Someone has sent me a check for $250 in payment for property damage they caused in a car accident. It would have been better if I had gotten a cashier's check or official check, but I'll have to make do with what I've got.

Since I've spoken directly with the person, and since I have their address and phone number, I'm fairly sure this is a good check. But I really can't be 100% sure.

So once I deposit it, when can I consider the check to be "cleared"? That is, at what point can I be sure that the $250 is irrevocably mine?

There are other questions that have dealt with something similar (like the advance-fee fraud that probably underpins this question) but since the focus of the question was different, there wasn't a clear answer on the time for clearing a check.

Thanks to anyone who knows.

  • 1
    I think this would be an appropriate question to ask the bank at which you cash the check. Once you get their spiel then add it as an answer to your own question :)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Apr 7, 2016 at 19:47

2 Answers 2


I tried to find that out once, and learned 'theoretically never'.

The reason is that the guy who gave you the check (name him guy-1) might have deposited a check from guy-2 a day before, and without that money, his check will bounce. Now guy-2 might have deposited a check from guy-3 a day before, and without that money, his check will bounce. Repeat for a while, and then bounce the check from guy-99, and it takes the banks months to unravel it. Yes, improbable. But.

A friend working in a bank explained me that, he had seen chains of three and four unravel, which took 20+ days.

  • But what about cheques that are deposited through ACH? Those definitely clear and, to my knowledge, the funds cannot be claimed back from the sending bank once they're cleared - or does the entire cheque system in the US actually allow (and require) bounces to happen after the initial transaction has cleared?
    – Dai
    Jun 20, 2017 at 3:34
  • 1
    According to my understanding, the latter. Even if the ACH is verified, the sender could be retroactively out of money, which bounces the transfer.
    – Aganju
    Jun 20, 2017 at 10:21

Years ago, I had a tenant who bounced a check now and then. I started going to the bank where his account was. With my ID they were agreeable to cashing the check against his account. The teller first checked his balance and only cashed when there were enough funds. One time he was $10 short. I wrote a deposit slip and added the $10 it took to clear the check. As they say, your mileage may vary, I hear some banks won't even break a large bill for a non customer.

  • 1
    That's helpful to know. Unfortunately it's a local bank a couple of hours away, but perhaps I could call and ask what their policy is. Apr 6, 2016 at 21:41
  • I did this with my paychecks when I was doing work for a financially precarious start-up...
    – quid
    Apr 7, 2016 at 0:05
  • 4
    This is a useful anecdote, but is there any real answer? I've been wondering about this question myself with regard to some of the scams that have been asked about in other questions. On some level, if there is no actual standard for when you can be sure the check has cleared, how can you tell if the money is actually yours or still the other person's?
    – BrenBarn
    Apr 7, 2016 at 6:45
  • From Aganju, the answer appears to be 'never'. Above, I offer what I think is a way around this issue. At the moment I go to his bank, the money is there or it isn't. They won't cash the check if it's not. Apr 7, 2016 at 9:45
  • I like that idea and will do it next time. Unfortunately, if his bank is from Cornfield, Iowa and I don't live there, it is not an option.
    – Aganju
    Apr 7, 2016 at 11:28

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