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How Long Does a Check Take to Clear?

August 1, 2017
Banking, Banking Basics, Banks & Credit Unions
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  • Usually two business days for personal checks; up to seven for some accounts
  • Usually one business day for government and cashier’s checks and checks from the same bank that holds your account
  • When a check is held longer, the first $200 is usually made available after one business day

When it comes to how long it takes a check you’ve deposited to clear, the faster, the better. Unlike with direct deposit, paper checks aren’t credited to an account instantly. Most check types take about two business days to clear, though some banks and credit unions are speedier (jump to list of financial institutions that clear checks faster).

Cashier’s and government checks usually clear within one business day, as do checks drawn on the same financial institution that holds your account. In some cases, however, checks can be held for up to seven business days.  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 for 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 quick access to at least some of your money.

For any deposit, the clock starts ticking on the business day the bank receives the check, before the institution’s cutoff time.

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.

Alliant Credit Union
(Nerd review)
Same-day availability up to $2,500, provided the deposit is made on a business day before 2 p.m. local time. Otherwise, the next business day.
Ally Bank
(Nerd review)
This online bank credits mobile check deposits the next business day if submitted by 7 p.m. Eastern time, up to $25,000.
Bank of America
(Nerd review)
Generally the next business day, up to $5,000. Cutoff times are 2 p.m. local time for branches and 5 p.m. local time for ATMs. Cutoff time for mobile deposit is 9 p.m. Eastern if you’re in the Eastern and Central time zones and 8 p.m. Pacific if you’re in the Mountain or Pacific zones.
Capital One 360
(Nerd review)
Next business day up to $5,000. Cutoff is branch closing or 9 p.m. Eastern for Capital One ATMs.

Citibank
(Nerd review)
Next business day, up to $5,000. Business day cutoff time is 10:30 p.m. Eastern for all ATMs and mobile check deposits.
Consumers Credit Union
(Nerd review)
Same-day availability during regular business hours. For Consumers Credit ATMs, the first $200 of the deposit is available on the next business day and the rest on the second business day. Deposits at other ATMs may take up to five business days.
PNC Bank
(Nerd review)
Same-day availability for the first $100 and next business day for the remaining amount, up to $50,000. Cutoff times are 10 p.m. Eastern for mobile deposits and PNC Bank ATMs, 3 p.m. Eastern for non-PNC ATMs and branch closing hours for in-person deposits.
Simple
(Nerd review)
Next business day if deposited before 5 p.m. Eastern, up to $5,000.
TD Bank
(Nerd review)
Next business day if deposited before 8 p.m. Eastern, up to $5,000.
Wells Fargo
(Nerd review)
Same-day availability. Cutoff time varies by branch but is generally 9 p.m. local time for ATMs and 9 p.m. Pacific for mobile deposits.
Union Bank
(Nerd review)
Next business day up to $5,000. Cutoff time is close of business or 9 p.m. Pacific for ATMs.

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 typically is sent to a clearinghouse that handles the request.

The process can take a few days. If the check isn’t deemed risky— it’s for 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 bank could take the money back out of your account. Be sure to read your deposit agreement and disclosure forms for more detail on its 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.

If you need a faster alternative, consider asking the payer to make a direct deposit or to wire the funds if you’re expecting a large amount. You also could ask the payer to send you money using a mobile peer-to-peer payment app. Transactions are inexpensive and fast, and unlike with checks, you don’t need pen and paper.

More on sending money and getting yours quicker

Find great checking with the features you need

Direct deposit is fastest: Links to forms at major banks

Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, more: What are P2P payments?

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @margarette.