Understanding how long personal checks are good for is a commonly misunderstand fact with both banking customers and banking personnel.  There is a common misperception that a check is no longer valid after a term of six months from the date of the check.  While this is technically true when it comes to the bank’s right not to process a check after six months it does not mean that a check which is more than six months old is no longer a financial instrument or valid contract.

Under the Uniform Commercial Code, which covers contracts and negotiable instruments such as checks in most states, banks in the United States are not legally obligated to pay checks older than six months.  The key phrase in the UCC law is, the bank has the right not to accept the check or honor the check for deposit or other transactions.  The bank is not obligated to refuse the transaction and the bank or credit union may choose to honor such a check.

The specific terms of the UCC are covered in Article 4, Bank Deposits and Collections.  In section 4-405 of the UCC the code states, “A bank is under no obligation to a customer having a checking account to pay a check, other than a certified check, which is presented more than six months after its date, but it may charge its customer’s account for a payment made thereafter in good faith.”

The Uniform Commercial Code provides banks with options regarding their responsibility in handling a check more than six months old because most checks are processed electronically and the bank will typically not review the check date.  Therefore, to place the burden on the bank through UCC law to be responsible for verifying check dates would be unreasonable and laborious.

In a nut shell, just because the check is six months old or longer does mean that the check is no longer invalid or will not be presented and cashed by a bank or other financial institution.

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