You'd expect the date on a check to hold some weight. Be prepared for a surprise...
You’d expect the date on a check to hold some weight. Be prepared for a surprise…

Occasionally, I like to skim through Reddit’s personal finance section for any interesting money topics. One recent, noteworthy topic had to do with post-dated checks and what happens to them when you attempt to deposit or cash the checks before the date written on them. Curious as to what happens when I defy the concept of post-dating, I checked with banks to their rules on the matter.

When you post-date a check, you put a future date on the check with the idea that the recipient does not deposit it until that written date. For instance, today is Jan. 1, but you actually write “Jan. 5” on the check.

If I were to post-date a check, it would probably be because I don’t yet have enough funds in my account to cover the check amount. However, I do expect to have those funds by the date written on the check. So, I post-date the check so that the check recipient knows not to deposit that check until that date.

But, what if the check recipient doesn’t listen to my instruction and deposits the check before the written date? I turned to Wells Fargo and Chase to help me answer that question.

Quick answer: Surprisingly, if a deposit is attempted, the post-dated check will go through the clearing process as normal.

From the paying bank’s perspective

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

I called a Wells Fargo branch to inquire about what would happen to the post-dated check if I am the person writing the check.

A banker said, “Generally, we would try to pay out the fund on the check even if it was post-dated. If you wanted to avoid it, you should stress it to the person that receives the check, or just give the check to them when you actually have the money in your account.”

Upon further investigation, I found a clause in the Wells Fargo consumer account agreement (page 23) that states:

The Bank may, without inquiry or liability, pay one of your paper items even though:

  • Special instructions written on the paper item indicate that the bank should refuse payment (e.g., “Void after 30 days,” “Paid-in-full,” or “Void over $100”)
  • The paper item is stale-dated (i.e., it bears a date that is more than six months in the past), even if the Bank has knowledge of the date on the paper item
  • The paper item is post-dated (i.e., it bears a date in the future)
  • The paper item is not dated

So, Wells Fargo may actually try to process the check, regardless of the date that is written on the check. Essentially, I don’t see any point in post-dating a check — it is valid from the moment that I sign it.

Receiving bank won’t raise guards

Then, I spoke with a friend who happens to be a Chase banker, who generalized what a teller would do if a customer came in to deposit or cash a post-dated check before the date shown.

A teller might not question a post-dated check that is being deposited early.
A teller might not question a post-dated check that is being deposited early.

“We’ll treat it like any other check to see if it raises any flags. If it is post-dated, we’ll still accept it,” she said. “But, we’ll tell them that it may bounce if the person writing the check doesn’t have sufficient funds in their account.”

Additionally, at the bank’s discretion, there could be a hold on the funds until the check clears.

There’s the incentive for banks to process a post-dated check when I want to deposit it early. If the check is returned for insufficient funds, I have to pay an expensive insufficient funds fee, which averages $35.20 at the top 10 U.S. banks.

To deposit early or not?

As you can see, there doesn’t appear to be any major enforcement of a post-dated check, so it can just be treated as a regular check for the most part. So, yes, you can deposit a post-dated check before the date shown, but it isn’t advised.

Be prepared for the possibility that the check funds won’t be available. Not only do you not want to incur an insufficient funds fee, you don’t want to go through the trouble of obtaining a reissued check.

If there are multiple occasions of failed check deposits, the bank could even close your account and report you to ChexSystems, a consumer reporting bureau that tracks negative banking history.

Now, if you’re the one writing a post-dated check, just know that it means nothing to post-date a check. There are no guarantees that the recipient will do the right thing by depositing the check on or after the date shown. Ideally, give the check only when you have the funds to cover the check amount.

Have you ever deposited a post-dated check before the date shown? What happened (did you ever encounter any problems with it)?

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  • Kate

    I work for Wells Fargo and we don’t accept post-dated checks.

    • Steve Mavros

      My landlord deposited a post dated check and I got the fine. I called Regions and they took it off. I don’t think his bank did but I’m not sure because he holds them until the first now but it definately creates a hassle for everyone involved.

    • Simon Zhen

      Kate, always great to hear from an insider’s point of view. So what happens when a customer presents a post-dated check early? More curiously, what happens if a customer deposits a post-dated check early through a Wells Fargo ATM?

      • Kate

        We just tell a customer we can’t negotiate the check until date written. As for ATM I assume it will go through unless caught. With ATM deposits customer is taking the risk of the check being returned (whatever the reason may be) and a fee being charged in that case.

        • Alveria Pickett

          This happened today. I have an account there and I was told I couldn’t deposit my check. Seriously. I hate Well Fargo I heard horror stories but I wanted to see for myself.

          • Simon Zhen

            You could have tried depositing the check through the ATM. Or did you not want to take the risk of the check being returned?

    • Algeria Pickett

      I never been in such a situation until now. I get my payroll check which was dated one day in advance due to the holidays. I go to Wells Fargo and I was told I can’t deposit my check until tomorrow. I didn’t want cash back I wanted to put it in my account. Normally I go to GTE credit union you have your check scanned at the ATM and money is available right then. The line was so long but I will go back to the credit union. Wells Fargo charge 10.00 monthly fee if you don’t make 10 transactions. I see why alot of people taking their ? and ? in a different direction.

    • Bri

      Glad to hear that at least some banks are honoring this policy!!! To me this is absolutely absurd, since the date should clearly indicate when the check becomes active, i.e., when the contractual obligation begins.

      There are many many good reasons for doing this. This isn’t due to lack of finances. I for one don’t want my landlord or bank to cash checks any earlier than possible simply because that isn’t his/her money until the post date mark. Also if you know you are headed on a long vacation, it allows you to stagger when that money is withdrawn. The bottom line is that it’s a financial planning tool because it allows you more granular control on your money instead of relying on the irregularities of the postal system or humans.

