Your rent is due in a week, and you don’t want to miss the deadline. You want to send the payment now, while it’s still fresh in your mind. But you won’t have the money to cover the payment until closer to the due date.
So you put a check in the mail today, but you date it for a week from now. The landlord gets your payment early, earning you good-tenant brownie points, but they can’t cash it until you’re ready for them to cash it. Boom! Solved.
But not quite. Postdating a check isn’t the foolproof strategy you might think it is.
What Is a Postdated Check?
A postdated check is a check with a future date on it, not the date you wrote the check. Postdating a check is a way to try to ensure you have enough funds in your account to cover the check when it’s cashed.
For instance, say your electric bill is due on Jan. 15. You like to take care of all your monthly bills on the 1st so you can knock them out in one fell swoop. But with all the other expenses you’ll incur between the 1st and the 15th, you know you won’t have enough money to pay the electric company until closer to the due date.
So you mail a check to them on Jan. 1 but date it for Jan. 15. That tells them you don’t want them to cash the check any earlier than Jan. 15, even if they receive it sooner.
Why Postdating a Check Can Be a Bad Idea
Postdating a check doesn’t guarantee the recipient won’t cash it early, even if they see it. It’s more of a suggestion than a requirement.
Depending on your state’s laws, you might be able to notify your bank (orally or in writing) and ask them not to cash the check before the date you wrote on it. Contact your bank to learn about its policies.
But for the most part, once the recipient endorses the check, it becomes legal tender and they can cash it immediately. If you don’t have enough funds to cover it, you could be hit with an overdraft or insufficient funds fee. Plus, the recipient could charge you a late fee when your initial payment doesn’t go through.
If you bounce too many checks, your bank might close your account and report you to ChexSystems, which can hurt your chances of opening a new account.
Alternatives to Postdating a Check
Postdating a check isn’t the only way to make a payment with funds you don’t yet have. Consider these (often more convenient and reliable) alternatives.
Make Payments Online
Most companies you regularly pay, such as utility and phone service providers, offer online payment options. And many of these companies allow you to schedule your payment for a future date. You can “make” the payment now but guarantee the funds won’t be pulled from your account until you want them to be.
Schedule Automatic Payments
Take online payments one step further by scheduling automatic withdrawals. Select a date you know you’ll have the funds in your account and authorize the company to withdraw a particular amount every month on that date.
You’ll no longer need to worry about making your payments on time — they’ll come straight out of your account each month without you having to think about it. Just ensure you’ll always have sufficient funds to cover these monthly payments, especially if the amount varies each month.
Use Online Bill Pay
Many banks and credit unions offer a service called online bill pay. You schedule a payment — either one-time or recurring — on the institution’s website or app, and they send the payment to the recipient by the time it’s due. You can make all your regular payments in one place rather than visiting several individual companies’ websites.
As long as you know you’ll have enough money in your account by the date you’ve scheduled, you’re all set.
Postdated Check FAQs
Since postdating a check isn’t something most people do often, there are some frequently asked questions about the process.
Is Postdating a Check Legal?
Yes. However, ensure you’ll have enough funds in your account when the check is cashed. If the check bounces, you could incur overdraft or insufficient funds fees. If you bounce too many checks, the bank might close your account.
Speaking of the law, postdating a check you know you won’t have the funds to cover constitutes check fraud. That requires direct evidence you intended to defraud someone, which can be tricky to prove, but it’s not a risk worth taking.
How Can I Stop Someone From Cashing a Postdated Check?
There isn’t much you can do to stop someone from cashing a postdated check before the date written on it. You can ask the recipient not to cash it early and hope they’ll honor your wishes. Depending on your state, you might be able to instruct your bank not to cash the check early.
If you’ve already sent the check, you can stop payment on it if it hasn’t already been cashed. You’ll likely incur a stop payment fee, which can cost anywhere from $15 to $35.
Can I Cash a Postdated Check Early?
Technically speaking, yes. But if the check bounces, you could face a returned item fee ranging from around $25 to $40.
Plus, it’s kind of a jerk move. You risk hurting your relationship with the sender. Be considerate and wait until the date written on a check to cash it.
Check writing is largely becoming obsolete. Nearly every company you need to pay has an online payment option these days, and many individuals have accounts with payment apps like PayPal and Zelle.
That said, you still might need to write a check from time to time. Maybe your landlord is old-school and insists you pay your rent by check. Maybe you want to give a family member money for their wedding, but you don’t love the idea of sticking cash in the card. Maybe you want to donate to a charity that doesn’t accept online payments.
In these cases, postdating makes sense if you need some breathing room between the time the check leaves your hands and the time it’s cashed. Just beware that there’s still a chance the recipient could cash it beforehand, so look up your bank’s policies first.