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
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.
“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)?