How to cancel a check in 3 steps

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In a Nutshell

A stop payment order may prevent someone from cashing a check and taking money out of your account. But you’ll have to follow a set process for canceling a check, and you’ll probably need to pay a fee.
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If a check gets lost or stolen, or if you change your mind about paying someone for some reason, canceling the check before it’s cashed may prevent you from losing some money.

You can ask your bank or credit union to cancel the check with a stop payment order, but to do that you’ll need to follow a set process. And you should be aware that a stop payment isn’t forever. It will expire and the check in question could be cashed unless you extend the stop payment order at some point.

How to cancel payment of a check in three steps

If you think a check is lost or stolen, it’s a good idea to be pretty sure that’s the case before you stop payment on a check. And if this is the reason you’re canceling a check, make sure to monitor your credit reports for signs of identity theft — even if you successfully cancel the check before it’s cashed.

If you’re stopping payment on a check because of a disagreement with a merchant, it’s worth trying to work things out directly with the check recipient before canceling the check. Why? In any situation, you may have to pay a fee for stopping payment.

If you’re ready to stop payment on a check, the process can vary a bit from bank to bank. But generally, you’ll need to follow these steps in a timely manner.

1. Confirm the check hasn’t cleared yet

To stop payment on a check, you first have to make sure it hasn’t cleared yet. If the check has cleared and the money has been withdrawn, you’ll see the transaction on your bank statement or in your online account. You can also contact your bank and inquire about the check’s status.

You can stop payment on a check any time before it’s cashed — but you may not have much time, especially if it’s already in the hands of your recipient.

It typically takes about two days for a check to clear, so acting quickly is key if you need to cancel a check.

2. Gather the necessary info

To stop payment on a check, you’ll need to provide your bank with some information, which will likely include …

  • Your bank account number
  • Check number
  • Payee information
  • Check amount
  • Date of the check

3. Contact the bank to request the cancellation

Some banks allow you to cancel online, or you can call the bank customer service line to request a stop payment order. Be sure to ask the bank for written confirmation of the request.

If you cancel the check verbally, the bank might require you to submit a written request afterward as well. Otherwise, the bank might allow the check to be cashed after 14 days.

Can you cancel a deposit?

You may only cancel a deposit if it hasn’t yet been sent for processing, and the window of time to do so is narrow. At some banks, transfers are sent for processing Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern time. Some banks allow you to cancel deposits online, while others require you to call.

How much does it cost to cancel a check?

When you request a stop payment on a check, the bank or credit union might charge you a fee. Fees vary by financial institution but range from $0 to about $35 per stop payment request. Some banks may waive the fee depending on the type of checking account you have with them, or they may not charge a fee to stop payment on lost or stolen blank checks.

It’s worth mentioning that stopping payment of a check issued from a credit union generally costs less than canceling a check drawn on a bank.

Here are stop payment fees for some large banks and credit unions.

Financial institutionStop payment fee
Alliant Credit Union$0
Bank of America$30, but $0 for Advantage Relationship Banking account holders
Citi$30 for basic bank accounts, $0 for Citi Priority Account and Citigold Account packages
Navy Federal Credit Union$20 for a single stop payment or $25 for a series of checks
Wells Fargo $0

To find out how much a stop payment order will cost, check your account schedule of service charges and fees or your account disclosure statement.

When should I cancel payment of a check?

It might make sense to cancel a check payment in these scenarios.

  • You lost a check or it was stolen. If you lost a check or your checkbook was stolen, you can cancel the checks to prevent them from being forged and cashed without your consent — possibly for no fee, depending on your bank.
  • You make a mistake on the check. If you made a mistake while writing out the check — such as adding a digit to the check amount or misspelling the name of the recipient — and realized your error after you sent the check, you can try to stop payment before the amount is withdrawn from your bank account.
  • You mail a check to an incorrect address. If you mailed a check to the wrong address and have reason to believe the wrong person might try to cash it, you can try to cancel it.
  • You believe you’ve been scammed. If you purchased an item but realize it’s a scam, you can cancel the transaction to prevent money from being taken out of your account.

Before you decide to stop payment on a check, be sure to weigh the cost of the cancellation fee against the amount of the check. If the check is for less than the stop payment fee, you may decide that letting the transaction go through would be cheaper than paying the fee.

You should also consider the timing. A stop payment order can only be applied if the check or payment hasn’t been processed by the recipient yet.

How long will the stop payment order last?

When you cancel a check, double-check your bank’s policies. A stop payment order usually isn’t permanent, meaning the check could be cashed eventually.

A written stop payment order typically ends after six months, but it can be renewed for another six months. Your bank may charge you another fee to extend the stop payment request.

If you requested a stop payment order verbally and didn’t confirm it in writing, it might expire after just 14 days. Once the cancel request expires, the bank or credit union could cash the check, so talk to your bank about your options. Also be aware that if your bank cashes the check after the stop payment order ends, and the payment causes your checking account balance to go negative, you could face overdraft fees too.

Should I extend a stop payment order?

You may think you don’t have to worry about renewing a stop payment because you’ve heard that banks won’t honor a check that’s submitted for payment six months or longer after the date on the check. But that’s not entirely accurate.

Federal law doesn’t require banks to honor a check that old — known as a stale-dated check. But they can if they choose to. Check your bank’s deposit agreement disclosures to see what its policy might be on stop payments and stale-dated checks.

Next steps: What to do if a check clears anyway

In some cases, you might not be able to stop payment on a check before it clears. But there might be options to recoup the money if you’re the victim of fraud. 

If someone forged a check and withdrew money from your account, contact your bank immediately. Banks are generally required to reimburse you for forged checks, but you might have to sign an affidavit stating you didn’t authorize the check, and you might have to file a police report.

If you’re unable to resolve the issue with your bank, you can submit an online complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Customer Assistance Group.

And if your bank cashes a check during an active stop payment period, it may be liable. But the bank may apply conditions. For example, it may require you to prove that you had the legal right to stop payment and that you actually suffered a loss because of its actions.

Be sure to read your bank’s consumer account disclosures to understand how it handles stop payments.

About the author: Kat Tretina is a personal finance writer with a master’s degree in communication studies from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Obsessed with her many side hustles, she focuses on helping people pay down their … Read more.