Checks are becoming less popular for making payments as more people use electronic banking and credit cards. However, some people do still prefer to use checks. For example, tenants may write monthly rent checks to their landlords, or family members may send checks as gifts.
If you’re depositing a check, be aware that you may not have immediate access to the full amount of the check when you deposit it into your bank account—even if your stated balance indicates otherwise. Typically, a bank will provide the first $225 within one business day and the remaining amount of the deposit within two business days. But a bank can hold a check longer for several reasons, such as if the amount is significantly large.
If you try to use the funds immediately, the check may bounce and you may face bank fees. To understand when to safely use money from a check, you’ll want to learn more about how hold times work, what affects them, and how to avoid fees.
- Banks usually hold the first $225 of a deposit for one business day and any remaining amount for two business days.
- Financial institutions provide their hold policies when you open a bank account.
- The check amount and your relationship with the bank are among the factors that can affect how long it takes a check to clear.
- Your deposit receipt will typically tell you when the funds will become available.
Check Hold Times
When you open a bank account, your bank provides its policies about deposits, including hold times for check deposits. Banks place holds on checks to ensure that the funds are available in the payer’s account before they provide access to the cash. This gives the bank time to validate the check, which also helps you avoid fees if you use the funds but then the check is later returned unpaid.
It usually takes one to two business days for a deposited check to fully clear. However, a bank can hold a check longer for several reasons. How long it takes for a check to clear can depend on the amount of the check, your relationship with the bank, and the standing of the payer’s account.
A bank may hold a check longer if it’s an unusual deposit, such as if you’ve never deposited a check from that payer before. A check may take also longer to clear if it’s for a larger amount or is from an international bank. Checks from foreign banks usually require longer hold times because they take longer to verify.
Hold times vary by financial institution, so check with your bank or credit union about the specific policies.
Why Your Check Is on Hold
There are several reasons why banks hold checks. Your bank may hold a deposited check if there are insufficient funds in the payer’s account or if the payer’s account is closed or blocked for some reason. Banks usually resend checks with problems back to the paying institution, which will delay when the funds will be available for the depositor.
Some banks also place holds on deposits into new accounts. Accounts that have little or no history may automatically qualify for holds on all check deposits until the account holder has an established history with the bank. Accounts that have negative history—that is, accounts that frequently bounce payments or go into overdraft—may also have checks held longer.
The bank can also factor in who the payer is when it determines hold times. If you’ve never deposited a check from that person before—and the check is for a significant amount—your bank may hold it until it clears.
Finally, some banks may hold checks that are deposited through mobile banking apps or through an automated teller machine (ATM). These deposits typically have to be verified and cross-checked before the bank can release the funds.
Your Deposit Receipt
When you deposit a check, you typically get a receipt that specifies when the funds will be available. The funds-availability date on the receipt can tell you when it may be time to contact the bank regarding hold inquiries. If you don’t receive a receipt, however, consider contacting your bank.
Sometimes, a bank can override the hold for you. Those situations include: during an emergency, when a long hold time has been on the check, and when you’re a customer with an established good history. A bank may also override a hold if it verifies the check at the time of the deposit.
To get a bank to override a hold, you typically must visit a branch. Although it will cost you some time, it may be worth it if you need the funds immediately.
Depending on the amount of the check, you may have access to the full amount within two business days. Some banks make a portion of the check available immediately or within one business day. Banks typically must make the first $225 available the next business day and the balance of the check available in two business days.
The bank may be likely to clear checks right away if you have a consistent history with a certain payer. For example, say you’re a freelancer and receive regular paychecks. The bank may hold the initial check to make sure it clears. Then, the bank may release the funds to you for subsequent deposits after a pattern is established.
Again, large deposits may come with longer hold times. A bank can hold a check longer than two business days (up to five business days) if the total amount is for $5,525, but it can only extend a hold for the amount greater than that.
The number of business days that the bank holds these checks can depend on your relationship with the institution. You’re more likely to get the money immediately—or within fewer than five business days—if you have a healthy account balance and no history of overdrafts. A history of overdrafts and low account balances may mean that you’ll have to wait the full five business days to receive the money.
Which Types of Checks Clear Immediately?
Some banks may make different types of checks available immediately. However, banks are only required to make funds available within one or two business days, including cashier’s checks. If any type of check is for an amount over $5,525, the bank can hold the amount of funds over that sum for up to five business days.
What’s the Longest That a Check Can Take To Clear?
The first $225 of a check typically must clear within one business day, with the remainder clearing within two business days. However, a bank may extend their holds, usually for up to five business days for several reasons, such as if it’s a new account, if it was a returned check being redeposited, or if the amount is over $5,525.
How Long Are Checks Good For?
Most checks, including personal and business checks, are good for at least six months, or 180 days. After that, banks are not legally obligated to honor them. However, many banks and credit unions may choose to honor checks that are more than six months old.
The Bottom Line
The amount of time it takes a check deposited in an account to clear differs depending on a variety of factors. These include the amount of the check, the identity of the payer, the history of the account, and how old the account is. In emergencies, you may be able to get the bank to release the funds sooner. Generally, the whole check should clear within two business days, except for amounts larger than $5,525.