Imagine this scenario: You've just received a check and are excited to have some extra funds in your account. Whether you're planning to pay bills, save, or enjoy a little splurge, you won't be able to access the funds until the check is processed and cleared.

Check clearing is the process the bank uses to make sure a check is valid and verify that there’s enough money in the check writer's account to cover the check amount. Once the process is complete, the money is moved into the recipient’s account and is available to withdraw, cover bills, or make other payments.

While you're waiting to access your money, it's common to wonder, "How long does it take for a check to clear?" There are several variables that can affect check-clearing times. Understanding the process and standard timelines can help you manage your finances more effectively. Here’s what you need to know.

Factors Affecting Check Clearing Time

When you deposit a check into your bank account, it doesn't clear immediately. Several factors can affect the amount of time it takes before the funds are available.


Each bank has its own set of rules and timelines for clearing checks. However, federal laws limit how long a bank can wait before allowing you to access the funds[1]. Bank policies are often based on operational capacity and are designed to help protect both the bank and its customers from fraudulent activities

Here are a few ways bank policies can impact your clearing times:

  • Cut-off Times: This is the time of day a bank stops processing checks. Depositing a check after the cut-off time could add another day to the check process.
  • Holidays and Weekends: Checks usually won't process on days the bank is closed. This means a check deposited late on a Friday might not start clearing until Monday or even Tuesday if Monday is a holiday.
  • Holding Periods: A bank might hold a check for several days before starting the clearing process. This can be due to the check amount, the age of your account, or other factors.
  • Foreign Checks: If someone gives you a check from a bank in another country, it usually takes longer to clear. The bank needs to communicate with the foreign bank, which can take extra time.

Check Amount

The check amount may affect check clearing times. Generally, checks for more than $5,525 take longer to clear[2]. This is typically due to the bank taking additional time to make sure everything is in order before releasing the funds. It's best to check with your bank to confirm their policies regarding funds availability.

Check Type

The type of check you're depositing can affect the processing time[3]. For example:

  • Government Checks: Checks from federal and other government agencies generally clear faster.
  • In-House Checks: If the check is drawn from the same bank where you deposit it, the process may be quicker.
  • Certified and Cashier’s Checks: These are considered 'guaranteed funds' and often clear faster than personal checks.
  • Personal Checks: Checks written from an individual’s bank account might take a bit longer to clear due to a generally higher risk associated with these accounts.
  • Business Checks: Business checks, including payroll checks, may clear a bit faster than personal checks, but not as fast as government, certified, or cashier’s checks.

Several important steps must happen between when you deposit a check and when it officially clears. Each phase involves bank protocols, so the specifics may vary somewhat. However, the process is generally the same.

Check Clearing Process

Several important steps must happen between when you deposit a check and when it officially clears. Each phase involves bank protocols, so the specifics may vary somewhat. However, the process is generally the same. 


Depositing a check is the first step to accessing your funds. There are several methods you can use, and each may impact the time to clear[1].

  • In-Person Deposits: Going to your bank and depositing the check with a teller may lead to faster clearing times since the check is being handled directly by the bank.
  • ATM Deposits: Depositing your check in an ATM may result in clearing delays, especially if the deposit is made after business hours or at a machine that’s not in your bank’s network. (Always confirm your bank's policies before depositing a check in an out-of-network ATM).  
  • Mobile Deposits: Using your bank’s mobile app to complete your check’s deposit could lead to longer clearing times. Mobile deposits need to be reviewed electronically and may require additional verification steps.


After you deposit a check, the bank needs to make sure it’s valid for processing and that the person or business that wrote the check has enough money to pay it. This step helps prevent fraudulent activities.

First, the bank reviews the check’s date, the payee's name, signature, and check amount. Any discrepancies can raise red flags and require further review. If the check is drawn on the bank it is being deposited into, the account may also be reviewed.

Banks also have systems in place to identify checks that seem suspicious. This could be due to sudden high activity in the account, a check written for an unusually large amount, or other red flags. In some cases, particularly when checks are written for sizeable amounts, your bank may communicate directly with the issuing bank to confirm that the check is genuine and the funds are available.


Once a check has been verified, it moves to the processing phase. This is when your bank and the issuing bank communicate, and the funds transfer from one account to another. The banks use a secure system to review the check’s details and initiate the transfer. Then, the money comes from the payer’s bank account and is scheduled to be credited to the depositor’s (your) account.

In many cases, the physical check is converted to a digital image, which is sent electronically to speed up the process. If there are any problems, such as insufficient funds, the check is returned. In this case, additional steps or fees might apply.

When your bank receives the funds from the payee’s bank, the check is considered cleared and the remaining funds are available.

Expedited Clearing Options

If you’re depositing a check and you need to access the funds quickly, it’s important to understand your options. First, the federal Expedited Funds Availability Act (EFAA) places limits on the amount of time banks can take to clear certain types of checks[4].

Expedited Funds Availability Act

The EFAA sets guidelines for maximum check clearing times and bank holds. Generally, when depositing government checks, cashier’s checks, certified checks, and official checks, the funds must be available the next business day. This is also true for in-house checks (also called "on-us checks"), meaning you’re cashing a check at the same bank that issued the check. All other types of checks generally must be available by the second business day after the check is deposited[5].

However, each of these checks could be held for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • The check was not deposited at a bank’s brick-and-mortar location.
  • The check was deposited after business hours.
  • The check amount is over $10,000. 
  • The check is being deposited into an account other than the payee’s.
  • The account has been open for less than 30 days.
  • The account has been repeatedly overdrawn in the past six months.
  • The check has been deposited previously and returned unpaid.
  • The bank has reason to believe the check may not be paid.
  • A national disaster or other emergency creates delays.

Same-Day Fund Availability

Some institutions, including PNC Bank, provide same-day clearing for a small fee. PNC’s Express Funds gives you the option, for a fee, to make the full amount of certain check deposits immediately available for withdrawals and purchases when you deposit a check through the mobile app, with a teller, or at a PNC DepositEasy ATM and choose the Express Funds option.

This can be convenient when you have bills or payments due or need to access the funds quickly for any other reason.

If you're concerned about processing times, ask your bank "How long does it take for a check to clear?" Your teller or customer service representative can review the details of your check and let you know if you should expect any delays and how long before your funds are available.

Explore Your Banking Options

While federal law regulates check processing and hold times, individual bank policies and other situations can also impact your check-clearing times. Understanding the variables can help you better manage your finances.

If you need to ensure fast availability, you may prefer to use a bank with same-day clearing options. PNC Bank offers various checking accounts and services to meet your needs. To learn more, contact our team today.