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04 June 2010

Let's talk checkbooks [More:]Anyone other than me still keep a paper checkbook? I do, and up until recently, was balancing it regularly, because I write checks. BUT THEN, all these people I wrote checks to did not cash their checks, and it totally threw me off. Some of these checks were written almost a year ago, if not more. At what point should I write them off, and add the money back to my available balance? Such a pain. At least the issue is in my favor :D
Yes, I do. I think I wrote a check once for $50 that wasn't cashed. I waited many years (like more than five) before I considered that money available. I believe that while a bank may choose not to honor a stale check more than six months old, it may also choose to do so. And these days I think a bank is less likely to check whether the check is stale. I would assume that if it were presented it would be paid, even years later.
posted by grouse 04 June | 16:05
talk to your bank TPS. Standard rule is personal checques are no good after 30 days.
posted by lonefrontranger 04 June | 16:06
I have a checkbook, but I don't balance it. Nor do I use it often. I've had the same checks for the last 10 years.
posted by Stewriffic 04 June | 16:07
Oh this is really enervating for student or otherwise-broke types, like it's been 3 weeks homie, things happen to my balance, you better cash that!
posted by Firas 04 June | 16:10
Never had a checkbook! You can't even cash a cheque here in Japan. The fee is usually higher than the amount - if you can even find a bank to do it.
posted by gomichild 04 June | 16:18
oh right... there was another question in there.

I've used online banking / billpay / paypal / credit cards almost exclusively for nearly 3 years now.

I'm not sure I would know where to find my checquebook right now if you held a gun to my head. I have a box of blank checques somewhere in my file cabinet... I think.

my bank account has been soooo much better balanced since everything went to online. but that's just me.

srsly find out about your bank's particular policy on outstanding cheques. I've worked in banks and it was almost always the case that the official lapse period for uncashed personal cheques was 30 days, but it's been awhile.
posted by lonefrontranger 04 June | 16:22
Standard rule is personal checques are no good after 30 days.

I don't believe there is any such rule. As linked above, the payor bank has to pay checks within six months unless they have another good reason not to, and it's entirely up to the bank whether they will pay after that point. Banks usually don't want to promise that they won't because it sets themselves up to make an expensive error. A depositary bank (the payee's bank) can choose not to take the item for whatever reason they feel like (such as a policy not to take stale personal checks). I've definitely deposited checks that were way older than 30 days this way though, without anyone blinking an eyelid.
posted by grouse 04 June | 16:26
Talking to your bank does sound like a good idea, but I wouldn't rely on any promise not to pay stale checks that wasn't made in writing. And I don't think they will want to make you one in writing.
posted by grouse 04 June | 16:33
I dislike online bill paying so I pay all bills with checks. I don't balance the checkbook anymore, though; I just use the register to record the checks I've written, and then check online to see if they've cleared and what my exact balance is.
posted by JanetLand 04 June | 16:33
According to the Uniform Commercial Code (assuming you're in the US), checks not cashed within 90 days do not have to honored when presented to the bank.

The bank may still allow the check to be cashed, but they can refuse presentment at that point.
posted by reenum 04 June | 16:40
Oh snap! I guess the UCC has changed since I last looked at it when studying for the bar. 180 days it is, then.
posted by reenum 04 June | 16:41
I write 5 or so checks a month for bills. Most stuff goes on the credit card and I pay that bill by check. I guess there's some way you guys pay things these days without checks. But I'm not sure how I'd pay the guy across town who plows my driveway. He's not a business or anything. I balance it, but tend to forget ATM withdrawals since my checkbook isn't right there when I do it.

I can't remember ever writing a check over the last 30 years that wasn't cashed. People want their money, I guess. But if this ever did happen to me, it would annoy me every month when I reconcile my checkbook with the bank.
posted by DarkForest 04 June | 17:15
It annoys me every time I think about my check book.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 04 June | 17:33
I write checks for bills and rent and for things like DarkForest mentions - farmers and flea market vendors, for instance, will take checks but not debit cards, so if I'm out of cash, checks are handy.

