X Files

Should I Cash These Old Checks?

old checks - should you cash them?I absolutely hate when I do things like this. I had a clean up day and ended up coming across a lot of interesting stuff I had stored for years. While that was fun to see, I also came across a few items that didn’t make me happy. Among all the stuff, I found 5 checks that I must have tucked away and forgotten to cash. All are just under a year old and so I’m left with the question of whether or not to try and cash them.

Two of the checks have “expired” so to speak. They had a 6 month time period they needed to be cashed. One is for $25 and the other for $47. The problem is that the expiration date on a check doesn’t automatically stop it from being processed. The issuer needs to leave instructions with its bank to adhere strictly to the expiration dates in order for it to be stopped without question. If this instruction hasn’t been made, however, there is a possibility that the check will still be paid. So it becomes whether the amount of the check is worth the risk that it may not be cashed and returned (which is a $20 fee at my bank).

The other three also pose a risk / reward dilemma. Two of the checks are rather small (under $10) and if they are returned for any reason, it will cost me more in returned check fees than I would get for cashing them. I’m leaning on letting those just go.

The other one is for a couple hundred dollars and seems the one out of the five that would be worth the risk of trying to cash. The problem is that even if a check doesn’t have an expiration date on it, in most states under the Uniform Commercial Code, a bank doesn’t have to cash it if it is more than six months old. Others say that checks are generally accepted by banks as long as they are under a year old. What to do?

I’m tempted to try and cash them all as an experiment and see what happens, but if they all failed I would be bummed getting a $100 return check charge (especially since I hate paying banks money when I’m lending it to them). I’m curious what your strategy would be with these checks knowing that any that was returned would cost you $20.

9 thoughts on “Should I Cash These Old Checks?

  1. How about call the person/business and tell them you’re about to cash their outdated check. If there’s a banking problem, ask them to write you another one. I’d be pretty pissed if you caused me to incur a NSF fee ($30 at my bank) for a itty bitty check I wrote almost a year ago.

  2. Often times you can call the issuing bank and ask for check verification. You’ll need to give them the account number on the check and the amount, and they will confirm whether or not there are funds available for the check. I had to do this for my last job with smaller customers to make sure their checks wouldn’t bounce. Also note that most larger banks no longer do this, or require confirmation from the check issuer.
    It usually works like a charm for smaller banks.

  3. I have no experience in this except for gift checks from relatives. In that case I would never cash the check without letting them know first, because they are probably used to the idea that you are not cashing this check.

    Businesses are different, of course, but it might still be polite to contact them first as well, explain the situation, and see what they recommend.

    If it’s a rebate check, I’ve heard that some companies try to make it as difficult as possible to get rebates, so holding your check too long may be just another thing on their list of things you can screw up and not get the money.

    Meanwhile, now is probably a good time to think up a new system for handling checks you get!

  4. I would try and contact the issuer and see if they can reissue the check if you send back the original. I did that once with a reimbursement check that got lost, and it was no big deal.

  5. personal checks, not so bad, because the issuer can re-verify. I hate it when I find checks for rebates that never got cashed.. then there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it.

  6. We received a check for work completed on a project and the client made the check out to five companies, intending for all subcontractors to ‘get their money’ too. Is this a ‘good’ check? Our bank said no, but I know I have received checks made out to me as a child and my mother’s name was on it.

  7. I think checks made to multiple receivers with no ‘or’ qualifier are implied as ‘and’ which means all parties would have to be present at cashing. (Long story short, no you can’t do that) – The client should make the check to the contractor with “project payment in full” in the For section and its the contractors responsibility to pay the subcontractors.

  8. Don’t be a dick. My old landlord recently did this to me. He cashed a two-year-old check that he told me he had destroyed because it turned out I didn’t owe him the money, so now I’m down $350 when I need it most. At this moment I can’t pay my current rent because of this.

  9. It doesn’t matter how old the check is you can cash it. If it doesn’t say “Void After X Days” it can be cashed at anytime in the future. It never expires.

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