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How Long Does It Take for a Check to Clear?

How Long Does It Take for a Check to Clear?
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarcoUpdated June 6, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
When you deposit a check, you may wonder how long it takes for the funds to become available in your account. Legally, banks must make a minimum of the first $225 of a personal check deposit available to the depositor by the next business day. How long it takes for a check’s full amount to clear will depend on the check’s amount, what bank the check is from, whether or not your account is in good standing, and your specific bank or credit union's policies,Here’s a closer look at the processing times for different types of checks.

The Check-Clearing Process

The check-clearing process involves several steps that determine the processing time. The steps include:
  1. You endorse and deposit the check. To endorse a check, you simply sign it and add any required information (such as "for deposit only"). You then deposit the check into your bank account, either through visiting a branch or through a mobile check deposit feature offered by your bank's mobile app.
  2. The bank verifies the check The bank verifies the authenticity of the check and checks for proper endorsement. 
  3. The bank collects the funds Your bank (known as the collecting bank) sends the check to the bank that issued the check (known as the issuing bank) for payment.
  4. The issuing bank clears the check and sends the funds The issuing bank verifies the availability of funds in the account of the person or entity who wrote the check. Once verified, the funds are transferred from the issuer's account to your account.
Typically this process takes one to two days. However, certain types of checks, such as checks from federal and other government agencies, checks that are from the same bank, and certified or cashier’s checks, may be available right away or, if not, by the next business day. Other types of checks, such as checks for large amounts or from an overseas bank, can take longer than two days to clear.Recommended: How to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account 

Factors That Affect Check Processing Time

Several factors can influence the processing time of a check. These include:

Bank Policies

Different banks and credit unions may have different policies and procedures for check processing, which can affect the time it takes for a check to clear. It’s a good idea to review your financial institution’s deposit agreement, which will specify how long they typically hold checks for.

Check Amount

Larger check amounts (more than $5,525) may require additional scrutiny and verification, potentially lengthening the processing time. 

Account History

If you have a long-standing relationship with your bank and a history of responsible account management, they may expedite the check-clearing process. If your account is less than 30 days old or has repeated overdrafts in the past six months, on the other hand, the bank may take extra steps to verify the transaction.

Non-Local Checks

A check that comes from a smaller bank located in a different region of the U.S. or from a bank in a different country may take longer to clear due to the additional steps involved in processing an out-of-town check.Recommended: What Happens if You Cash a Bad Check?

Weekends and Holidays

Banks generally do not process checks on weekends or holidays, which may cause delays. For example, if you deposit a check at an ATM or through your mobile app on the weekend, it is considered to be deposited on Monday (if Monday is not a holiday). This means the first $225 of the check would not be available to use until Tuesday. If Monday is a holiday, that money may not be available until Wednesday.Recommended: Why Are Banks Closed on Sundays?

Check Endorsement

Endorsing the check incompletely or incorrectly can lead to delays in the clearing process. That’s why it’s key to properly endorse the check according to your bank's requirements.

Insufficient Funds

If the check issuer's account does not have sufficient funds to cover the check amount, it can cause delays or even result in the check bouncing.Recommended: What is a Live Check and How Does It Work? 

Mobile Check Deposits

Many banks offer mobile check deposit options, allowing you to deposit checks using your smartphone or tablet. The process simply entails taking photos of the front and back of the endorsed check using your bank’s mobile app. The processing time for mobile check deposits can vary, but it is generally similar to traditional check deposits. Banks may have specific guidelines for mobile deposits, including deposit limits and hold periods for funds availability. They also typically have cut-off times, such as 9 p.m., for a mobile deposit to clear by the next business day.It’s generally possible to cash the following types of checks using a mobile banking app:
  • Personal checks
  • Business checks 
  • Cashier’s checks
  • Government-issued checks (e.g., tax refunds)
Some banks and credit unions don’t allow you to use mobile check deposits for foreign checks, third-party checks, money orders, or traveler’s checks, so it’s a good idea to check your financial institution’s policies before using your app to deposit those types of checks.

What To Do if Your Check Is Delayed

If you deposit a check and the funds aren’t available within two days, it’s likely because the bank placed an extended hold on it. Typically, a bank will notify you of any holds on the deposit receipt (if you deposited the check with a teller) or the confirmation screen (if you deposit the check at an AM or through your mobile app). The bank may also notify you of a hold by email or regular mail.If a check is taking longer than usual to clear, it's a good idea to contact your bank to inquire about the status. They can provide information on any potential delays or issues with the check processing.

Making Sure To Avoid Bounced Checks or Overdraft Fees

To avoid bounced checks or overdraft fees, it's important to remember that you may not have immediate access to the full amount of a check right after you deposit it into your checking or savings accountUsually, a bank will provide the first $225 within one business day and the remaining amount of the deposit within two business days. But a bank can hold a check longer for a number of different reasons, such as if the amount is significantly large or you’ve never received a check from this person or entity before. If you try to use the funds immediately, the check may bounce and you may face bank fees. To avoid overdrafts, it’s a good idea to keep track of your “available balance” — this only includes the amount of cash you can currently access. Recommended: Typical Minimum Balance for Savings Accounts 

The Takeaway

Checks typically clear in one or two business days, and some checks can clear immediately (such as cashier’s checks or certified checks). How quickly you can access the funds from a check depends on a number of factors, including your bank’s policies, the day of the week you deposit a check, the amount of the check, the type of check, and what bank the check is from.Which account you choose to deposit the check into — such as your checking account vs. your savings account  — won’t have any impact on the processing time.If you’re in the market for a new savings account (and looking for a competitive interest rate), Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online banking marketplace, it’s fast and easy to compare high-yield savings accounts based on annual percentage yield (APY), fees, and balance minimums. Lantern can help you compare online savings accounts and find today’s best rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does it take 7 days for a check to clear?
Can a check clear in one day?
Do big checks take longer to clear?
Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

About the Author

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco is a personal finance writer and editor based in Southern California. While she spends the bulk of her time writing about complex financial issues, she also tackles a variety of subjects ranging from food to fashion to travel. Her work can be found across dozens of publications such as Credit Karma, LendingTree, Northwestern Mutual, The Everygirl, and Apartment Therapy.
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