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How long are cheques valid for?

Writing a cheque may seem old-fashioned, but they’re still considered a useful method of payment. Find out how long cheques are valid for and how they’re evolving.

Writing a cheque may seem old-fashioned, but they’re still considered a useful method of payment. Find out how long cheques are valid for and how they’re evolving.

Written by
Alex Hasty
Insurance comparison and finance expert
Last Updated
7 FEBRUARY 2023
6 min read
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What is a cheque?

A cheque is a written money order instructing the account holder’s bank to pay a named person or business a specified amount of money.

Thanks to the ease and convenience of mobile banking apps and direct bank transfers, some people think that cheques went out with the dinosaurs. Younger generations might not even know what a cheque is.

But while they may have gone out of fashion, cheques are far from extinct. The number used in 2021 fell by 32% but, even so, 185 million cheques were processed in the UK.

How long are cheques valid for?

Technically speaking, cheques don’t have an expiry date. But, in practice, banks will usually reject a cheque if you try to pay it in or cash it more than six months from the date of issue – that’s the date written on the cheque. If you’ve forgotten about a cheque and it’s more than six months old, the best thing to do is ask the person who gave it to you to write another.

Are cheques being phased out?

The Government has made it clear that it isn’t phasing out cheques and they remain a valid form of payment. But many companies and organisations now only accept online transfers and refuse to accept cheques as they involve too much admin.

However, most banks now use digital technology, which makes the cheque clearing process faster and easier.

What is cheque imaging?

Cheque imaging is a way of paying in a cheque using your bank’s app. Simply use the app to photograph your cheque with your smartphone camera. The app reads the details and puts the money into your account. You can still pay in a cheque at your branch if you prefer, but cheque imaging saves you a trip and can be done from anywhere with a secure internet connection.

As well as being more convenient, cheque imaging speeds up the clearing process. The traditional paper-based route can take up to six days. With cheque imaging, a cheque can clear as quickly as the end of the next working day.

If it’s you writing the cheque, be aware that digital imaging means the money will leave your account sooner. Only write a cheque if you have enough money in your account for it to clear immediately.

If you need to stop the cheque for any reason, you’ll need to act fast. Contact your bank straight away. If the cheque’s already gone through, they may not be able to cancel it.

Benefits of digital cheque imaging:

  • Convenient – you can pay your cheque in anywhere
  • Fast – cheques can clear the next working day
  • Secure – the app has built-in security checks
  • Notifications – see instantly if the money’s cleared or a cheque has bounced
  • Can clear other types of payments, like postal orders, bank drafts and government payable orders.

Downsides to digital cheque imaging:

  • Faster clearing times may mean you can’t cancel a cheque
  • Your bank might limit cheque imaging deposits
  • You can only deposit UK cheques – not those in other currencies.

How to write a cheque

To complete a cheque properly, you’ll need:

  • The name of the person or business you’re paying, as it appears on their bank account
  • The date
  • The amount in words, followed by the world ONLY (this stops anyone changing the amount)
  • The amount in numbers, followed by a line so no extra numbers can be added
  • Your signature – this must be the same as the one on your bank records.

Even if you use cheque imaging, complete and keep the cheque-book stub for reference.

Only write a cheque if you have enough money in your bank account to cover it.

What’s a ‘bounced’ cheque?

Cheques are said to bounce when the person who wrote it has insufficient funds in their account to cover the payment. If your cheque bounces, it won’t clear and will be returned to you. Your bank may even charge you a ‘bounce’ fee.

Other reasons a cheque might not clear:

  • The bank thinks the cheque is fraudulent
  • It isn’t signed correctly
  • It isn’t signed at all
  • It’s post-dated – in other words, the date on the cheque is after the date when the cheque was written
  • Mistakes haven’t been corrected (these must be signed or initialled)
  • The amount in words doesn’t match the amount in numbers
  • The cheque is more than six months old.

Did you know?

It’s a criminal offence to write a cheque if you know it will bounce or are planning to stop it.

How do I stop a cheque?

If you need to stop a cheque for a genuine reason – you wrote the wrong name, for example – contact your bank as soon as possible so they can cancel it. You may find that they charge a fee.

What is a banker’s draft?

A banker’s draft is a cheque the bank writes on your behalf. Bank drafts are considered more secure than personal cheques because the bank won’t agree to write one until you’ve paid in the money. That means there’s no risk of it bouncing.

Bank drafts are often used when a person or business won’t accept a personal cheque, or there are large amounts of cash involved.

Most banks require 24 hours’ notice to prepare a bank draft and some charge for the service. You may find it’s cheaper and easier to make a bank transfer instead.

What are the alternatives to cheques?

Cheques can still be useful, but digital technology means there are now quicker, safer and more convenient ways to transfer money:

  • Online banking Allows you to make and receive bank transfers and set up payments. Some banks also let you make international money transfers via online banking.
  • Debit card Debit card payments are instant – the money is taken straight from your current account. You can also use contactless payments up to the value of £100 per transaction.
  • Credit card A flexible way to buy something and pay for it later, although you’ll be charged interest if you don’t pay off the full amount.
  • Mobile payments Digital wallets, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, link to your credit or debit card, so you can make contactless payments securely from your iPhone, Android smartphone or wearable device, without needing your card.

Can I deposit a cheque that isn’t in my name?

No. Cheques are crossed with ‘A/C Payee’, which means only the person named on the cheque can deposit it into their bank account.

Can I cash a cheque if I don’t have a bank account?

If you don’t have a bank account, you can cash a cheque through a cheque-cashing retailer or money-lending service. But you may be charged a substantial fee. This is a service best avoided if possible.

If you have a poor credit history or have only just moved to the UK, you may be able to open a basic bank account. This won’t give you interest or an overdraft option, but you’ll have a debit card and basic banking features, allowing you to pay cheques into your account.

Some banks like HSBC offer accounts for those with no fixed address. This is a specialist service available at certain branches.

The content written in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice. If you require support on the products discussed here, please speak to your bank/lender or seek the advice of an independent professional financial advisor. We also have more information on our Customer Support Hub.

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