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I was recently witness to a salesman claiming that a customer could post-date a check to guarantee their check would not be cashed before the item they just ordered was received.

I was under the impression that this is false, and that writing post-dated checks can actually be considered illegal under some of the worthless-check laws here in the United States.

But it was suggested that, perhaps, having such a check would make it illegal for the business to cash the check… but I believe that would make the check writer liable, and not the business that cashed it.

So does a post-dated check have any valid use in a business or personal transaction? Does it provide any financial or legal protections under US law or banking regulations?

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In the United States, post-dating a check, on its own, has no valid use. It can be cashed at any time at the discretion of the bank. You would need to send a notice of postdating to your bank describing the check. This doesn't prevent the recipient of cashing the check, but it does prevent your bank from charging your account until the date you specify

NOTE: This may be considered a form of stop payment, and you may be subject to the fees noted by your institution.

Source: [Uniform Commercial Code - Article 4A § 4-401]

(c) A bank may charge against the account of a customer a check that is otherwise properly payable from the account, even though payment was made before the date of the check, unless the customer has given notice to the bank of the postdating describing the check with reasonable certainty.

[...]

If a bank charges against the account of a customer a check before the date stated in the notice of postdating, the bank is liable for damages for the loss resulting from its act. The loss may include damages for dishonor of subsequent items under Section 4-402.

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So does a post-dated check have any valid use in a business or personal transaction? Does it provide any financial or legal protections at all?

Yes, most definitely. You're writing a future date on the check, not past, to ensure that the check will not be deposited before that day.

Keep in mind that this may change from place to place, since not every country has the same rules. In the US, for example, such trick would not work since the check may be presented any time and is not a limited obligation. However, in some other countries banks will not pay a check presented before the date written on it.

While in the US the date on the check is the date on which it was (supposedly) written and as such is meaningless for obligation purposes, in many other countries the date on the check is the date on which the payment to be made, thus constitutes the start of the commitment and payment will not be made before that date.

For example, in Canada:

If you write a post-dated cheque, under the clearing rules of the Canadian Payments Association (CPA), your cheque should not be cashed before the date that is written on it.

If the post-dated cheque is cashed early, you can ask your financial institution to put the money back into your account up to the day before the cheque should have been cashed.

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