Banking

How to Cancel a Check

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There could come a time when you need to whip out the checkbook. The problem is, checks are vulnerable to theft, prone to error and easily lost. In these cases, you should cancel a check before someone else cashes it. To do that, you’ll talk to your bank or credit union to issue a stop payment — but this can be a race against the clock.

In this article, we’ll show you how to cancel a check fast.

How to cancel a check in 3 steps

You may need to cancel a check because it was lost or stolen, is attached to an account with insufficient funds, has the wrong information or has been sent to the wrong address. These things happen.

To stop a check from going through, you need to issue a stop payment –– a request to your bank or credit union to cancel the payment. Most financial institutions allow you to stop payment for personal checks, but you generally can’t submit a stop payment on cashier’s checks.

Here are the steps you should take to stop payment on a check.

1.  Determine if the lost or stolen check has cleared

Make sure your bank hasn’t paid the check. Typically, once a bank clears it, the funds are withdrawn from your account within days. Log in to your account or call your bank and assess your transaction history. If the amount shows up on your record, you may have to move past these steps and report fraud. If you don’t see the amount in your recent transactions, quickly move on to the next steps.

2. Gather information for the stop payment

You’ll need the following information to issue the stop payment order with your bank or credit union:

  • Account number
  • Dollar amount
  • Check number
  • Date of the check
  • Recipient’s name
  • Reason for stop payment

Have this nearby as you submit the request.

3. Request a stop payment with your bank

You can request a stop payment online, in person or over the phone. The best way to submit is online or through the bank’s app; it’s quicker and you have the action in writing.

Each bank’s online portal may offer a different way to cancel a check, but you can typically find the stop payment option under “Services”, “Manage Accounts” or something similar.

When you request a stop payment verbally, you may have to quickly follow up with written confirmation or an application form to ensure the check isn’t cashed.

Tip: If you’re canceling an automatic debit, contact the source of the bill first. You may be able to stop or delay billing on request.

How much does it cost to cancel a check?

Issuing a stop payment for a check can cost money, but it’s worth it. Typically, banks charge anywhere from $20 to $30 for canceling a check, though fees can vary. Some banks will reduce or even waive the stop payment fee for higher-tiered accounts.

Here are stop payment fees for ten major banks as of August 2022. Check the fine print of your bank account to confirm current fees.

Financial institutionStop payment feeWho this fee is waived for
Bank of America$30Advantage Relationship Banking, Advantage with Tiered Interest Checking, Advantage Regular Checking and Preferred Rewards customers
Chase$30Chase SapphireTM Banking
Citibank$30Citigold®, Citi Priority and Private Banking customers
Ally Bank$15N/A
Wells Fargo$31N/A
Capital One$25N/A
PNC Bank$33Performance Select Checking
U.S. Bank$35Military members (or discounted to $20 for Platinum Checking)
TD Bank$30TD Beyond Checking, SD Signature Savings, TD Private Tiered Checking and TD Private Tiered Savings
Regions Bank$36N/A

How long does a stop payment take?

The stop payment should take effect as soon as you request it, but it’s not permanent. Stop payments can expire — with most banks, the canceled check is flagged for about six months. This timeframe can vary bank to bank, so check your deposit agreement disclosures to confirm. The last thing you want is for the check to go through or to bounce (which can lead to a returned check fee).

You can typically extend your request another six months, though it may come with an additional fee. The question is, are you willing to pay a fee every six months to renew a stop payment? Banks are not required by law to honor “stale-dated checks” (i.e. really old checks), but they can if they choose. You may want to talk to your bank about their stance on honoring old checks and consider closing the account and starting fresh.

Tip: If you’ve lost several blank checks, check with your bank or credit union on whether you’d need to pay a fee to stop each one. Freezing or closing your account may be easier. 

What happens if a stop payment check is cashed?

Generally, a stop payment guarantees that the bank or credit union will prevent the check from being cashed. But if the account holder is too slow to submit the request or doesn’t provide sufficient details to their financial institution, the lost or stolen check may clear anyway.

In the case of a fraudulent check, your bank may be required to reimburse you. The process of reporting fraud, however, can be extensive: notifying your bank, reporting it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), filing a police report and constantly monitoring your account activity.

If the bank pays the check even after the stop payment should have been in effect, they will typically reverse the charges. Ultimately, the longer you wait to request the stop payment, the less likely you’ll be reimbursed after it’s been cashed.

Frequently asked questions

Call your bank directly, or sign into your bank’s online or mobile banking to submit a request for a stop payment. Provide key details like your account number, dollar amount, check number, date of the check, recipient name and reason for the stop payment.

A stop payment is a formal request for your bank or credit union to cancel a check before it’s cashed or bounces due to insufficient funds, incorrect details, loss or theft.

Signing into your account or calling your bank may take a few minutes, and the stop payment will typically go into effect as soon as you request it. It typically remains active for six months, at which time you can renew the request.

Yes. Most banks charge a fee for canceling a check, though it can vary based on the bank or the account. For example, Bank of America, Chase and Citibank all charge a $30 stop payment fee. Sometimes this fee is waived for higher-tiered accounts.

You should cancel a check if it was lost, stolen, written fraudulently, has incorrect information, was sent to the wrong address or is attached to an account with insufficient funds.

Yes, you can cancel cashier’s checks and money orders. But you cannot put a stop payment on these because funds are withdrawn from your account when the check is issued, not cashed. That means the bank generally must honor the check. Canceling a cashier’s check or money order can take 90 days or more and requires thorough documentation.

No. Once the check is deposited or cashed, you won’t be able to put a stop payment on it. However, if the check was written fraudulently and you report it to your bank, the FTC and the police, you have a better chance of getting your money back from the bank.