Not long ago, writing personal checks was one of the most common ways of providing payment to another person or to an organization—especially for large sums.
Today, personal checks are a far less common form of payment, especially between two individuals. But personal checks remain a secure and reliable tool for these transactions, and if you receive a personal check written out to you, you’ll need to make sure you keep it safe and cash it before it expires.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’ve received a personal check and you don’t know what to do with it. Read on for must-know info about how to handle a personal check payment.
What Is a Personal Check?
A personal check is a paper form of payment that can be used to transfer money between two people without trading cash. When cashed at a bank or another institution, a personal check is as good as cash.
Although electronic transfers have diminished our reliance on paper-based checks, it is still a good idea to keep paper checks on hand—and to be prepared in case you receive payments in this form.
For example, certain purchases or payments—such as deposits for an apartment—may require a personal check as opposed to cash or other forms of payment. Personal checks are also sometimes used to provide payment during a financial emergency, including in scenarios in which other forms of payment are not an option or are not accepted by the party receiving payment.
Do Personal Checks Expire?
Most personal checks expire within 180 days of the date on the check. Legally, any individual or organization issuing a check must honor that payment for at least six months.
In some cases, a check will say “void after 90 days,” but the financial institution backing that check may still accept it and process it for up to 180 days, giving the check-holder a 90-day grace period. Even so, it’s recommended that any holder of a personal check cash it promptly to avoid the complications of losing the check or having it age past its expiration date.
What Can I Do with a Personal Check?
There are generally two options for what to do with a personal check: deposit it or cash it. When you deposit a check, the money goes directly into your checking or savings account. You can also redeem a check for cash by taking it to your bank and having it cashed by a teller.
Using your own bank will save you from paying fees through other check-cashing services or at financial institutions where you don’t already have an open account. Some check-cashing services charge exorbitant fees in exchange for this service, but this should never be necessary if you’re a member of a local bank.
Most banks also offer mobile check deposits as an alternative to depositing checks in person. Check your bank’s mobile app to see if mobile check deposits are available for your account.
What if a Personal Check Has Already Expired?
If a personal check has already expired—and is past the grace period during which the bank will still honor the check—you will need to go back to the individual or organization that gave you the check and request that the check be reissued.
Keep in mind that this process is far from guaranteed, and it can be a headache for both you and the individual or organization that issued the check. In some cases, you may have received a personal check payment from a payor whom you are later unable to contact or who is unwilling to provide you with a new check. This could result in you becoming unable to recoup the payment that would have been honored before the check expired.
Even as personal checks become a less common form of payment, they remain a crucial financial tool that every consumer needs to understand how to use properly.
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