In the US, some banks generously offer a "bill pay" service, which is an online page that allows you to mail a (paper) check to a US address. Most banks don't change for this service, which "saves you a stamp".

However, in contrast to hand-written checks, the bill-pay checks get funded immediately when they are sent, not when they are cashed. Occasionally, a check might never get cashed, because it gets lost in the mail or the recipient fails to cash it for whatever reason. When you send a hand-written check, it will expire and you end up not paying. What happens when the pre-funded bill-pay check gets lost? Does the bank refund the money that was never claimed at some point, or does it get to keep it?

Edit: both Chase and Bank of America withdraw the money from my checking account the moment I hit the "send check" button. I never get to see if/when the check has arrived or has actually been cashed by the recipient. I am asking this question because I sent a check two weeks ago, and the money has been withdrawn from my account. However the recipient today told me they have not received anything. So I am wondering if the bank would ever let me know if the check got lost.

  • 7
    My bank does not pre-withdraw this type of check. It's withdrawn when the paper check clears. Jun 19, 2013 at 4:45
  • Quite a long time ago, a manual payee made the mistake of ripping up the cheque thinking it was spam. They did look like junk mail to the unwary. I called the bank and they said they could stop payment and reissue.
    – Paul
    Jun 19, 2013 at 5:17
  • 1
    they withdraw the money first to make sure the check doesn't bounce. Jun 19, 2013 at 12:45
  • 1
    @warren - "Today, RBS Citizens Financial Group, Inc. has approximately 1,300 branches, more than 3,500 ATMs and nearly 19,000 colleagues in 12 states covering New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest." Right you are sir. Jun 19, 2013 at 20:27
  • 1
    I have Bank of America, and I use the BillPay feature. I once sent a BillPay paper check to a company that never cashed it. It was apparently a corporate check that had a 90-day expiration date. The check amount was refunded to my bank account after it expired.
    – tony19
    Nov 3, 2013 at 5:21

7 Answers 7


Firstly, it isn't so generous. It is a win-win, but the bank doesn't have to mail me a free box of checks with my new account, or offer free printing to compete for my business. They already have the infrastructure to send out checks, so the actual cost for my bank to mail a check on my behalf is pretty minimal. It might even save them some cost and reduce exposure. All the better if they don't actually mail a check at all.

Per my bank

Individuals and most companies you pay using Send Money will be mailed a paper check. Your check is guaranteed to arrive by the delivery date you choose when you create the payment.


A select number of companies–very large corporations such as telecoms, utilities, and cable companies–are part of our electronic biller network and will be paid electronically. These payments arrive within two business days...

So the answer to your question depend on what kind of bill pay you used. If it was an electronic payment, there isn't a realistic possibility the money isn't cashed.

If your bank did mail a paper check, the same rules would apply as if you did it yourself. (I suppose it would be up to the bank. When I checked with my bank's support this was their answer.)

Therefore per this answer: Do personal checks expire? [US]

It is really up to your bank whether or not they allow the check to be cashed at a later date. If you feel the check isn't cashed quickly enough, you would have to stop payment and contact whoever you were trying to pay and perhaps start again. (Or ask them to hustle and cash the check before you stop it.)

Finally, I would bet a dime that your bank doesn't "pre-fund" your checks. They are just putting a hold on the equivalent money in your account so you don't overdraw. That is the real favor they do for you. If you stopped the check, your money would be unfrozen and available.


Please read the comment about me losing a dime; seems credible.

  • 5
    At my bank, you'd lose your dime. When sending a paper check via bill pay, they withdraw the money from my account immediately (it appears as a debit transaction on my statement) and move it to a temporary account somewhere. The recipient gets a check drawn on the temporary account, not on mine (it doesn't have my account number on it but a different one). If the check is not cashed in 90 days, they transfer the money from the temporary account back into mine. Oct 22, 2014 at 18:51
  • 1
    @NateEldredge - what is the difference between moving the money out of the account and freezing it/hiding it? Is there some sort of fraud prevention or security reason?
    – MrChrister
    Oct 22, 2014 at 19:29
  • 1
    It's mostly just an accounting issue. In my experience, funds that are held (such as from depositing a check whose clearance is questionable) are still included in your overall account balance, but not included in a separate "available balance" until the hold is released. So if the funds were still in my account but held, I'd expect my available balance to drop, but my overall balance to remain the same until the check was paid. That's not what happens - the overall balance drops immediately. Oct 22, 2014 at 20:49
  • 2
    There is perhaps a slight security advantage in that the recipient does not get to see my actual account number on the check they receive, and they cannot alter the check to a be paid a larger amount than intended (since the temporary account contains only the exact amount of the check). But mostly it's just internal accounting. (Incidentally, another bank I have used sends bill pay checks as ordinary checks drawn on my account, and places no hold of any kind - I could empty my account and the check would bounce.) Oct 22, 2014 at 20:51
  • 2
    If you have an interest bearing account, this does have some impact (as you presumably don't get interest on the withdrawn money, but would on money on 'hold').
    – Joe
    Jan 15, 2015 at 17:53

This is based on my experience with Chase and may not be applicable to other banks. As you mentioned Chase as one of the banks you do business with hopefully this will be helpful to you.

