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When I deposit a check in my bank, the bank credits the first $100 of the sum immediately and the rest of the sum is credited the next day, usually. I know that it's not a real clearing - i.e. if the check happens to be bad (never happened to me, but so I heard) it can come back a long time after and the funds will be taken back. My questions here are:

  1. What are the laws/regulations about the crediting of the checks? I.e. is there some rule that says to my bank "you must credit the account in X days" or they just decide however is convenient for them?
  2. Is there any official period after which the check becomes "final" - i.e. one can be sure that the transaction is never reverted because the check owner's bank has approved it? Is there any time limit by law/regulation that governs that?
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The Expedited Funds Availability Act is your source of information.

I'm generally reluctant to use Wikipedia as a resource, but they do have a handy table of holds and availability: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expedited_Funds_Availability_Act

If you want it from the horse's mouth, see section 603 of the Expedited Funds Availability Act: http://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/6500-3240.html

With regards your second question, it's final once cleared unless there is "fraud" involved. It looks - although I can't find an authoritative source - like banks can dishonour checks several years after deposit when fraud is involved. If I can find a source I'll edit this post.

  • Thanks! Is there some law or regulation however how soon is should be "cleared"? Bank is not giving any indication of check "clearing" (crediting the funds is not one, for instance), as far as I know. – StasM Dec 28 '10 at 21:52
  • Hey StasM - If I understand your follow-up correctly (how soon is should be "cleared"?), the local availability column in the Wikipedia table should be the timeframe you're after. If I'm misunderstanding, please let me know. – gef05 Dec 28 '10 at 23:02
  • I understood that the "local availability" is when the account is credited - which doesn't mean the source bank actually cleared and OKed the check, which may happen later. Am I wrong and the source bank actually clears the check in 1 business day? – StasM Dec 29 '10 at 0:52
  • Gotcha. My understanding is that local availability is the statutory requirement for clearance timeframes. The Check21 laws have had a lot to do with this, having greatly reduced turnaround times - by using images and not physical checks clearances can occur in less than a business day (even in minutes) if the stars align. But yes - I stand to be corrected - but that column should show actual clearance. – gef05 Dec 29 '10 at 1:19
  • BTW, if you're really interested, see the Check21 site - ffiec.gov/exam/check21/resources.htm It has a lot of info about the lifecycle of a check. – gef05 Dec 29 '10 at 1:26
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The direct answer to the question "Is there some law or regulation however how soon is should be 'cleared'?" is:

Availability of Funds and Collection of Checks is subject to Regulation CC which a mandate passed by congress and enforced by the Federal Reserve Bank. The time periods mandated under such regulation are "maximum allowable periods" that a process may take. Your bank may opt to shorten those periods either as a matter of general policy or on a case by case basis.

Please note that "Check 21" is only part of what is described (and linked) above as as Reg-CC, it was added thereupon as an efficiency enhancement by way of reducing physical paperwork passing through the system which in one way, is done by using substitute electronically issued checks. As a result, all checks can now be considered local checks with regards to associated bank holding periods.

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There may be cases when your financial institution may delay funds availability due to large check amount; however, this information should be disclosed in your deposit terms & conditions that state how a check is cleared.

All this is governed by Reg CC.

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