My first indication of trouble was a flurry of overdraft fee notices from Chase. I knew the balance was low, but nowhere near zero, so I checked my recent transactions. I found that they had cashed a check that I had postdated three days early. To avoid any troubles, I send in my rent check early, but postdate the check with the date my rent is actually due.

I called them with a smug but calm demeanor of someone who knows they have proof of an injustice. But I was in for a shock. Postdating a check is meaningless, the Chase rep explained. Chase looks at it as an informal agreement between the person who writes the check and the person who cashes it. I've found similar stories online. More people are running into trouble because of Check 21, which clears checks much faster.Maine has a statute that accepts postdating, but only if you notify the bank of your intent. Vermont does something similar and I'm sure other states do, too. Isn't that basically what I've done by writing in the date? The Federal Reserve tells people that "By law, your bank may not pay a check from your account unless you authorized that payment." When I postdate a check haven't I just told my bank I have not authorized payment until a certain date? In other cases, the Fed clearly acknowledges the widespread practice of postdating. Here they talk about how a bank can hold postdated redeposited checks and here they ban debt collectors from telling debtors they'll cash postdated checks before the date on them.

Despite all this, Chase and other banks seem to be acting like postdating a check is an absurd idea that me and a few con artists just dreamed up. That's certainly convenient for them. The inability to understand what a post-dated check means made them a lot of money.

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