We all know that it's never good to bounce a check, but did you know that there are multiple means of doing so? Here are five surprising ways you can bounce a check.
1. You don't have enough money in your available balance.
You can see two balances when you log into your bank account: Available balance and account (or present) balance. These numbers can sometimes be different.
"Your 'present balance' is the previous business day's ending balance, plus or minus the full amount of any transaction known to the bank made during the current day [...]" according to Chase Bank. "It does not include any checks you may have written but didn't present to the bank."
Your available balance, on the other hand, "is the amount of the account's 'present balance' that is available for immediate use. Certain pending transactions, such as deposits that contain checks, may not be immediately available and wouldn't be included in the available balance."
Ensure that you have enough money in your available balance to cover checks that may clear that day. Otherwise, they might bounce. Though it may seem old fashioned, keeping a checkbook register can be an effective way to prevent this issue.
2. You forgot to sign the check or your signature is illegible.
If you're writing a check quickly, slow down when you get to the signature line. Your bank has a sample of your signature and if you write it out too fast, your bank may deem it illegible and bounce your check. Of course, checks will also bounce if you forget to sign them altogether.
(On that note, don't sign checks before writing the payee and amount. If that check gets stolen, the thief will be free to write checks to themselves from you.)
3. Your check was filled out incorrectly.
Make sure to clearly and accurately write your check's payee, the date, and the amount in numeric and written forms. Missing information and mistakes can cause a check to bounce. Your check won't be honored if its written and numeric amounts don't match, or if it bears any suspicious markings.
Double-check that each section on your check is filled out correctly before handing it over. If you mess up, write a new check instead of crossing out information on the old one. If you don't have a backup check handy and must use the one with crossed-out info, write your initials next to that section. Doing so won't guarantee that your check will be honored, but it may help.
4. The check is stale-dated.
Did you write a check that went un-cashed even six months later? If so, you might want to reach out to the payee. Checks that have been out for more than six months are considered "stale-dated" and cannot be honored. Payees need to cash checks before that deadline to avoid bouncing them.
This problem can still affect you even if the payee is the one dragging their feet. If they finally cash the check only for it to bounce, you may be charged a fee. Instead of taking that risk, let the payee know that you want to put a stop payment on their check (to avoid double-cashing) and send them a new one. Remind them of that six-month deadline, too.
5. Your post-dated check was cashed early.
Post-dating checks was a common (though not exactly above-board) practice when checks were the primary means of paying bills. People would give their payees checks when their payments were due, but date it for a future time when the money would actually be in their account.
This is risky because payees might try to cash a check before its date. If it goes through, your account could end up overdrawn. If the check doesn't go through, you may still be stuck with an overdraft fee.
"We are not responsible to you if we pay a check before its date, even if we have noticed that it is post-dated," explained US Bank. "If we, at our option, refuse to pay a check because it is presented before its date, you will have to pay, if applicable, the fee we charge for an overdraft."
These aren't the only ways you can bounce a check. Click here to learn about more surprising ways you can bounce a check and read this to find out how you can respond if that happens. While you're at it, read about your credit report here and how you can dispute it to ensure fairness and accuracy.