July 25, 2022
Cheques have been around for a long time and we’re all more or less familiar with how they work. However, we’re all probably more interested in how long does a cheque take to clear; to get the answer to this question and find out more about cheque clearance, continue reading the article below.
Changes in Cheque Clearance
Cashing a cheque used to take a long time, but with the introduction of cheque imaging, the process became a lot faster. UK banks introduced the Image Clearing System (ICS) in 2017, which allows them to exchange digital images of cheques in a secure way and verify the cheque significantly faster.
Before 2017, banks and building societies exchanged paper cheques in physical form, so the answer to ‘how long for the cheque to clear’ was ‘6 working days’. This was referred to as the 2-4-6 process, and it signified the number of days required for each stage of the clearance cycle.
How Does Cheque Clearance Work?
When you lodge a check, i.e. deposit it into your account, the cheque clearance cycle begins. The initial stage of this process is referred to as the ‘uncleared period’, and the duration of this period depends on the bank from which the money is drawn. So, if you’re asking ‘how long does it take for a check to clear’, keep in mind that it depends on the bank involved in the process. And if you want to withdraw money before the uncleared period ends, you can be charged interest on the withdrawn amount.
After the uncleared period ends, cheques start to earn interest; if paid on a banking day, the cheque will be earning interest by the next day. If delivered during the weekend or on a bank holiday, it’ll be two days before it earns any interest.
|DID YOU KNOW? During the 19th century, the Bank of England had a monopoly on banknotes and bankers couldn’t issue any banknotes on their own. So, they came up with a new payment method — the cheque, which has been in use ever since.|
How Long Does a Cheque Take to Clear?
We’ve already mentioned that cheques can be cleared within a day, but that’s not always the case — when and how the cheque was deposited plays a significant role in how much a cheque deposit takes.
In this section, we’ll take an in-depth look at how the cheque clearance cycle works.
How Long Does It Take for a Cheque to Clear with the Image Clearing System?
The Image Clearing System revolutionised cheque clearance in the UK, and although the clearance period can vary depending on numerous factors (more on that later), a cheque can be cleared in a single day. How, you may ask?
Well, the bank or the building society sends a digital image of the cheque to the ICS; then, they verify and sort the cheque before forwarding it for further verification to the issuer’s bank.
So, how long do cheques take to clear after they’ve been verified? After the verification process has been completed, the funds are transferred within one working day. Simple and quick. We have to note, however, that this applies to UK cheques only; foreign cheques require a different type of verification and it could take weeks to verify a foreign check in the UK.
Cheque Clearance Example
Let’s say that you lodge a cheque on a Monday before 3:30 PM (the first day of the cycle) and you want to see how long does it take a cheque to clear. Well, if the cheque was deposited by 3:30, you can expect to start earning interest and have the funds in your account by Tuesday. In case you missed the three-thirty mark, the following day is considered Day 1 of the cycle and you can expect the money by Wednesday.
If there are insufficient funds in the drawer’s account (the person who paid the cheque), the cheque will be declined at the end of the clearance cycle.
None of this pertains to cheques deposited on Friday after 3:30 PM, Saturday, Sunday, and bank holidays; the clearance cycle for these cheques begins on the following banking day.
Cheque Deposit Methods
The interval of ‘how long for a cheque to clear’ also depends on the deposit method you choose; there are a few ways to deposit a check, and we’re going to list all of them, so you’re familiar with all your options.
Depositing by Mobile
With the introduction of mobile banking, depositing a cheque became much easier and much faster. All you need to do is take a picture of the cheque and submit it to the bank through the mobile banking app. This is one of the faster ways of depositing since the cheque is automatically submitted to the ICS.
Depositing at a Branch
The good old bank deposit is always a viable option for depositing a cheque; head on to your nearest branch and make the deposit with a bank teller. Now you’re asking how long does it take for the cheque to clear if you deposit it at a bank branch? In most cases, it shouldn’t take longer than one working day, but the timeframe is also dependent on the verification speed at the drawer’s bank. All banks are now using the Image Clearing System, so all clearances go through much faster than under the 2-4-6 process.
