I just found a paycheck from my old work that is dated August 5th, 2013. It's for over $300 and I'm wondering if it will still go through.

I'm worried that it will bounce or there will be some issue with depositing it. I'm also annoyed that the accountant didn't say anything for all that money that was missing... and the company was audited a few months later and no flags were raised.

Note: There is not a listed expiration on the paycheck, the company and I use the same bank (Wells Fargo), and we're both in the US.

It's Saturday March 1st 2014, over 6 months later, the bank is closed today, and I'm freaking out over potentially losing over 300 dollars.

My question is..

  • Should it go through?
  • If it doesn't, would it be wrong to ask my (old) work for the money?

EDIT: I decided to deposit it online (via mobile banking app) and I should get a response if it went through or not on Monday. It if doesn't go through then I'll take the next step and go to the bank to see what can be done.

UPDATE: It went through, no problems!

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    I'm commenting as I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this aspect - A cheque (check) is "A bill of exchange drawn on a bank" and is thus subject to the Bills of Exchange act of your jurisdiction (pretty much everywhere has such an act). I've quoted the NZ one ). "a right of recourse against the drawers or endorsers accrues to the holder", meaning that if you try bank it and it's dishonoured, you can go back to the company that issued it and get payment. This also backs up other laws - effectively you have evidence of a debt, if that check is not valid, you are still entitled to get paid. – davidgo Mar 3 '14 at 0:49
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    what is a "paycheck"? Is it some system that is used by companies that don't have a computer, or paper type machine? – Ian Mar 5 '14 at 15:46
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    @Ian I guess it's an older way of paying employees. At the time I was an intern and also a minor, so "direct deposit" into my bank account wasn't done. – Collinux Mar 5 '14 at 17:52
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    I started work over 20 years ago, and I never been paid other then by a direct payment into my bank account. My parents were paid by direct payment even in the days that my dad used punch cards at work. So I don't know why your employer is so far behind the times. – Ian Mar 5 '14 at 18:31
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    For me the financial question here is not nearly as interesting as the psychology. You were not freaking out for the entire six months that you had forgotten that you had an uncashed check. Had you never found the uncashed check, you would never have freaked out about it. So what was it about this situation that you suddenly freaked out about it? Suppose I offered you a deal, we'll flip a coin and heads, you get $300 and tails you get nothing; would you freak out then over the possibility of not getting $300? How is that situation different from yours? – Eric Lippert Mar 7 '15 at 0:00

The two banks involved may have different policies about honoring the check. It might not be written on the check.

Your bank may decide that the stale check has to be treated differently and will withhold funds for a longer period of time before giving you access to the money. They will give time for the first bank to refuse to honor the check. They may be concerned about insufficient funds, the age of the check, and the fact that the original account could have been closed.

If you are concerned about the age of the check. You could go to your bank in person, instead of using deposit by ATM, scanner, or smart phone. This allows you to talk to a knowledgeable person. And if they are going to treat the check differently or reject the check, they can let you know right away.

The audit may not have been concerned about the fact that the check hadn't been cashed because when they did the audit the check was still considered fresh. Some companies will contact you eventually to reissue the check so you they can get the liability off their books.

If the bank does refuse the check contact the company to see how you can get a replacement check issued. They may want proof the check can't be cashed so they don't have to worry about paying you twice.

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    Also, read the check itself. If it bears wording like "Valid for X days after issue", then you have X days to cash the check. Typically, payroll checks are valid for 90 or 180 days, with 180 days most likely being the most common, and if the check specifies a limitation like this, the bank will honor that limitation (meaning, they won't cash the check if you're beyond that time frame). – phyrfox Mar 1 '14 at 20:46
  • @phyrfox in the US, such endorsements have no legal consequences. They're essentially meaningless. – littleadv Mar 3 '14 at 1:34

The check is just barely over 6 months old. I suspect it will go through with no issues.

  • +1 agreed, generally paychecks will go through up to 12 months from the date of issue but even if we consider it a regular check you are within an acceptable time frame and should be fine. – GµårÐïåñ Mar 1 '14 at 17:24
  • @GµårÐïåñ Not always. I just cashed a check today that was valid for exactly 180 days. If the check specifies a time limit, the banks will honor that limit. – phyrfox Mar 1 '14 at 20:47
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    @phyrfox having worked for a few large national/international banks I can tell you that while technically that's the case, practically it is handled a bit different. However, you are right, the timeline on the check should be observed to ensure that there is no problem. However, paychecks are different, they are based on services rendered (you worked) so they are always honored generally because legally you are entitled to payment for your work and the timeline is more accounting ease than legal statute. – GµårÐïåñ Mar 2 '14 at 0:24
  • @GµårÐïåñ That's good to know. Then again, I did a brief search and the only general statement I could seem to find is "Banks generally don't honor checks more than 6 months old", but that answer did explicitly state that it is a matter of bank policy and not federal mandate. – phyrfox Mar 2 '14 at 2:41
  • @phyrfox correct ;) hence why I said practically. Legally and officially, yes, that's the position and they are supposed to enforce it. However, as you also discovered, each bank has their own level of latitude based on policy. For example, you are entitled to POST-DATE a check as long as the recipient agrees and the banks are technically supposed to prevent you from depositing it or cashing it earlier but MOST banks will go ahead and deposit or cash it for you if you bring it in earlier because to them the post date has no legal value. – GµårÐïåñ Mar 2 '14 at 2:51

This varies by jurisdiction somewhat but speaking as a Canadian, a small business owner, and accountant (unregistered but some courses and accounting for multiple businesses) this is the answer if you were in Canada.

In Canada the cheque cashing limit is 6 months. Therefor any bank will refuse to cash this cheque.

It would be totally morally and legally acceptable to ask for a replacement cheque from your employer. In Canada they would generally have no problem issuing a replacement; in other jurisdictions with differing time limits they might want to cancel the original cheque first.

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    I edited the original post. – Collinux Mar 1 '14 at 18:07

Look up escheatment.

Companies that have unclaimed property are supposed to send it to your State government. They should have a unclaimed property department of some sort.

In short, the company is going to have to pay either you, or your State (In Your Name) so they have to pay it either way.

It would be easier for them to just give you new check. Expect them to give you some grief in verifying it has not been cashed and such... but if you have the original, in hand, it shouldn't be too bad.

A 'Lost' check may be harder to get replaced. Not a lawyer, don't want to be.

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    Unclaimed property? The check is less than a year old, what are you talking about... – littleadv Mar 2 '14 at 4:04
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    @littleadv: He's saying the company has no financial incentive to try to block paying the OP, because they aren't allowed to keep the money in any case. – Ben Voigt Mar 3 '14 at 1:08

The typical rule in the US is 180 days, but some banks do it differently.

However, even if the check is dead, you should be able to call the payroll department for your old job. They can stop payment on the old check and issue you another one.


In the UK the official rule is that a cheque is valid for 3 years from the date it was wrote.

However after 3 months some banks can choose to turn them down.

I had a cheque once that was a year old which is when I looked it up to see whether it was stil valid, and I found the laws regarding it then. I was actually quite surprised it was 3 years!

Btw if it does bounce your quite entitled to ask your employer for a replacement cheque. They owe it you and it's just sat in their account assigned to you anyway.

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