How to Cancel a Check

person wondering if they can cancel a check after writing one

Sometimes, life doesn’t go to plan. If you realize there’s been a mistake, theft, or error when writing a check, you need to know how to cancel that check. You can’t rewind all of life’s blunders, and fortunately when it comes to your checking account, it often isn’t too late to stop the potential error in its tracks and save your money.

In this article, we’ll reveal everything you need to know about how to cancel a check that’s already been sent out, and what to expect during the cancellation process.

When Should you Cancel a Check?

There are many reasons why you might want or need to cancel a check:.

  • You lost a check. You don’t want a lost check to resurface in the wrong hands!
  • You realize you made an error on a check. Afraid you added an extra zero or misspelled the recipient’s name? If you discover you’ve made a mistake after mailing the check, you may need to cancel it and write a new one.
  • You mail a check to the wrong address. If you’re at all worried that anyone besides the intended recipient might cash your check, it’s wise to cancel it.
  • A check was stolen. If you suspect this scenario, it’s critical to cancel the check as soon as possible.
  • You realize you may have been the victim of a scam. If someone scams you, it’s crucial to cancel the check before the perpetrator cashes your hard-earned dough.
  • You realize you have insufficient funds in your account. Rather than dealing with the consequences of a bounced check or an overdraft fee, you may want to cancel the check and work something else out with the recipient.
  • Keep in mind that cancellation can be a hassle. If your issue can be resolved by reaching out to the merchant or recipient, that should be your first step. It could save you a bank fee and a headache.

    That said, sometimes cancellation is simply the best option. Moreover, it can save you significant money if you’ve made a costly mistake.

    Steps to Cancel a Check

    Once you’re sure you want to cancel a check, you can begin the cancellation process. This process will differ slightly from bank to bank, but in general, you’ll want to follow these steps:

    1) See if the Check has been Cleared

    The first order of business is to make sure the check in question hasn’t cleared yet. You can look for the transaction on your bank statement, or log in to your bank’s online site or app to see if the money has been removed from your account. You can also reach out to your bank via phone or in person and ask directly about the check in question.

    Checks typically take around two days to clear, so there is a small window during which you can stop the process in its tracks. That said, it’s always wise to act as quickly as possible once you realize you want to cancel a check.

    2) Gather Your Information

    Once you’ve established that the check has not been cleared, you’ll need to gather the relevant information. This includes:

  • Check date
  • Check number
  • Check amount
  • Account number
  • Routing number
  • Recipient name
  • Photo identification
  • You don’t want to be scrambling for this information once you’re in contact with your bank. Get prepared first, and then contact your bank. Next up? Putting a stop payment on the check.

    3) Communicate with your Bank to Request a Stop Payment

    A stop payment essentially instructs your bank or credit union not to honor the check if it hasn’t already been processed. Once your bank receives all the necessary information and confirms that the check hasn’t cleared, they will stop payment on the check for six months.

    Note that after six months that stop payment will expire. While most banks won’t cash any checks that are six months old or older, it is possible. So if you’re concerned, be sure to extend the stop payment for another six months.

    But how exactly do you communicate with your bank to issue the stop payment request? This tends to be the largest variable bank to bank.

    Some banks allow you to cancel a check online. If you have online banking, sign into your account and see if it’s possible to arrange the cancellation digitally. If you can’t (or if you’d rather speak to a bank employee), call the customer service line. You should also be able to request a stop payment over the phone.

    If you request a check cancellation verbally, always ask the bank for written confirmation of your request. In fact, most banks will require you to confirm a verbal request with a written request for their records. If you don’t receive a written confirmation, follow up. And stay on the ball: if you wait longer than two weeks without turning in an official written request, your bank may allow the check to be cashed.

    Is there a Fee for Canceling a Check?

    It depends on your bank or credit union, but there may be a fee for canceling a check. This fee is usually $35 or less per each stop payment request. Do inquire with your bank if there’s any possibility of waiving the fee — it’s not uncommon for banks to waive the fee in cases of lost or stolen blank checks, or for certain types of checking accounts.

    If you bank at a credit union instead of a bank, the stop payment request fee is usually significantly lower.

    Let’s look at the stop payment fees for some popular financial institutions:

  • Alliant Credit Union: $0 stop payment fee
  • Bank of America: $30 stop payment fee (Note: this fee is waived for Bank of America Advantage Relationship Banking, Bank of America Advantage® with Tiered Interest Checking, and Bank of America Advantage® Regular Checking accounts plus Preferred Rewards members)
  • Capital One 360 Checking: $0 stop payment fee
  • Chase Bank: $30 stop payment fee for a live request, $25 stop payment fee if requested via their automated online portal or phone system (Note: this fee is waived for Chase Private Client Savings, Chase Private Client Checking, and Chase Sapphire Checking account holders)
  • Discover Bank: $0 stop payment fee
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: $20 single stop payment fee/$25 for a series of stop payment requests
  • PNC Bank: $33 stop payment fee
  • State Employees’ Credit Union: $8 stop payment fee
  • Wells Fargo: $31 stop payment fee ($0 for Wells Fargo Premier Checking account holders)
  • You can see that policies and fees vary widely across each financial institution. It’s smart to familiarize yourself with your bank or credit union’s policy before proceeding with a check cancellation so you can figure out the most cost-effective way to move forward.

    For instance, if you have an account with the Navy Federal Credit Union and are looking to issue a stop payment request on multiple checks, you can see from their policy that you’ll pay fewer fees when you request stops on a series of checks as opposed to one at a time.

    What Do I Do if a Check I Want to Cancel has already Cleared?

    Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get your money back from a check that has been cashed.

    However, in some circumstances you’ll have an easier time, particularly in cases of fraud. Always contact your bank if you suspect that you are a victim of fraud. For example, if someone forges a check and uses it to steal money from your account, banks are usually required to reimburse you. You will likely also have to sign an affidavit assuring that you didn’t authorize the check and file a police report.

    There are also situations where your bank may be liable for an erroneously cashed check. If a bank cashes a check during an active stop payment period, they are responsible for that error. In these situations, it’s particularly vital to document the actions you take during a check cancellation process. If you can prove that you submitted a stop payment request, the bank is legally at fault for any monetary loss on your part.

    Ultimately, if you find yourself in a situation where an unwanted check clears, communicate with your bank. Explain your situation and ask if there’s anything they can do. Be prepared that banks are more equipped to help with scams or fraud, and unlikely to be helpful with money you simply wish you had never sent.

    If you do find yourself in conflict with your bank, you can submit an online complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Customer Assistance Group. There is ample information on their landing page about what they can or cannot assist with.


    Can I cancel a check after it has been cashed?

    Unfortunately, once a check has been cashed you won’t be able to cancel it. Do your best to try and cancel the check before it is cashed.

    Can a stop payment on a check be reversed?

    It’s possible to cancel a stop payment request. You can reach out to your bank for details about their policies. Explaining your situation via phone, in-person, or live chat (if available) is often best.

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