Banks keep copies of customers' paid cheques and comply with customers' requests for copies of cheques up to seven years after the receipt of the items.

This is to give customers sufficient information to identify the items paid through their accounts. However, banks vary in their policies over retaining cheques.

Applicable law

The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 require banks in the UK to retain all documentation related to financial transactions for at least five years after the date of the transaction. Cheques count as part of this body of documentation.

UK banks don't return paid cheques to their customers as part of normal service. However, if, for any reason, the customer requests a paid cheque, the responsibility of retaining it passes to the customer.

Bank policies

The law does not have to retain those cheques in their original, physical format for the duration of the five year period. The cheques have to be preserved for a minimum of one year.

For the remaining four years of the statutory period the cheques may be stored in digital format. To save on space and searching mechanisms, most banks will shred the original cheque one year after the date on the cheque, but store a scan of the cheque until the five year period has expired. The Banking Code suggests banks keep cheques for at least six years, although this is a recommendation and not legally enforceable.

Request a copy

A customer may request a copy of a cheque paid from the bank, i.e. you can get a copy of a processed cheque from your own bank, and the bank is required by law to provide in a reasonable time either the actual item or a legible copy.

Online images

Many banks are making images of cheques available through their online banking service for a period of time.

Service fees

Most banks charge a steep fee for this service, which is why some personal finance writers still suggest keeping photocopies of important cheques.