If you’re running a little short of cash before payday, yet you need to pay a bill, you may be tempted to solve the problem by writing your check, but dating it for after the day you get paid – when you know you’ll have money in the bank. Many people post-date checks for everything from car payments to rent, and they think they’re safe because the bank can’t cash the check before the date written on it, right? Wrong. If you try this ploy you could end up with an overdrawn checking account, an angry payee and a ding to your credit.
Playing By the Rules
There’s nothing wrong with post-dating a check and asking the person you owe money to hold off on cashing it. People do this all the time, and it's not against the law. Problems crop up when the person holding the check jumps the gun and takes it to his bank anyway. Banks aren't obligated to wait until the date on the check to cash it. Any check that's properly made out and has your signature is treated as legal tender, and the bank is free to hand over the money to the holder of the check.
Avoiding the Hassle
There is, however, one situation in which a bank can be held liable if they cash a post-dated check too soon. That’s when you notify the bank ahead of time that you've written a post-dated check and they shouldn't cash it until the date you've indicated. Then the bank is supposed to honor your request. You'll need to give the bank a good description of the check, including the check number, the payee and the amount. They should watch for the check to arrive and only cash it if the date you've indicated has passed.
Fees and Trouble
If your bank cashes your post-dated check early because you didn't tell it ahead of time that such a check existed, you could find yourself saddled with bounced-check fees, late payment charges and overdraft fees, all of which can add up to a big chunk of change. In some cases, you'll have no choice but to pay the fees. You could try calling the creditors who assessed the fees and ask them to waive the fee this time. Explain about your post-dated check. If this is the first time this has happened to you, and if your creditors are feeling generous, they may waive the fees.
What To Do Next Time
Avoid writing a post-dated check if you can. Ask the creditor to wait until you have the money in your account. You could give the creditor a specific date and ask it to wait for payment until then. You could also write the check with the date, but hang on to it yourself. When the day arrives, hand-deliver it or mail it to your payee. If your creditor won't take no for an answer and insists on getting the check right away, notify your bank, in writing, that you've written a post-dated check, and alert it to wait until the date on the check to cash it.
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