But I haven't balanced my checkbook in my checkbook for years. I no longer see the point to it. The system I have meets all the same goals: I get a receipt for everything and hold on to the receipt. I have a budget spreadsheet on my computer, and every week or so I enter all the expenses (cash and debit and check) onto the spreadsheet. For the check and debit receipts, I check them against my online bank statement, where everything gets posted immediately as it clears through, and mark them "reconciled." If I have any receipts left over, or any unreconciled transactions, something's wrong, but I know exactly what it is. This seems to work well.
posted by Miko 04 June | 17:45
Oh yeah, I've never balanced my checkbook manually. I've always used Quicken, and still do, even though most of what goes in there is credit card receipts rather than checks.
posted by grouse 04 June | 17:53
I pay my bills online and I pay people using PayPal and also balance my checking account online, so I definitely don't need, want, or use checks.
posted by TrishaLynn 04 June | 17:53
This is what I get for putting off reconciliation for this long. I've lost the book for the section of checks that people aren't cashing, so now I have no record of what they even are! ahhhhhhhhhh.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 04 June | 17:57
I have never balanced my checkbook in my life. I don't really know how. It's a big hole in my life skills education.
posted by amro 04 June | 18:04
I fucking give up. Checks for everyone!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 04 June | 18:06
I only pay my credit card online and use checks for everything else (condo fee, electric, internet). I never use the check register or balance my account in my checkbook (and never have, much to my father's agitation). My checkbook is the kind that has carbons, so I just use those to keep track. I just track everything in Excel manually through my envelope system of saving.

Although I've seen my father get pissed enough at someone to cut a bitch when they don't cash his checks in a timely manner. He writes checks for EVERYTHING.
posted by sperose 04 June | 18:06
Oh snap! I guess the UCC has changed since I last looked at it when studying for the bar. 180 days it is, then.

holy crap that's a big change from back when I was working in banks... it shows how much I pay attention to paper checques IRL too these days. Fuck I'm old.

TPS you know your bank shreds paper checques immediately after cashing and you don't get cancelled cheques anymore, right? They just keep the electronic image on file.

so if you're going old-skool, I'd maybe recommend getting "duplicate" checques, the kind that have a carbon copy behind the original. Back when I wrote checques I used these sort only, cos I was horrible about remembering to do ledger entry. They're like, maybe a dollar more expensive than the plain kind.

Since the mister and I both use online banking, I just sort of assumed we were in the mainstream. So it kinda surprises me that there are still people out there who write cheques for things... I imagine at some point paper cheques will become another anachronism of a bygone era, like land lines and floppy disks and rotary dial telephones.

come to think of it I rarely-to-never carry cash, either. Even the farmer's market stands here have card readers.
posted by lonefrontranger 04 June | 18:20
I know *how* to balance a checkbook, but why would I? I check my banking online every morning and my husband and I make so few transactions that I know what has and hasn't gone though, and would recognize anything that looked dodgy.

Plus, we write one check a month, because our stupid rental company prefers to be paid in checks. When I lived in New Zealand, which was nearly 10 years ago, checks were being phased out *then*. The USA is a bit behind other countries in that respect, I think.
posted by gaspode 04 June | 18:22
so if you're going old-skool, I'd maybe recommend getting "duplicate" checques, the kind that have a carbon copy behind the original.

I have that kind! I just don't save them for too long. I JUST threw out a big batch of receipts and check carbons. BAH. BAH.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 04 June | 18:24
I have those carbons going back for years. I have no idea why.
posted by amro 04 June | 18:31
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 04 June | 18:36
I enjoy writing checks, though I only do it for rent. My landlady prefers cash. I prefer a record of payment.
posted by Hugh Janus 04 June | 18:48
All my doctors in Fresno want checks. I'm like "Not only don't I know where my checkbook is, I am not even sure if I have stamps."
posted by Ardiril 04 June | 19:51
All of the local businesses charge a $2 for payments by a credit card, so I pay all of my bills with checks. I've never had problems with utilities and such not cashing the check.

