Definition of Outstanding Check
An outstanding check is a check that a company has issued and recorded in its general ledger accounts, but the check has not yet cleared the bank account on which it is drawn. This means that the bank balance will be greater than the company's true amount of cash.
Example of an Outstanding Check in the Bank Reconciliation
In the bank reconciliation process, the total amount of outstanding checks is subtracted from the ending balance on the bank statement when computing the adjusted balance per bank. (No adjustment is needed to the company's general ledger accounts, since the outstanding checks were recorded when they were issued.)
Checks that are outstanding for a long period of time are known as stale checks. In the U.S., outstanding checks are considered to be unclaimed property and the amounts must be turned over to the company's respective state after several years. Therefore, rather than allowing checks to become stale and then remitting the amounts to a state government, companies should contact the payees of any checks that have been outstanding for several months.
The amount of outstanding checks is sometimes referred to as float.