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 "cancelled 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.
Contacting Your Bank
If you decide you want to cancel a check you have written and issue a stop order, call the bank as soon as possible. Use the number on your check, debit card or account information. Banks will stop payment on the check if you make arrangements in a reasonable amount of time. Provide the bank representative with information about the check, including the name of the payee, the check number, the exact amount and the date, as well as any account information the bank requires.
Banks differ in their procedures to cancel or stop payment on a check. There are banks that now let you stop payment through online checking 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 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 you 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.