    • justsaying

      I don’t think so. I post-dated a check for $481 for Wells Fargo and unfortunately the bank Woodforest deposited it and Wells fargo paid it therefore incurring me, $420 in insufficient funds that I just found out. They had told me that I signed a contract when I issued the check that there is money in it. If the person/bank deposited it then it’s unfortunate because they are going to pay for it. This is the reason I am going to close my account and just stick to my Credit Union (unless my lawyer says that I have a case).

      • Simon Zhen

        I believe that Kate meant that Wells Fargo won’t accept checks that are deposited before the date written on the checks. It may still pay out any checks that are written by its customers.

        • Tiff

          thats the same thing isnt it?

          • Dan

            No it isn’t. One is a bank not accepting post dated cheques from another bank being deposited, the other is the same bank letting one of its own post dated cheques be processed. Two completely different transactions.

  • Ashley

    I use to work at TD bank and we would only deposit post dated checks. If they wanted to cash them they had to wait for the date.

    • Simon Zhen

      Ashley, thanks! Always good to know (from a firsthand perspective) on how different banks will handle a post-dated check.

  • Mika

    I have deposited a post-dated check at least three days early through Santander ATM machine. It worked and was deposited on normal schedule no delays of any sort.

    • Simon Zhen

      Sounds like the check-writer had enough money in the account to cover the check amount.

  • Sarah

    My wife and I bank with Chase Bank she had to go to the doctor and wrote a post dated check for the 1st of Feb.Our Direct Deposit from her work would be there to cover it but the bank cashed it early with no funds available. When the day came for her to get her paycheck chase bank put a hold on her account and wouldn’t release her paycheck til the overdraft was current they also wont transfer the funds from the direct deposit to pay it off. My wife and I live paycheck to paycheck so we had no money to pay it off. They finally closed the account and supposedly sent the deposit back to her work a whole week after she was supposed to receive it were still waiting for it to post at this rate we will get our next check before she gets it

    • Simon Zhen

      That’s an unfortunate string of events. Did you tell the doctor to not deposit the check until the written date? Most banks will also waive the overdraft fee if it is your first time. When the direct deposit arrived, it should have cleared the overdrawn balance automatically — it’s weird that the bank just put a hold on your account so quickly.

      • LucyGoosey

        Yes that’s weird. They normally take the fee right from your direct deposit. Say the fee was $30 leaving your account -$30, when your check came in, it should have taken the $30 from it. Like if the deposit was $100, they take the $30 so your balance would be $70. If they closed the account and sent the deposit back, how are they going to still post it when it’s sent back if the account is closed? I’m confused.

  • amy

    today , november 3 i deposited post dated check dated november 5 after clearing time, and tom nov 4 is non working day for bank. My question is, my check will get bounce or bank will reflect it on november 5? pls comment

    • Amy, your check deposit should process as normal, regardless of the fact that the check was post-dated. You should see the check in the system by the next business day — it could still take some time to clear.

  • TheLight

    My bank (Santander) won’t accept a post dated check. I have tried depositing them twice since I opened the account and both times was refused and they were at two different branches which were far away from each other which implies that it is a company wide policy and not just a case of one teller at one branch refusing to take it.

    • Good data point! It is likely that a teller would reject the deposit until the date on the check. Have you tried mobile check deposit or ATM deposit? Many people find these two methods to be a way to get the bank to accept the check. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee for Santander.

  • Jonathan Buser

    I deposited a check at Capitol One ATM 2 days early. It was a corporate check from my family company I know for a fact there was plenty of money to cover the check but they didn’t even try the denied the deposit and I had to wait a week for a replacment check from the bank in the mail.

  • Hannah Evans

    Wells Fargo is just greedy, The want the check to bounce so they can collect the $35 dollar charge

    • LucyGoosey

      Very true! I called a few local banks for the hell of it. They told me the date, amount, signature, etc are all parts of the check that the tellers are responsible for checking to make sure everything is correct. They are held responsible if they deposit with a date after the present business day, date after 90 days, no signature or if the amount written doesn’t match the numbers (there may have been some other things but I can’t remember). I guess some banks don’t think Billions are enough for them…

  • joe

    I sent a check to pay a phone bill, on the 25 post dated for the 1st, check was deposit before the 1st bank rejected check and charged a penalty for insufficient founds. founds was available on the do-date of check bank charged a fee for insufficient founds, can they do that?

  • RHeitkamp

    I just received a postdated check from my previous landlord returning my security deposit about two weeks late. I feel like I should be able to deposit it since it’s overdue anyway, but after reading this article it seems like I shouldn’t risk the fee for a bounced check.

  • LucyGoosey

    I don’t know about every bank but my bank would NOT deposit a post dated check nor a check with no date. They are very strict about that. What idiot would even try to deposit it knowing the funds probably aren’t even in there! Umm, there’s a reason the check was post dated. Rather than go through paying a NSF fee (some banks charge up to $50) and having to contact the person to re-issue another check, just wait for the post date before you make matters a lot worse. Rather than getting the money on the post date, you aren’t getting it until the other person gives you a new check. Chances are they are pretty pissed off because it was deposited​ too soon and they needed to pay a NSF fee as well. Due to the fee they have to pay, it probably set them back so you will now have to wait until they have the money again. Now a whole new payment process begins just to get your money.. So, if you take a posted dated check, wait until that correct date or just wait and have them give you the check when the money is in!

  • Mandy

    What if you have a post dated check for 3 weeks from now (!) and you are concerned the company who issued the check is going to go bankrupt/have funds frozen before that 3 week date…worth trying to deposit??