What is the Oldest Check You Can Cash?

Many people are uncertain about how long a check remains valid when it comes to cashing checks. Understanding the validity period of a check is crucial to avoid the hassle of dealing with expired financial instruments. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on the oldest checks you can cash, including the types of checks, their validity periods, and best practices for handling old checks.

Understanding Check Validity Periods

Different types of checks have different validity periods. Knowing these periods is essential to ensure you can successfully cash your check. Here are the main categories:

  1. Personal Checks:
    • Validity Period: Generally, personal checks are valid for six months (180 days) from the date of issue.
    • Bank Policies: Some banks may accept personal checks beyond six months but might contact the issuer for verification.
  2. Business Checks:
    • Validity Period: Similar to personal checks, business checks are typically valid for six months.
    • Issuer’s Instructions: Always check if the business has specific instructions or restrictions printed on the check.
  3. Government Checks:
    • Federal Checks: These include tax refund checks, Social Security checks, and other federal payments. They are usually valid for one year from the issue date.
    • State Checks: These vary by state, but many have a one-year validity period.
  4. Certified Checks and Cashier’s Checks:
    • Validity Period: These checks usually do not have an expiration date. However, banks might still recommend cashing them within six months to avoid complications.
    • Bank Policy: Check with the issuing bank for any specific policies regarding old certified or cashier’s checks.
  5. Traveler’s Checks:
    • Validity Period: Traveler’s checks typically do not expire. They remain valid until cashed.

Factors Influencing the Cashability of Old Checks

  1. Bank Policies: Different banks have varying policies regarding old checks. It’s advisable to contact the bank where the check is to be cashed for their specific rules.
  2. State Laws: Some states have laws affecting the cashing of old checks, especially government-issued ones. Check your state’s regulations.
  3. Issuer’s Instructions: Always read any instructions or notes on the check itself. Some issuers might specify a different validity period.

Best Practices for Handling Old Checks

  1. Cash or Deposit Promptly: Always try to cash or deposit checks as soon as possible. This helps avoid complications with expired checks.
  2. Contact the Issuer: If you have an old check, contacting the issuer can help verify its validity and get it reissued if necessary.
  3. Check for Stale Date: Look for any “void after” date on the check. Some checks have explicit instructions on when they become void.
  4. Visit the Bank: For old checks, visiting the bank in person can be more effective than trying to deposit them online or via an ATM.

What to Do with an Expired Check

If you find yourself with an expired check:

  1. Request a Reissue: Contact the issuer and request a reissued check.
  2. Legal Recourse: In some cases, especially with large amounts, you may have legal options to pursue the payment.
  3. Record Keeping: Maintain records of all communications and attempts to cash or deposit the check.


While the standard validity period for most checks is six months, the oldest check you can cash depends on several factors, including the type of check, bank policies, state laws, and issuer instructions. To avoid issues with old checks, it’s best to cash or deposit them promptly and stay informed about specific policies and procedures. If you encounter an expired check, contacting the issuer for a reissue is often the best solution.

By understanding these guidelines, you can ensure you handle checks efficiently and avoid the pitfalls of trying to cash outdated financial instruments.