You can cancel a bank check if you act quickly before the payment has cleared the depositor’s account. Canceling a check is usually called a "stop payment order," for which banks charge a fee. The term "canceled check" generally refers to a check marked canceled by the bank after it has gone through the process of being paid by the bank for the depositor of the check.
Canceling a check you have written is possible as long as the check has not cleared yet. While banking procedures for this process vary, you can expect to have to act fast as well as pay a fee for the stopped check.
Contacting Your Bank
Banks differ in their procedures to cancel or stop payment on a check. There are banks that now let you stop payment through their online checking service for paper checks and payments processed electronically, but ask your bank about its individual procedure. Online checking also allows you to see if the check has been processed, but it might not offer real-time updates for the transactions. The best way to first handle the situation is to contact the bank by phone and ask for instructions.
Stop Order Fees
Fees for stop orders usually range from $30 to $36, which is often the fee for each check that is overdrawn from an account. Consider the cost when deciding to cancel the check. If the check is going to a company, you might ask for a refund if possible. If it’s a personal check to someone you can’t contact, make arrangements with the bank for cancellation, but ask about the fees involved. Banks might offer no fees for payments made electronically or to stop recurring payments each month if you notify the bank within a certain time, usually three to four business days.
Banks are not liable for cashing the check if you cannot provide enough information on the payment or did not give the bank adequate time to stop payment. If you did provide enough information in a reasonable amount of time, according to bank regulations, the bank would be responsible for payment, and you should receive a refund. Stop payments on personal checks are typically effective for six months. Get confirmation in writing from the bank if you made arrangements over the phone. Read the bank agreement you received when opening your account, or talk to a bank customer representative for details on stop payment orders for your particular bank.
- Bank of America: FAQs – Account Information and Access
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency: Answers About Stop Payment Orders
- NerdWallet: Stop Payments – The Cost to Cancel Checks at Banks
- Bank of America. "Account Information & Access FAQs: How Do I Stop a Payment on a Personal Check." Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Bank of America. "Deposit Agreement and Disclosures - Stop Payment Orders and Postdated Orders," Pages 54-55. Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Santander Bank. "Can I Place a Stop Payment on a Check Using Online Banking?" Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Bank of America. "Personal Schedule of Fees," Page 14. Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Alliant Credit Union. "Fee Schedule," Page 1. Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Wells Fargo. "How Do I Place a Stop Payment on a Check or Pre-Authorized Payment (ACH Automated Clearing House) Item?" Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Experian. "The Difference Between a Money Order and a Cashier’s Check." Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Can I Put a Stop Payment Order on a Cashier's Check?" Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Legal Information Institute. "§ 3-312. Lost, Destroyed or Stolen Cashier’s Check, Teller’s Check, or Certified Check." Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Answers About Cashier's Checks." Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Experian. "Can You Cancel a Money Order?" Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. "Need to Stop a Payment? Know Who to Contact and How." Accessed April 13, 2020.
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Can a Bank Place a Stop Payment on an Electronic Funds Transfer?" Accessed April 13, 2020.
- State of California Department of Justice. "Bad Checks." Accessed April 13, 2020.
Jerry Shaw writes for Spice Marketing and LinkBlaze Marketing. His articles have appeared in Gannett and American Media Inc. publications. He is the author of "The Complete Guide to Trust and Estate Management" from Atlantic Publishing.