Depositing at a Cheque Deposit Machine
Some banks offer cheque deposit machines (CDMs) that customers can use for cheque depositing after working hours. This is almost the same as depositing at a branch, but if you do it after working hours, you can expect the money within 2 days.
Depositing at the Post Office
It’s still possible to deposit your cheque via post, but you may be having second thoughts because of the ‘how long to cash a cheque’ question. Understandably, depositing via post takes longer than using any of the other methods; you need to consider the postage time. Usually, these cheques are cleared within two days, with the maximum time limit set at four working days. If you don’t have the funds in your account within 10 days, make sure to contact the bank.
Clearing a Cheque: How Long Does It Really Take?
Now that you have the necessary information on cheque clearance and you’re aware of all the factors that can influence the cheque clearance time, you want the ultimate answer to how long does it take to clear a cheque?
The best answer we can provide is a range; cheque clearance with ICS takes between one and four working days. After the cheque has been cleared, the money will appear in your account instantly. In case the process takes more than four days, it’s possible the cheque was declined; contact the bank to find out. Also, if the cheque is made out for a large amount of money, it might require additional verification, just like cash. You can check how much cash you’re allowed to deposit at UK banks here.
|DID YOU KNOW? Paper cheques have a signature line, but you’d be surprised to learn that this, in fact, is not a line. It’s the word ‘signature’ written over and over.|
|The Image Clearing System allows banks to exchange digital images of cheques.|
|The introduction of cheque imaging in 2017 made the clearance cycle significantly shorter.|
|There are four methods for depositing a cheque: through mobile banking, at a branch,
at a Cheque Deposit Machine, or via post.
|Cheque clearance in the UK takes between 1 and 4 working days.|
Once you know how long does a cheque take to clear in the UK, the estimated clearance time might seem too long to you and you may be on the lookout for faster payment methods. We wanted to save you some time, so we provided a few cheque alternatives below; you can choose what works best for you!
- Postal order — These orders are similar to cheques, except you don’t need a bank account to get one of these. Buy an Order for a specified amount and send it through the post, or give it to someone as a form of payment.
- Direct transfer — This is one of the fastest ways of sending money, and you don’t have to worry about ‘how long to clear a cheque’. Most of these transfers are instant, and you can make them through the mobile banking app on your phone.
- Credit card — The best way to make payments and reservations online is with a credit card. However, interest rates can be high, so think carefully about whether you should be getting a credit card.
- Digital wallet — There are many digital wallets available today, such as PayPal, Venmo, Google Wallet, etc. These are connected to one of your cards and you can make fast and secure money transfers with them.
These are just some of the alternatives to using cheques, and you don’t have to worry about how long do cheques take to clear; what most of these methods have in common is the fact that they’re faster than cheques. However, if you want to keep using cheques, you’re free to do so — they’re not going anywhere any time soon!
|DID YOU KNOW? Cards are the most common payment method in the UK, followed by digital wallets, which are especially popular among the young. Gen Z-ers and millennials love to spend online, although the stats on the average net worth in the UK show that these young people have little to no savings.|
The cheque clearance process in the UK has improved significantly with the introduction of cheque imaging in 2017. This article provides the answer to how long does it take for a cheque to clear and all the pertinent information on the topic. Now, before you deposit your next cheque, you’ll know what to expect.
In the UK, most of the cheques are cleared within two days, although the clearance cycle can vary depending on the deposit method.
Some banks may make a portion of the cheque available during the same banking day when the cheque was deposited, but how long does a cheque take to clear in full? Well, it’s likely that the money will be available on the following working day.
If you want to speed up the process of clearing a cheque, make sure you deposit it before 3.30 PM, and it should be cleared by the next day.