How Fast Will Your Checks Clear?

There you stand, like a kid with his nose pressed against a pet store window. Your money is romping behind the glass and you cannot get at it. Any checks you deposit may be held by your bank for a specified number of days.

If you write a check against deposited funds too soon, it will probably bounce. You will pay $15 to $20 for the error, with some banks charging as much as $30. To bounce proof your checks, sign up for overdraft checking. Alternatively, move your account to a friendly bank that will honor checks written against uncollected funds although you will probably be charged for the service. A really friendly bank will waive the fee.

Under federal law, banking institutions normally must give you access to at least $100 of your deposit on the next business day, and must clear the rest of your deposit on a specified schedule (with some quirky conditions here and there). All the following limits apply to checks deposited to your account before the bank’s cutoff hour generally, noon for ATM deposits and 2 pm for deposits made in person. Add one business day for checks you deposit after the cutoff. The general schedule:

One business day for federal, state, and local government checks, electronic payments (like direct deposit of a paycheck or Social Security check), postal money order, cash, personal check drawn on the same bank, cashier’s check, and certified checks. To get one day access, certain checks have to be deposited in person or sometimes on special deposit slips. Ask about this if your timing is critical.

Two business days for local checks.

Five business days for out of town checks.

On checks deposited on a business day (not Saturday) in the bank’s own ATM: one business day for US Treasury checks; 2 business days for cash, local checks, cashier’s checks, and state and local government checks, and 5 business days for out of town checks.

On checks deposited in an ATM not owned or operated by your bank: 5 business days.

On checks you mail to the bank: one business day after receipt by the bank for US Treasury checks; 2 days for cashier’s checks, postal money orders, and local checks including the checks of your own state and local governments; 5 days for out of town checks, at many institutions, most of these rules are irrelevant.