How Long Does It Take a Check to Clear? | Banking Advice News2america

When you’re waiting for a deposited check to clear, it can feel like a breeze or a burden. Generally, it takes two to five business days to get all the funds from a check into your account. However, some factors might hold up the check-clearing process, like the status of your account or the place where you deposited the check. Find out exactly how long it takes a check to clear.

What Does ‘Clear a Check’ Mean?

“Clear a check” refers to the transfer of money from one account to another account to cover a deposited check. The check is cleared to make sure there’s enough money available so the check recipient can spend or withdraw the cash.

The Federal Reserve System and a nonprofit U.S. payment network called The Clearing House clear many of the checks written in the U.S. In 2022, the Federal Reserve collected $35.8 billion in commercial checks on a daily basis and $900 million in government checks. Each day, The Clearing House clears more than $2 trillion in payments, including checks.

The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, which took effect in 2004, enables banks to cut down on the handling of paper checks and process more checks electronically. Before the law was passed, each check written in the U.S. had to be sent back to the financial institution that issued it in order to finalize the transaction. Today, banks create and send digital images of checks to be processed.

Which Checks Clear Quickly?

Generally, all of the funds from a check are available the next business day when it is a:

  • Certified check
  • Cashier’s check
  • Check from a federal agency or another government agency
  • Check from an account at the same financial institution where it’s being deposited

What Might Delay the Check-Clearing Process?

A number of variables determine how long it takes a check to clear.

Steve Cree, vice president of the Electronic Check Clearing House Organization, which aims to improve the efficiency of payments by check and is part of The Clearing House, explains that a check can clear in as little as one business day, but the process regularly takes longer.

For instance, Cree says, checks are cleared only on business days. This means weekends and federal holidays typically aren’t considered business days for banking purposes.

It also might take longer for a check to clear depending when a financial institution starts and ends its business day, says Cree. For example, Bank of America says funds from a mobile check deposit made on a business day generally are available the next business day if the deposit is done before 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., depending on your time zone.

Federal holidays, weekends and cutoff times might prolong the clearing of a check. For example, when a customer makes a mobile check deposit at 10 p.m. on Thursday, one hour after the bank’s cutoff time, Friday is a federal holiday and Saturday and Sunday are, of course, weekend days, then Cree says that deposit would not be considered deposited.

“The clock under the federal regulations would not start until Monday,” he says. “In this case, although the check was deposited on the calendar day of Thursday, Tuesday of the following week would be considered the first business day.”

Cree says that if this hypothetical check is a personal check, the money in most cases wouldn’t be available until Wednesday – six days after the deposit was made.

Federal regulations dictate how soon your financial institution must make funds available from a check deposit. In general, the institution is supposed to make the first $225 of a check deposit available to the check recipient at the beginning of the first business day following the business day that the deposit was made. Any amount beyond $225 should be available on the second business day.

What Are Some Exceptions to the Time It Takes a Check to Clear?

While a check deposit might clear pretty quickly, some circumstances may delay the availability of funds. These include:

  • You opened your account within the past 30 days.
  • Your account has been overdrawn numerous times in the past six months.
  • You deposited more than $5,525 in checks within a single day.
  • You deposited the check at an ATM that’s not owned by your bank or credit union.
  • You redeposited a check that was returned as unpaid.
  • Your bank or credit union suspects the deposited check won’t be covered.
  • You deposited a check from a foreign financial institution.
  • You deposited a personal check written more than six months ago.

Certain check deposits made in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands also might face delays.

How Can You Help Make a Check Clear Faster?

It’s understandable that when you deposit a check, you want to be able to withdraw or spend that money as soon as possible. To speed up the check-clearing process:

  • Deposit the check at a bank or credit union branch
  • Deposit the check at a bank- or credit union-owned ATM
  • Deposit the check through your bank or credit union’s mobile app
  • Do not exceed the daily limit for deposits
  • Ask the sender to pay via electronic check, or e-check

Irana Wasti, chief product officer at BILL, a payment processing company, says electronic payment methods generally are more efficient than paper checks. These methods include e-checks and ACH transactions. Among the types of electronic ACH payments are direct-deposited paychecks, Social Security checks and tax refunds.

“Checks have a long history in financial transactions, but the reality is that paper checks are largely inefficient,” Wasti says. “Checks require extra work, from approvals to mailing, and can create an overwhelming stack of unnecessary paper. … Traditional paper checks also include the sender’s banking information, creating a security risk if the checks are lost or stolen.”

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