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How long does it take to clear a check?
Most types of checks take about two business days to clear, though some banks and credit unions are speedier (jump to a list of banks that clear checks fast). Usually the first $200 of a check is made available the business day after the bank receives the check.
A business day is a weekday that isn't a bank holiday, so here's an example of the two-day standard:
Day of deposit: You deposit a $1,000 check.
First business day: $200 of the check is available.
Second business day: The rest of the check ($800) is available.
Cashier’s and government checks, along with checks drawn on the same financial institution that holds your account, usually clear faster, in one business day.
» Cash management accounts: See our top picks for these high-APY checking-savings hybrids
Why do processing delays occur?
In some cases, checks can be held for up to seven business days. (For example, if you deposited on a Monday, the check might take until Wednesday of the following week.) Delays usually occur because:
The check is for a large amount, generally more than $5,000.
The account has been open for less than 30 days.
The account has repeated overdrafts in the past six months.
The bank believes the check won’t be paid, for whatever reason.
Your bank or credit union should tell you if it’s holding your check an extended time. If you aren’t sure when the money will be available, check the deposit receipt or ask the teller. Even with a hold, generally the first $200 of a check is credited to your account after one business day, so you can have earlier access to at least some of your money.
For any deposit, the clock starts on the business day a check is received, before the institution's cutoff time. For check deposits outside of ATMs, banks can’t have a cutoff hour before 2 p.m, but otherwise it varies by bank.
Banks and credit unions that clear checks fast
Some banks and credit unions make funds available faster than the two-day standard. Here are some of the larger institutions with same-day or next-business-day availability on personal checks. This assumes the checks aren’t being held for one of the reasons above.
So what’s the holdup?
To process a check, your bank or credit union needs to acquire the money from the payer’s checking account. If the account is at another financial institution, the check is typically sent to a clearinghouse that handles the request.
The process can take a few days. If the check isn’t deemed “risky” — it’s less than $5,000, your bank account has been open for more than 30 days, there isn’t a history of multiple overdrafts, and there’s no reason to believe the check is fraudulent — your financial institution may decide to credit your account before the check technically clears.
If it later learns the check can’t clear — because the payer’s account is overdrawn, for example — your institution could take the money back out of your account. Be sure to read your deposit agreement and disclosure forms for more detail on your institution's policies.
Alternatives to checks
The time it takes for a check to clear depends on the check itself and the status of the bank account. But it’s usually a matter of days, not minutes.
Direct deposits, wire transfers and P2P transfers are generally faster. Consider asking the payer for direct deposit or to wire the funds if you’re expecting a large amount. You could also ask the payer to send you money using a mobile peer-to-peer payment app. Transactions are inexpensive and fast — and unlike checks, there’s no need for pen and paper.