How long does it take to clear a check?
Most types of checks clear within two business days, although some banks and credit unions are faster (see a list of banks that clear checks quickly). In general, the first $200 of a check is available the business day after the check is received by the bank. The time it takes to cash a check can depend on the amount of the check, whether your account is current, and how long you’ve been a customer at a bank.
A workday is a day of the week that isn’t a holiday, so here’s an example of the default two days:
Day of deposit: You deposit a $1,000 check.
First business day: $200 of the check is available.
Second business day: The rest of the check ($800) is available.
Cashier’s checks and government checks, along with checks drawn on the same financial institution that holds your account, are generally cleared faster, in one business day.
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Why do processing delays occur?
In some cases, checks can be held for up to seven business days. (For example, if you deposited on a Monday, the check may take until Wednesday of the following week.) Delays generally occur because:
- You deposit a large amount in checks, usually over $5,000, in one day.
- The account has been open for less than 30 days.
- The account has repeatedly been overdrawn in the past six months.
- The bank believes that the check will not be paid for whatever reason.
Your bank or credit union should inform you if your check will be held for an extended period of time. If you are not sure when the money will be available, check the deposit slip or ask the cashier. Even with a deduction, the first $200 of a check is generally cleared from your account after one business day, so you can have at least some of your money sooner.
For any deposit, the clock starts on the business day on which a check is received, before the institution’s closing time. For check deposits outside ATMs, banks cannot have a closing time before 2pm, but otherwise it varies by bank.
Banks and credit unions that clear checks fast
Some banks and credit unions make money available faster than the standard two days. These are some of the larger institutions with same-day or next-business-day personal check availability. This assumes that the checks are not held for any of the above reasons.
So what’s the holdup?
To process a check, your bank or credit union must withdraw the money from the payer’s checking account. If the account is with another financial institution, the check is usually sent to a clearinghouse that handles the request.
The process can take several days. If the check is not considered “risky”, it is less than $5,525, your bank account has been open for more than 30 days, there is no history of multiple overdrafts, and there is no reason to believe that the check is fraudulent your institution may decide to credit your account before the check is technically approved.
If you later learn that the check cannot be cashed, for example because the payer’s account is overdrawn, your institution can withdraw the money from your account. Be sure to read your deposit agreement and disclosure forms for more information about your institution’s policies.
Alternatives to checks
The time it takes to clear a check depends on the check itself and the status of the bank account. But it’s usually a matter of days, not minutes.
Instant deposits, bank transfers and P2P transfers are generally faster. Consider asking the payer to make a direct deposit or wire transfer if you’re expecting a large amount. You can also ask the payer to send you money using a peer-to-peer mobile payment app. Transactions are cheap and fast, and unlike checks, you don’t need a pen or paper.