When writing out paper checks, there are several key pieces of information to include. Along with the payee’s name and amount, you’ll also need to add the date the check was written. If you’d like the person receiving the check to wait until a certain date to cash or deposit it, you could postdate it. Writing a postdated check could give you time to make a deposit in order to cover the amount, but it could lead to headaches if it’s cashed early.
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What Does It Mean When a Check Is Postdated?
A postdated check is a check that’s written with a future date. For example, say you write out a check to pay your rent on the 28th of the month. However, your property owner gives you up to the first five days of the month to pay. You could write the check out and date it for the 3rd of the month instead of the 28th. That makes it a postdated check.
So why would someone postdate a check? You might write a postdated check if you:
- Want to delay when the check is cashed or deposited
- Need time to ensure you have sufficient funds to cover the check
- Are paying bills early but don’t want the money to be drafted from your account until the due date
You can make any personal check that you’re writing a postdated check simply by writing a future date in the date section. How far out you push the date can depend on what the check is for and your reasons for postdating it.
Can You Legally Postdate a Check?
It’s not illegal to write a postdated check to someone, whether it’s to repay personal debt or pay a bill. Simply changing the date on the check does not change its status as a form of legal tender.
You could, however, get into trouble with the bank if you’re writing postdated checks that you know you can’t cover. Should a postdated check bounce, the bank can charge you and the person or entity that you wrote the check to non-sufficient funds fees and overdraft fees. Continuously bouncing checks could result in the bank closing your account and reporting you to ChexSystems.
In a worst-case scenario, writing postdated checks could lead to a criminal charge if you’re suspected of check fraud. Now, does that mean you shouldn’t write postdated checks at all? Not necessarily, if you’re writing postdated checks in good faith.
When Can You Cash a Postdated Check?
Technically, you can deposit or cash a postdated check as soon as you receive it. That’s because postdating a check does not obligate the person who receives it or the bank to honor the date on the check. Once the check is signed and dated, it’s considered legal tender.
Banks can establish different policies for dealing with postdated checks. For instance, your bank might honor the date that’s written on the check and hold any postdated checks for deposit until that date arrives. Or you may be able to request that a postdated check you’ve written be held over until the date noted on the check.
Should You Wait to Deposit a Postdated Check?
Whether you should hold on to a postdated check or cash it right away can largely depend on the person who wrote the check.
If you know that they’re responsible with money and the check should be good, regardless of when you cash it, then you may choose to go ahead and deposit it right away. On the other hand, if you know or suspect that they’re postdating the check because they’re short on funds you might want to wait until the date on the check to cash it or deposit it.
Keep in mind that waiting to cash a postdated check still won’t guarantee that they’ll have the money to cover it. Say your roommate writes you a postdated check for their half of the rent because they’re expecting to get paid by a certain date. But there’s a delay in processing payroll on their employer’s end.
In that case, you could technically deposit the check on the date listed on the check. You could, however, end up with overdraft or returned item fees if the check bounces because their paycheck wasn’t deposited on time.
Alternatives to Writing a Postdated Check
Writing a postdated check could give you more time to make a deposit to your bank account to cover the check. But again, there’s no rule that says the person receiving the check has to wait to cash it or deposit it in their account. If you need more time to pay, there are a few things you can try in place of a postdated check.
First, you could ask the person or entity that you owe money to for more time to pay. If you’ve always paid bills on time before but you’re experiencing temporary financial hardship, your biller might be willing to cut you some slack and let you pay a little later. They may also be willing to waive any associated past due payment fees.
You could also consider scheduling a future payment through your bank account if you think writing a postdated check might be too risky. Many banks offer online bill pay services that allow you to schedule one-time or recurring bill payments from your checking account. You can pick a payment date that aligns with your pay schedule, so you don’t have to worry about bills going unpaid.
What can you do if you’ve already written out a check and it’s in on the way to the payee? In that instance, you could request a stop payment through your bank. The bank can then deny payment of the funds to cover the check when the payee presents it for cashing or deposit.
However, whether that strategy works can depend on how quickly you request a stop payment. If the person or business that received the check has already deposited it but it’s still pending, for instance, it might be too late to stop payment. Also, note that the bank might charge you a sizable fee to request a stop payment, even if it’s unsuccessful.
Writing out postdated checks is something you might not do a lot of, especially if you’re using to pay bills online. But it’s possible that you may need to write one from time to time, or that you may receive a postdated check from someone else. Understanding how postdating works can help you avoid any potential banking issues associated with writing or cashing checks.
Checking Account Tips
- Consider talking to your financial advisor about the best way to handle postdated checks if you need to write them or you find yourself in possession of one. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- As mentioned, writing bad checks could result in the bank closing your account and reporting you to ChexSystems. ChexSystems is a consumer credit reporting system that collects information on closed bank accounts. Having a negative ChexSystems report could make it more difficult to open new bank accounts. If you’re struggling to get a bank account, you might consider second-chance accounts. Second chance banking is designed for people who have had prior banking issues but are trying to get back on track with money management.
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