Checks and Related Issues

Please note:  This page provides information on checks, including issues that consumers have raised with the Department of Banking in the past. We've summarized certain key legal points within the text for your benefit. These summaries do not, however, represent a complete statement of the law.
The statutes governing the negotiability, deposit and collection of checks, including signature and endorsement requirements and provisions concerning forged checks, are found in Articles 3 and 4 of Title 42a of the General Statutes, the Uniform Commercial Code ("UCC"). The Department of Banking does not have legal authority to administer or enforce these statutes. It's important to note that the UCC allows certain provisions to be varied by agreement. Some bank deposit account agreements may therefore override UCC provisions described below. Read your deposit account agreement carefully as it relates to such issues.
All references on this page are to sections and titles of the Connecticut General Statutes, unless otherwise noted. Copies of relevant statutes may be found either on this website or on-line at the Connecticut General Assembly

Check Tips

Checks are written orders that we use to tell our bank or other depository institutions to pay money or to transfer funds from our account to a check-holder. Your checks serve as a personal form of money. You can avoid a risk of later forgery by following these suggestions:

  • Use an ink pen so your check’s information cannot be easily altered.
  • Fill in all the information on your check clearly and legibly, including your signature (scrawls can be easier to forge).
  • Start at the far left when writing in the amount of your check longhand – and when you’ve finished writing in the amount, draw a line through any remaining blank space so it cannot be filled in later.
  • Start at the far left when writing in the amount of your check longhand – and when you’ve finished writing in the amount, draw a line through any remaining blank space so it cannot be filled in later.
  • Be sure the numerical and written check amounts match exactly.
  • If you make a mistake, void the check and start a new one. List the voided check in your register to help in later reconciling your account.
Check Issues

Sometimes we encounter problems when we write or receive checks. We may find our checking account becomes overdrawn or we may receive a check that "bounces."  Depository institutions must also deal with check problems, including fraud and losses from bounced checks. Banks are protected from some risks by a federal regulation that allows time for a check to clear before a customer is allowed to access the check's funds. (See our page on funds availability for more information).

In addition, banks establish certain verification and identification procedures to safeguard against losses. Some types of checks - such as United States Treasury checks - have a high guarantee of payment and pose little risk to an accepting bank, especially if they are presented by a known customer. Banks face more risk with personal checks presented by new customers.

"My company paycheck was drawn on X Bank, so I went to X Bank to cash it.
I don't have an account there, and X Bank asked for my thumbprint before they would cash the check."

Customer identification needed to cash a check - State law does not address means of personal identification for bank transactions. Banks may request whatever form of ID they feel is appropriate - even fingerprints - to protect themselves. Check fraud is a serious problem for institutions and banks must weigh customer service against loss prevention when accepting checks.

"I sold an item to a friend who paid me for it with a check from Y Bank.
When I visited Y Bank to get my money, they charged me a fee to cash the check."

Bank rules and fees for non-customers - Banks are not prohibited from imposing fees to cash checks. Banks may also establish different rules and fees for customers and non-customers, or among an institution's various customers.

"Z Bank refused to cash my paycheck -
and I work for one of the biggest companies in town.  Is that legal?"

Banks can refuse to cash a check, even a check that is issued by the government. When a bank cashes a check, in effect it makes a short-term, interest-free loan. The bank gives out cash immediately, but it may not receive offsetting credit for the cashed check for a day or more. Banks are generally willing to do this for their own customers' convenience. Cashing a check for a non-customer, who may be a total stranger, exposes a bank to risk. If the check is stolen or fraudulent, the bank may never see the non-customer again.

I deposited a check earlier this week, and have confirmed through the person who wrote it that it has cleared her bank. I went to my bank to take out the money, and the bank says that it will still be on hold for several days. Can the bank do this?

The Expedited Funds Availability Act sets limits on how long financial institutions can place holds on deposits. The time frames depend on many factors, including the type of deposit (check, wire transfer, cash), whether the check is drawn on a "local" or "non-local" institution, and the amount of the check. These deadlines represent the maximum time allowed for holds. That means there's nothing prohibiting an institution from releasing deposited funds sooner than the law requires, but it also means the institution isn't required to make the funds available before the end of the hold period. Discuss your concerns with a manager at your financial institution. Or, for more information about the rules governing the availability of funds, contact the Federal Reserve System.

Additional Check Issues:

Bad checks - A person is guilty of issuing a bad check when he or she passes a check with knowledge that there are insufficient funds to cover it and payment is refused upon presentation. State law imposes a criminal penalty for passing a bad check, which ranges from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony, depending upon the amount of the check. Issues involving bad checks should be pursued with criminal authorities or private counsel.  (See Section 53a-128 for criminal penalties; Section 52-565a(i), as modified by Public Act 03-196, for civil penalties).

Fraudulent Cashier's Checks - Beware of scams involving fraudulent cashier's checks, money orders and other official-looking bank checks. 

Post-dated checks - A bank may charge a customer's account for a check before the date of the check, unless the customer has given the bank clear notice of the postdating in a timely fashion that affords the bank a reasonable opportunity to prevent the check from being processed. If a bank has been so notified and it then charges the check against a customer's account before the check's date, it is liable for damages. (Section 42a-4-401(c))

Right to stop payment - A customer may stop payment on a check through a clear notice to his or her bank that affords the bank a reasonable opportunity to prevent any action from being taken on the check. A stop-payment order is effective for six months, but it lapses after fourteen calendar days if an initial oral order is not confirmed in writing within that period. (Section 42a-4-403)

Stale checks - A bank is not obligated to pay a customer's check that is more than six months old, with the exception of a certified check. (Section 42a-4-404)