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Updated on Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Most checks clear pretty quickly, often the day after you deposit them. However, there are factors that may delay that timeline by a few days, like which day you make the deposit and the status of the check writer’s bank account.
Let’s take a look at how long it takes for a check to clear and the factors involved in that process. We’ll also dive into the possibility of extended holds on checks, and what that means.
- The timeline of a check clearing
- What are holds on checks?
- Why your check might take longer to clear
- How do you know if a check was cleared?
The timeline of a check clearing
In general, you can expect most checks to clear the day after you deposit them, as long as you make the deposit on a business day and during bank business hours. So if you make a deposit at 1:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, for example, the check should clear by Wednesday.
If you deposit a check on a Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday, the bank will treat the deposit as though it were made on a Monday, the first business day of the week; in that case, the check will usually clear on a Tuesday.
From the time you deposit a check to the time it clears, the check cycles through the bank payment process to certify the payment:
- Day 1: You accept a check and deposit it at your financial institution, either a bank or a credit union.
- Day 1-Day 2: Your financial institution contacts the check payer’s bank to request the amount of money specified on the check. This may happen on the same day you deposit the check, depending on what time you made the deposit.
- Day 1-Day 2: The payer’s bank takes the money from the payer’s account and schedules it for delivery to your bank.
- Day 2: The cash is deposited into your bank account.
Again, this example timeline assumes that you made the deposit on a business day. There are also a few situations that could result in a hold being placed on your check, which we discuss in more detail below.
What are holds on checks and how long can they last?
A check hold is the maximum number of days that a financial institution can hold your funds from a deposited check before clearing it. Per the Federal Reserve’s Regulation CC, banks can hold checks for the following amounts of time:
- Checks deposited in person must be made available on the first business day after the banking day of deposit. This includes cashier’s, certified or teller’s checks, and checks issued by the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank and state or local governments
- If the check is not deposited in person, the hold time extends to two business days. Additionally, checks deposited to a bank at an ATM not owned by that bank may take five business days.
Note that there is some leeway in these longer wait times, as the first $200 of a deposit that is not already subject to next-day availability must be made available by the first business day after the day of deposit, as set by the Expedited Funds Availability Act.
Regulation CC also allows institutions to delay the availability of certain funds for a “reasonable period of time,” generally defined as one additional business day, although your institution may take longer. This extension applies to deposits greater than $5,000, redeposited checks and instances when there is reasonable cause to doubt the collectibility of a check (like when a check is post-dated, dated more than six months earlier or the paying institution has said it will not honor the check).
Check with your financial institution to learn more about its check-clearing policies. You also may find this information on your bank’s website or in your bank account agreement.
Reasons your check might take longer to clear
Your check could take longer than one business day to clear for a number of reasons:
- Amount of the check: If the check is for a large amount, then a bank may hold the check for longer because of the greater risk the bank assumes by accepting it. A bank may hold a $10,000 check for a longer period than a $100 check, for example.
- Who wrote the check: Banks treat clearing dates differently, depending on who’s writing the check. For example, a U.S. Treasury check, whose funds are guaranteed by the federal government, will clear within one banking day. But a bank may view a personal check differently. Once a bank knows that the check is legitimate, it will usually release payment within five days.
- Payer’s bank account activity and status: Your bank may hold a check if there are insufficient funds in the payer’s account to cover the amount of the check or if the payer’s account is closed or blocked for some reason. In these instances, banks usually return the check to the paying institution, which could result in a longer delay in payment for you.
- Your own bank activity and status: In general, if you’re a new customer at a bank, you can expect to wait between seven and 10 days for a check to clear. But if you’re a long-time customer with no (or a minimal) record of overdrafts, then your bank likely would clear the check more quickly. Conversely, if you’re a customer with a low account balance or a history of overdrafts, don’t be surprised if your bank takes as long as 10 days to clear a check of $1,500 or more.
How to know if a check was cleared
When you deposit a check at a bank, either with a bank teller or at an ATM, you’ll get a receipt that states when the funds will be available. If the check has not cleared by the date specified, you may contact the bank to find out why.
If the check does not clear, that means it has bounced. A check can bounce even after funds are made available to you. It’s important to not spend those funds until you’re sure the check has cleared; otherwise, you could be on the hook for that spent money and any bounced check fees.