money Orders

Depending on the state, MoneyGram and Western Union money orders may accrue service fees if they are used one to three years after they were issued. Western Union’s customer service claims that their money orders expire after one year. These fees are extracted from the principal amount of the money order, and are usually non-refundable, depending on the state in which you live.

Fidelity Express money orders will accrue fees of $2.00 per month after they are purchased and additional fees will be applied after two years. Money orders purchased from the United States Postal Service don’t expire, but if you lose the order or need to return it, you’ll have to produce the receipt to get a replacement. Replacements for Fidelity Express and USPS money orders are available up to two years after the original money order was purchased. Fidelity Express will refund you lost money orders with a $20 service fee.

Money orders that go several years without being cashed are classified as abandoned property and are turned over to the state agency. If you recover a money order that’s several years old, contact the issuing bank or institution to see if it can be cashed.

All service fee conditions are printed on the money orders themselves.

For more information about money order expiration dates, see our article: Do Money Orders Expire?

Payroll Checks

Like government checks, payroll checks will often have expiration dates printed on them. If not, they usually expire six months after their issuance.

Personal Checks

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.

Traveler’s Checks

Traveler’s checks work like cash and are backed by guaranteed funds. Because of this, they don’t 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 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.

In Summary

How long is a check good for? Typically a check is good for six months. But, each type of check comes with its own rules as listed above. It’s also best practice to cash checks as soon as it’s convenient.

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10 comments

  • I have a insurance check for settlement claim for damages done to my car, but the lien holder wanted me to pay for repairs out of pocket then they would sign off, but I did not have that amount of money just to pay .And then get reimbursed.no expiration date on check and I have paid car note off.and want to cash so I can get car repaired.

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Tammy,

      All checks must have an expiration date. Take a look at the check again so you can be sure it is still valid.

  • Bobby Kenneth says:

    I rec’d a class-action settlement check for Kolinek vsWalgreens in the amt of $27.70 dated 5/4/2016. It says “VOID AFTER August 10. 2016” on its face. I’ve tried to call the Settlement Administrator using the phone number printed on the check, but I am redirected to numerous recorded messages and a website. I was never able to talk to a human. Can I still cash this check?

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Bobby,

      Most of the time, these check expiration dates are not negotiable; however, it is ultimately up to your bank’s discretion whether they will cash the check for you. Most of the time, they will ensure you have enough funds in your account to cover the cost of the check if it doesn’t clear. In other words, take it to your bank and let them make the call.

  • I missed cashing my check from my mortgage company. I paid my property taxes myself, because I was refinancing my house and I didn’t want the taxes in my refinance amount. I missed it by 2 days as of today.

    • Hillary M. Miller says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Tammie,

      It sounds like the best course of action will be to contact the mortgage company directly and ask if they would be able to reissue the check for you. In many cases, companies will be able to reissue an expired check without a problem, as the money is still technically owed to you. It’s not recommended that you try to deposit the expired check at an ATM, as this can cause fees if the bank flags the deposit (especially if the deposit is initially accepted and the funds are later withdrawn, which can lead to significant overdraft issues). Best of luck getting this resolved!

  • John Song says:

    My ex-boss is reissuing a paycheck that was void. How long does it take for the check to be signed at payroll and then mailed to me? Also, how long does it take to get mailed to me? This is regarding the NJ state.

    • Hillary M. Miller says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi John,

      This is something that is handled at the company or department level rather than the state, so it’s difficult to say when the check will be re-issued; it’s not really the time it takes to physically print and mail off the new check as much as when the HR office gets around to it. I would expect it to take at least two or three business days from the time you request the re-issued check before it’s printed so that the HR office can verify the old payroll records and take care of any other necessary paperwork. Once the check is in the mail, if it’s being sent to you from within the state, it shouldn’t take more than two business days or so to reach you. As a rough estimate, the check should be in your hands within a week or so of being requested (though it could be longer for a larger company).

        • Hillary M. Miller says:
          First Quarter Finance logostaff

          Hi John,

          Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any more specific information about the timeline for receiving a re-issued check, whether through ADP or otherwise. For more specific information, I would recommend that you get in touch with the person from whom you requested the check; your contact at that company should be able to provide an estimate as to when you will see the re-issued check. Sorry I couldn’t provide you with a more definitive answer!