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How long do checks take to clear?

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Writing a Cheque

Even though many of us have gone digital with our finances, there are still times when a check is required. Whether you’re dealing with an older relative who hasn’t quite gotten into online banking or need to pay someone you’d usually pay in cash, paper checks are still likely to be part of our lives for a while yet.

Not used to dealing with checks and how they work? We’ve pulled together this simple guide to how long it takes a check to clear to help you manage them, whether you’re writing or cashing one.

Clear checks – general rules

How long it takes a check to clear depends on where it’s come from and where you’re cashing it. As a general rule, two days is fairly average but there are lots of factors that could make it take longer.

  • Banks – Depending on the amount, if you deposit your check into your bank it could appear in your account within hours or, for a large amount, take up to ten days to clear.
  • Credit unions – Credit unions tend to follow the same time frames as banks, though some do offer same-day clearing in some circumstances.
  • Third-party services – Third parties like Money Services found within the Kroger Family of Stores use similar guidance to banks and credit unions, so how long it takes a check to clear will depend on who it’s from and how much it’s for.

What can prevent a check being cleared?

If your check’s taking a while to clear, there are a few things that could be holding things up, and often it’s because the cashier has classified your check as ‘risky’.

First off, if the check is for a large amount, the cashier might need to carry out some additional steps to ensure the payment’s legit. They might also take a little longer if the checking account’s less than 30 days old, or if there have been problems with your overdraft, or the checking account in the past.

The other reason is that there wasn’t enough money in checking account and the check has bounced. Your bank won’t necessarily tell you if that’s happened if the check is for less than $2,500, so make sure you keep checking. You can read our guide to see why checks bounce here.

Big vs small checks

How quickly a check clears will depend on how much it’s for. If you pay in a check for $500, part of the funds might be made available right away, with the rest clearing the next day or so.

But anything over $2,500 is considered as a ‘big check’ and will require additional checks (some banks even do this for checks over $1,500), which means the funds might not appear for ten working days. If you’ve got a good relationship with the bank, a healthy balance and haven’t gone into overdraft too often, you might get your money much sooner.

Keep your deposit receipt

As with all financial transactions, it’s important to keep a hold of your receipt so you can follow up on any issues. Your bank will give you this when you hand your check over to a cashier or if you make the deposit at an ATM or drive-thru, and it might even tell you when your money will be available.

If your check hasn’t appeared in your account, having your receipt will make it easier for your bank to trace your transaction and update you on what the delay might be.

How do I know if my check has cleared?

The term ‘cleared’ can be a little confusing. The bank or credit union that issued the check might say your check has cleared and the cashier might tell you it has, but there’s still a small risk if you spend the money right away. This is because bank policies and federal laws allow you to spend the money before a check clears.

Normally a portion of your deposit will be available quickly – usually the first $200 – and the rest will be released after a few business days. But that may mean it looks like you have access to the funds before it’s actually available. The best way to reduce the risk is to wait a few days, or more if you can, to give a check time to register.

When will my funds become available?

Just because the funds have left the account of the person who wrote the check, that doesn’t mean they’ll be available to you right away. A non-risky check will usually be available within one to two working days, but larger checks, or checks written by someone who’s had issues with their credit, could be held for up to 30 days.

However, if there are no concerns and the check is for a small amount, the funds might be cleared quickly. You’ll still have a short wait, but in some cases, you might have your money within 24 hours.

Writing and receiving checks is generally problem-free, but it’s important to keep the potential issues in mind when you’re using them. Always make sure you factor delays into accessing your cash, keep your receipts and try to avoid writing or receiving checks for large amounts of money if you need the payment to go through quickly.

Looking to cash a check with more support? Find your local Money Services store and get your money moving today.

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