I set up a check register spreadsheet in Google Docs that is shared with the mister, and I balance it every few days by comparing it to my online bank account. But the extent of my balancing is to mark whether it's cleared the bank or not.

In the same document I also created a worksheet for budgeted vs actual expenses, which totally blew the mister's mind. There are reasons I'm in charge of our shared finances.

I will admit to being afraid to try online bill pay, because I don't even know how it works. And also I'm not in control of it. But... is it a really good thing?
posted by rhapsodie 04 June | 20:27
I write checks for bills. I do not own a debit card. I have never owned a debit card. My husband does not have one either and never has. Talk about behind the times!

I was filling out a check at the grocery store yesterday (I usually use cash but was short). A woman in front of me was writing a check as well and she said, "Oh, I'm not the only one who still writes checks?" We then proceeded to trade stories about our crazy check writing.
posted by LoriFLA 04 June | 20:29
I write one or two checks a year but my wife does most of our finance so she writes one or two a month for bills. Also she has a personal trainer at the YMCA who only takes checks.
posted by octothorpe 04 June | 20:58
Wow. Cheques? Still? I don't think anywhere takes them here, and I think I only ever wrote a few to my mother when I paid her rent, years ago. I use online banking for everything, and just flick through the transactions to make sure there's nothing weird there.
posted by jonathanstrange 04 June | 21:29
I keep one. I have a bunch of vendors in my life who don't take credit cards (esthetician, therapist, physical therapist), or who do take credit cards but not the one I'd like to pay with, and I'd rather write checks than pay cash. I've never balanced my checkbook, though; I figure keeping track of it online does the job without my having to do as much math.
posted by occhiblu 04 June | 22:43
Last Cheque I wrote was about 1998 I think.
posted by arse_hat 05 June | 00:11
I have one, I only use it to pay things like property tax and car reg because my state tacks on a surcharge to pay in any other method. I have to re-remember how to spell out the numbers (ninty? no, dammit, it's ninEty) the four times a year I write one. I haven't balanced it since 1985 though and worse, I'm still using the same check design that I picked out in college.
posted by jamaro 05 June | 01:47
Thi sis definitely one of those US/UK things. I don't know anyone outside of the US who still has a checkbook. I have two. One that goes to my moneymarket account for big sorts of things [usually paying a contractor for doing some work] and one that goes to my local bank account for paying rent. I never balance my checkbook because I don't write many checks, so I always have a decent idea of how much money I have. I also wrote health insurance premium checks because I didn't really trust my health insurance co. to not mess with my credit card.

Back when my checks were returned I'd keep them all in the old check boxes; I probably have every check I've ever written. Now that they're available as images online, I've switched to those carbon-copy check things. I sort of like seeing my checks online. Sometimes I write myself little notes on the notes line because who else is looking at them. Once I sent my Mom a check for something and she wrote a note back before it was deposited. Fun!

However, I am never that lady in front of you at the supermarket or drug store who is writing out a check and the check register entry by hand slowly while you wait to pay for your two items. I dislike that lady and think she should switch to her debit card.

I use Yodlee online to sort of keep an eye on my money and I wind up having to digitally balance my checkbook anyhow since they can't automatically get my bank's info online.
posted by jessamyn 05 June | 14:08
I used cheques in the UK all the time several years ago.
posted by grouse 06 June | 00:16
When I lived in New Zealand, which was nearly 10 years ago, checks were being phased out *then*. The USA is a bit behind other countries in that respect, I think.
In Australia, if you have a bank account with cheque access, you get hit with an extra tax. It's been this way for probably close to 10 years. I don't remember the last time I saw a cheque and we pay every single one of our bills on-line (and get most of them that way). The last time I paid a bill any way other than on-line would have been 5-6 years ago, I think. The only time I've been inside a bank in the last 5 years or so was to exchange some money for an overseas trip.

I think we've discussed this before a few times but, yeah, the US seems to be way behind on adopting electronic commerce, which really surprises me.

Cheques in Australia are 'stale' after 12 months and may not be honoured.

posted by dg 06 June | 05:25
Ring etiquette question || Wow!