The money does come out of your account immediately. If the check isn't cashed in a certain amount of time, the check expires and you get the money credited back to your account.

Once you have made a bill payment online you can check on the status of your check by looking at your payment activity, finding the payment in question, and following the "proof of payment" link. There is will provide you with information on your payment which you can submit to your payee to prove when you submitted the payment, and which they can use to verify with the bank that you really did send the payment as you claimed. Once the check is cashed, this page will also contain images of the front and back of the cashed check, so you can prove that the recipient really did cash it. You can see from this info that the check is being funded from a different account number than your own, which is good for security purposes since (per Knuth, 2008) giving someone else your bank routing number and account number as found on your personal checks basically provides them with all they need to (fraudulently, of course) clean out your account.


We have a local bank that changed to a bill pay service. The money is held as "processing" when the check is supposed to be cut and shows as cleared on the date the check is supposed to be received. Because our business checking is with the same bank, we discovered recently that the although the check shows cleared from our account, the recipient has not received the paper check yet - and may not for 2-3 days. We discovered this because the payroll checks we write this way (to ourselves) never arrive on the due date but clear the business account. It appears to be a new way for banks to ride the "float" and draw interest on the money. It happens with every check processed through the bill pay system and not with electronic transfers.


I cannot answer the original question, but since there is a good deal of discussion about whether it's credible at all, here's an answer that I got from Bank of America. Note the fine difference between "your account" and "our account", which does not seem to be a typo:

The payment method is determined automatically by our system. One of the main factors is the method by which pay to recipients prefer to receive payments. If a payment can be issued electronically, we attempt to do so because it is the most efficient method.

Payment methods include:

*Electronic: Payment is sent electronically prior to the "Deliver By" date. The funds for the payment are deducted from your account on the "Deliver By" date.

*Corporate Check: This is a check drawn on our account and is mailed to the pay to recipient a few days before the "Deliver By" date. The funds to cover the payment are deducted from your account on the "Deliver By" date.

*Laser Draft Check: This is a check drawn on your account and mailed to the pay to recipient a few days before the "Deliver By" date. The funds for the payment are deducted from your account when the pay to recipient cashes the check, just as if you wrote the check yourself.

To determine how your payment was sent, click the "Payments" button in your Bill Pay service. Select the "view payment" link next to the payment. Payment information is then displayed. "Transmitted electronically" means the payment was sent electronically. "Payment transaction number" means the payment was sent via a check drawn from our account. "Check number" means the payment was sent as a laser draft check.

Each payment request is evaluated individually and may change each time a payment processes. A payment may switch from one payment method to another for a number of reasons. The merchant may have temporarily switched the payment method to paper, while they update processing information. Recent changes or re-issuance of your payee account number could alter the payment method.

In my case, the web site reads a little different:

Payment check # 12345678 (8 digits) was sent to Company on 10/27/2015 and delivered on 10/30/2015. Funds were withdrawn from your (named) account on 10/30/2015.

for one due on 10/30/2015; this must be the "corporate check". And for another, earlier one, due on 10/01/2015, this must be the laser draft check:

Check # 1234 (4 digits) from your (named) account was mailed to Company on 09/28/2015. Funds for this payment are withdrawn from your account when the Pay To account cashes the check.

Both payments were made based on the same recurring bill pay payment that I set up manually (knowing little more of the company than its address).

  • Good info. I would like to be able to generate a laser check (4 digit check number) for two reasons: 1) BOA provides images of cancelled personal checks but NOT bill pay checks. This is invaluable for proof of payment disputes. 2) if a personal check is lost - or for any reason not deposited- the money stays in my account. But alas. I don’t know of a way to request the laser check payment method with Bill Pay.
    – jbbenni
    Nov 2, 2023 at 22:08

My bank's bill payment system saves nothing more than writer's cramp and stamps. When a paper check is required they mail it, but it's drawn on my account just as if I'd written it out by hand and mailed it myself. There is no "temporary account", and at the time of month when I take care of the bills, my balance oscillates up and down depending on what's cleared and what hasn't. I'm going back to mailing checks because it saves a day or two of time between payment initiation and check clearing, which sucks.

And electronic payments aren't much better. It recently took about five days for a payment to my car insurance company to be processed--and the amount is finalized and subtracted in the bank's website only after clearance. I can't know what I have without balancing the account every. frigging. time.

IIRC bill payment systems were a lot more seamless and user friendly when they first became widespread.


This just happened to me with a Wells Fargo Bill Pay check. WF put a stop payment on the check. The money was taken out of my account immediately yet it is going to take 3-5 days to reappear in the account. I question these banking practices. Georgia Bank and Trust Company of GA does not do this. The Bill Pay check is processed just like a hand written check; when the check clears the bank your account is debited. If it is an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) then the money does come out of your account immediately, of course. These are acceptable banking practices to me. I will be closing the Wells Fargo account.


I just had this happen to me with Chase and speaking with my executive support contact, they will not return the funds unless you request them back. Which I find appalling and just one more reason that I don't like working with Chase!

  • How could they know they should return the funds unless you tell them? Jan 8, 2016 at 20:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .