Did you write a check for the wrong amount? That extra “0” might be enough to overdraw your account. Are you in a disagreement with someone who failed to complete that maintenance job at your house but already has a check on the way for the work? They may not hesitate to deposit that money as soon as it arrives in their mailbox.
What should you do?
While you cannot ask the postal service to return the envelope to you, you can ask your bank to cancel the check and avoid having the funds withdrawn from your bank account. Follow this checklist to stop that check in its tracks.
1. Find out if the payment has already been processed.
Before you start the process of canceling a check, you’ll need to review your checking account activity to verify that the check has not yet cleared. The bank will not be able to stop the payment if the check has been cashed or is in the midst of processing. If you don’t see the amount in your transaction history, you need to act fast. That check could be just a few minutes away from being deposited.
2. Pull all the details together.
Make sure you have the key information your bank will need to process your request: your account number and the check number. You may also need to include the payment amount and the recipient.
The bank might request information on why you are canceling the check. Was it made out for the wrong amount or to the wrong payee? Are you disputing the transaction? Or was the check stolen? If you’re worried about a lost checkbook, the bank may need to do more than simply stop one payment.
3. Get in touch with your bank – and get ready to pay.
Once you have all the details, it’s time to contact your bank or credit union. Even though you are looking to cancel a check, you might not see that exact wording on your financial institution’s website. Instead, you might see “stop payment.” It accomplishes the same objective: not allowing those funds to leave your account.
It’s best to cancel a check online if the option is available via your bank for two reasons. First, it puts the request in writing. Second, it might be a bit cheaper. For example, Chase customers can save $5 for using an online or automated system to cancel a check instead of calling to talk to an actual person. If you cannot access your bank’s online services, it’s best to call the customer service number on the back of your debit card.
If you have an account at a traditional bank, you’ll probably pay a fee in exchange for not paying the amount on the check. You may be exempt from the charge if you have a higher-tier account, though. Check out the typical costs for canceling a check at some of the most-recognized names in banking.
|Financial institution||Fee for canceling a check|
|Bank of America||$30
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 customers.
|Chase||$30 ($25 if the request is made via chase.com, the Chase mobile app or the bank’s automated phone system)|
Waived for: Customers with Citi Priority and Citigold account packages
Waived for: Beyond Checking, Beyond Savings, Private Tiered Checking and Private Tiered Savings account holders
Waived for: Performance Select customers
Waived for: Preferred Banking customers
4. Know when the “stop” stops.
Stopping a payment may not mean forever. Make sure you understand how long your request will be honored. Most policies last for six months, and checks are typically void after six months. However, there are exceptions. And even if you canceled the check, it’s still wise to monitor your account activity to make sure the request was processed successfully.