Old check is probably worthless

Dear Liz: Twelve years ago I hired a moving company. I must have overpaid them, because in January 2001 I received a refund check for $235. I misplaced the check and didn’t find it until 2003. Ever since then I have made a number of phone calls asking for a replacement. All my calls were to no avail. Can you help?

Answer: No. You typically have six months to cash a check. If you miss that time frame, you can ask the issuer for a new check, but it is usually under no obligation to accommodate you. Trying to deposit an old check can often result in a “returned check” fee from your bank when the check is stopped or returned unpaid.


  1. You can check the laws in your state. I was under the impression that such funds should be reported as unclaimed property and surrendered to the State. You can then claim the refund from the State by going through their process, wich basically means you need to prove your identity and that you are the rightful owner of the money.

    • Good point. States vary in how much they enforce these regulations, but it’s worth a shot. You can start a search at unclaimedproperty.org.

  2. If the person lives in Ohio Mark is correct in that it should be in the unclaimed property surrendered by the state. You can check this via the state’s website. When I was an Accounts Payable manager though I can tell you that it’s such a pain to put money in the fund that I personally go to great lengths not to.

  3. Hi Liz,

    All is not lost for your reader!The great news is that each state has Unclaimed Property laws that all companies must follow. This includes, uncashed checks,dormant checking & savings accounts, and many other types of accounts. When a company shows that a check has gone uncashed and is not able to contact a payee, there are regulatory guidelines that state the business must escheat the funds to the (state) treasury department along with information about the customer (and the check). The consumer should write a letter to the company that issued the check (sent certified) with a copy of the front and back of the check, he needs to find out if they escheated the funds. The money is his by law, a company can not hold on to the funds. The consumer should also check Unclaimed.org, missingmoney.com, and talk to the state that the company is located in along with his current state. Please encourage him to keep the check and not give up. Unclaimed Property laws are not well known and they are there to protect the consumer.

    Here is a quote from the FDIC website: “Don’t forget about unclaimed money
    you may have in the form of an old
    check you never cashed or
    deposited. You still have the right to
    that money. If your banking
    institution won’t accept the check
    because it’s more than six months
    old— the legal limit before a check is considered “stale”— you can go
    back to the source and demand that
    a new check be written”
    This the Fall 1996 newsletter but it is still relevant.

    location: http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnnew.pdf

    I have first had knowledge of these laws as I work at a bank in the Unclaimed Property Department.

  4. I believe that the moving company would have been required to turn it over to the state of the payee’s last known address. Whether they actually filed or not is another question. Some states have minimum dollar reporting requirements of $50 or $100, but this is definitely over those amounts. The person should be able to look up “Unclaimed Property Ohio” (or whatever state they were in when the check was paid to them)to get information on how to file for receiving their money back as Mark said above.