A deposited check has cleared when the money is taken out of the check writer's account and placed into the recipient's. A written check has cleared when the money leaves the check writer's account.
Depending on the funds available in the customer's account, banks may allow them access to a portion or the entire value of a deposited check. Federal law mandates that up to $200 of the check's value is released immediately. However, if the check bounces, it is up to the customer to reimburse the bank for said money. This payment is usually made via automatic debit from the bank account, regardless of the amount of funds available.
Experts advise to wait until a check clears to spend any of the money. However, there is not a set time limit for waiting. If a check seems suspicious, contact the bank from which it was written to see if there is any chance of the check bouncing. Caution is recommended if the check is from someone the customer does not know well; if the check is larger than the required amount; if the person who wrote the check requests excess funds to be wired to them; if the check was issued from a foreign bank; or if the check was written by someone who is not from the local area.
Written checks usually take a few days to clear from the user's account. At that time, the check is considered outstanding and the money remains as part of the bank balance. While money typically leaves the account two days after the check is received, the timeframe can be slowed by businesses delaying the deposit or quickened by the convenience of mobile deposit.