What Happens If You Cash a Bad Check and It Bounces? Answered

Cashing a personal check when there aren’t funds available to cover it can be a complex matter. Even in cases where you receive money, you can end up either owing the amount of the check back to the cashing institution or having it debited from one of your own accounts. At the least, you will owe fees. Below, we explain who is at fault for cashing bad checks, the fees you may face, and the other consequences associated with bounced checks.

Who Is at Fault for Cashing a Bad Check?

Both the person cashing the check and the person who wrote the check bear some degree of responsibility when a bad check bounces. While inadvertently cashing a bad check isn’t a crime, knowingly doing so is considered fraud, which may be punishable by jail time or fines and can be a misdemeanor or felony. Even if you did not know the check was fraudulent, the bank may hold you responsible for the full check amount after you cash or deposit it.[1]

Bounced checks can also be reported to agencies like ChexSystems or Telecheck, which report to banks and other financial institutions, representatives for various banks (including Fifth Third Bank[2] and PNC[3]) told us.

Fees for Cashing a Bad Check

If you cash a bad check, you can be charged a fee by the bank where you cash the check. If cashing a bad check leads to court action, you may also end up liable for legal fees (which will vary widely depending on your specific case).

Typically, the check writer is the one subject to fees, known as non-sufficient funds (NSF) or returned item fees. However, if you receive and deposit a check that bounces, your bank may charge you a fee for returning the check at its discretion. Most banks call this a “deposited item returned” fee. The exact fee amount will vary depending on your account agreement, but is generally around $12 to $20.[4][5][6][7]

Other Consequences for Cashing a Bounced Check

The most basic consequence for cashing a bad check is that you will not get the money the check promised you. The check writer’s bank may not cash it, your bank may subtract the amount from your account, and a check cashing location may pursue you for reimbursement. Check cashing locations can also send the amount you owe to collection agents if you cash a personal check with insufficient funds.

More Information About Check Cashing

For more on check cashing, see our research on whether you can verify a check’s funds before cashing it.