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How long does it take a check to clear?

If you’re paying by check then it’s important to know how long it will be until the amount is cleared. It’s easy enough to bank a check, but it’s not as instant as a bank transfer or cash, so depending on your situation, it may not be the best way to make your payment. That said, it does remain one of the safest ways to send money in the post without needing anything more than the recipient’s name.

What is hold time?

Hold time is the period of time between when you deposit a check and when the funds cleared in your account. So, even if you were to deposit a check at 9am on a Friday, the actual funds may not appear in your account until the following Wednesday.

Why do banks use hold times for checks?

Checks have hold times because the banks first need to make sure that the amount written on the check is actually available in the sender’s funds. Because we rarely deposit checks on the same day, week, or maybe even month, that they are written, the financial situation of the sender may have changed considerably in the interim.

What is a bounced check?

When the amount promised on the check cannot be paid by the account it has been sent from due to lack of funds (or non sufficient funds NSF), the check will ‘bounce,’ i.e., cannot be processed.

Writing a check that will bounce, also known as a bad check, either because of NSF or the account simply not existing, is known as check kiting and is illegal. If you write a bad check unwittingly, you will likely still face fees from your bank. If you receive a bad check, don’t automatically assume illegal activity – anyone can accidentally write a bad check, having been caught out by an unforeseen expense that has resulted in NSF.

Check beforehand

A bank will describe its check clearing times in their policies. If you frequently get paid in checks and need them cleared quickly, it’s well worth shopping around for the best bank before you open any account.

So, how long does it take for a check to deposit?

For the majority of cases, your check will clear within two working days. In some cases, it may be sooner, for example:

  • Your account and that of the sender are at the same bank

  • You deposit the check in person in a bank branch

  • The value of the check is under $200

  • You are depositing a cashier’s check or certified check

It may take longer (up to five business days more) if:

  • Your account and the sender's account are at two different banks

  • Your check is worth over $200 (and may be cleared in two stages)

  • You deposit the check at a different bank’s ATM

How long does it take to deposit a check online?

The same hold times generally apply to checks deposited online via apps, though the ability to deposit 24/7 means some banks will clear it immediately or within one business day.

How long can a bank hold a check by law?

There is general guidance offered by the Federal Regulation CC that describes a “reasonable period of time” for banks holding checks, which is generally:

  • Two business days for checks from the same bank

  • Up to seven business days for other checks

In most cases, a regular check will clear in two working days, but banks reserve the right to hold them for longer if they deem it necessary.

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