Need to cancel a check that you’ve written and sent out? Depending on how much time has passed, you may be able to request a stop payment from your bank or credit union. Stopping payment can prevent the check from being cashed, though you might pay a fee for this service. What you’ll need to do to stop payment on a check and how much it costs can depend on where you bank. If you’re looking to maximize how much your money earns for you, whether in an investment, checking or savings account, consider working with a financial advisor.
What Is a Stop Payment?
A stop payment is a request to have your bank or credit union cancel a payment before it’s completed. Depending on where you bank, you might be able to request a stop payment on a check or on ACH transfers. For example, you might schedule a bill payment in mobile banking, then decide you need to cancel it later.
There are, however, some transactions that you can’t stop payment on. If you’re sending money to another person or business via wire transfer, there’s usually no way to recall it. Banks typically don’t allow stop payments on cashier’s checks either.
A cashier’s check is a check that’s drawn on the bank’s funds, not your own. When you purchase a cashier’s check, the bank deducts the money from your account and deposits it into its own account. The bank then issues the check using its account, so you’re unable to stop the payment.
Likewise, you can’t issue a stop payment for a money order either. Money orders require upfront payment at the time they’re issued so there’s nothing to “stop” in that case. You can, however, request a replacement for a lost or stolen money order from the entity that issued it.
How Does a Stop Payment Work?
Stop payments work by allowing your bank or credit union to halt payment for a check or ACH transaction. You tell the bank which payment you want to stop and the bank flags the payment so that nothing is paid to the intended recipient.
Banks and credit unions may charge a stop-payment fee for this service. Once the bank completes your request for a stop payment, it may remain in place for a set time period. You may have the option to renew a stop payment order prior to its expiration.
Why would you need to stop payment on a check or ACH transaction? You may choose to do so if you:
- Write a check but have insufficient funds in your account to cover it and want to avoid overdraft fees.
- Lose a check that you’ve written to someone else and don’t want anyone who finds it to be able to cash it.
- Want to withhold payment for goods or services that were not received or are otherwise in dispute.
- Suspect that the payment request sent by the intended recipient is fraudulent.
- Believe the payment was made in error, e.g., it was sent to the wrong person or business or an incorrect address.
You don’t have to explain to your bank why you want to stop a payment. You’ll just need to provide the correct information so the bank can track it down. It’s important to note, however, that you may only have a limited window in which to successfully stop a payment. If a person you write a check to, for example, deposits it at their bank after you submit a stop payment request to your bank the check might still be cashed and funds are withdrawn from your account.
How to Stop Payment on a Check
Your options for stopping payments can depend on where you bank and they might include:
- Submitting a stop payment request online
- Requesting a stop payment over the phone
- Visiting a branch to issue a stop payment order
If you’d like to stop payment on a check, the first step is to make sure the check hasn’t cleared your account already. You can log in to online or mobile banking to view your transaction history. If you don’t see the check but want to confirm that it hasn’t been deposited or cashed yet, you might call your bank as well to verify.
The next step is requesting the stop payment. To do that, you’ll need to tell the bank as much information as possible, including:
- Recipient’s name
- Check number
- Check amount
- Date the check was written
- The account number the check was written from
Your bank may also ask you to verify your identity by providing the last four digits of your Social Security number or date of birth. Again, you can make your request online, over the phone or in person at a branch. At the time you submit your request, the bank will tell you what fee if any, applies. The bank may also caution you that submitting a stop payment order does not guarantee the payment will be blocked.
Can Someone Cash a Check That Has a Stop Payment?
Stop payments are intended to prevent a check from being cashed or deposited into someone else’s account. If someone attempts to cash a check that has a stop payment order in place, their request may be denied. In that case, they wouldn’t be able to cash the check, which is reassuring if you lose a check and someone finds it.
Once a check has been cashed, however, a stop payment order would have no effect whatsoever. That’s why it’s important to act quickly if you find yourself in a situation where you need to cancel a check. Otherwise, the money could still come out of your account.
Is It Worth It to Put a Stop Payment on a Check?
Going through the trouble of issuing a stop payment order and paying the bank’s fee could be worth it if you have an urgent need to cancel a check. For example, say you need to replace your roof. You hire a contractor who asks for a $5,000 deposit upfront. You write them a check in good faith, only to learn from your next-door neighbor after the fact that the contractor has a reputation for scamming customers.
In that case, it would be worth it to cancel the check and look for a new contractor. Paying $15 or $30 for a stop payment fee doesn’t seem so bad when you compare it to losing $5,000 to a fraudulent contractor.
However, it may not be worth stopping payment on a check if you’re able to contact the payee and ask them not to cash or deposit it. Depending on what the check was for, they might be willing to hold off on cashing the check, sparing you the trouble of having to request a stop payment and pay a fee to the bank.
The Bottom Line
Stop payments can come in handy if you need to cancel a check or ACH payment on short notice. The timing is the most important consideration, however, and it’s a good idea to request a stop payment sooner rather than later if you think you might need one. The longer you wait the less likely you are to be able to stop payment on any check because it may have already been processed.
Tips for Banking
- Consider talking to your financial advisor about the best ways to manage your checking account and minimize banking fees. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- When comparing the best checking accounts, it’s helpful to look at the fees you might pay, including fees for stop payments. Many banks and credit unions charge these fees, and they may cost you anywhere from $10 to $30, depending on where you keep your money. It may be possible to avoid stop payment fees with online checking accounts or premium checking accounts at traditional banks.
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