If you want to stop payment on a check, it's essential to act quickly to ensure you don't lose money or face overdraft fees on your account.
But there are also several things to consider before taking action.
Use this guide to learn how to stop payment on a check, when it's a good idea, and what fees you might encounter.
What is a stop payment order?
A stop payment order is a formal request made by an account holder to a financial institution to cancel a check or payment that hasn't been processed yet.
How it works
Unlike canceling a pending transaction, you'll need to make a stop payment order with your financial institution directly.
The account holder must provide specific information to the bank or credit union about the check. The financial institution then flags the check to prevent it from going through on the holder's account.
The stop payment order usually lasts six months, after which the account holder can request a renewal if the check hasn't been located.
After 12 months, the order expires.
Stop payment fees
Most banks charge approximately $30 to stop a payment, although some waive fees for customers with premium checking accounts, and others don't charge any fees at all. Check your bank's policies before proceeding.
How to stop payment on a check
Here are the steps to follow to stop payment on a check.
1. Verify the transaction
First, sign in to your online banking account to see if the payment has already cleared. If you don't have an online account, you can go in person to your local branch or print out your statement from an ATM.
2. Gather necessary information
Next, compile all the vital information about the payment you want to stop. Your financial institution will use this information to track the payment and ensure it hasn't been processed.
Here are some of the details they may request:
- Account number
- Routing number
- Recipient name
- Check date
- Check number
- Check amount
- Photo identification
To stop an ACH payment, you may also have to supply the company name and ACH merchant ID.
3. Contact your financial institution
Once you've confirmed that the payment hasn't gone through and you’ve collected all the necessary information, it's time to contact your bank or credit union to make a stop payment request formally.
The fastest way to stop the payment is by phone, but you may have to supply a written confirmation within 14 business days. You can also make a request online or in writing, and some banks require you to fill out a stop payment request form.
4. Contact the payment recipient
In some cases, you may want to contact the intended payee to alert them that you've placed a stop on the payment. Depending on the situation, you can then arrange for another payment if required.
What to do next
After you've placed your stop payment request, you should continue to monitor your account and renew the request after six months if the payment still hasn't gone through.
If, for any reason, you aren't able to stop payment before it clears, you have a few options, depending on the situation.
If you believe someone may have forged a check or fraudulently withdrawn money from your account, you should immediately contact your financial institution. Banks usually reimburse you for a forged check, but you might have to file a police report or sign an affidavit stating that you didn't authorize the payment.
In some cases, your bank or credit union might accidentally cash a check after you've requested a stop payment order. If that happens, the financial institution is usually liable for the payment amount, provided you can prove you were legally allowed to stop the payment.
If you can't resolve the issue with your financial institution, your last option is to submit an online complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Reasons to stop payment on a check
Various situations in which you would want to stop payment on a check exist, including:
- You lost a check, or it was stolen
- You made a check for the wrong amount
- You mailed a check to an incorrect address
- You believe someone forged a check in your name
Canceling an electronic or ACH payment is similar to making a stop payment on a check. Simply make the request with your financial institution before the payment goes through on your account.
However, you may find it easier to cancel the payment directly at the source by requesting the payment recipient (i.e., the company charging the automatic payment) to stop future withdrawals.
FAQs about stopping payments on a check
Do stop payment orders always work?
Unfortunately, no. For example, if you forget to renew an order when it expires after six months, the payment may still get processed after expiration.
It's also possible that your financial institution accidentally processes the payment even if a stop request was made. If this happens, your bank or credit union is usually liable for the costs you incur, including any stop payment fees they may have charged.
Are stop payment orders legal?
Yes. You are within your legal rights to request a stop payment order. However, being allowed to make a stop payment order doesn't mean you aren't legally responsible for making certain payments.
Can the bank pay a check after I place a stop payment on it?
Unfortunately, yes. Although banks usually honor stop payment requests, they sometimes inadvertently process a check even though you made a stop payment order. If your bank cashes a check on which you placed a stop payment order, they may be liable for the costs.
However, if you fail to provide sufficient notice to implement the stop payment order, lack enough information to identify the check, or forget to renew the stop payment order after six months, the bank is no longer responsible.
Can you stop payment on cashier's checks and money orders?
No. Cashier's checks and money orders are prepaid forms of payment, meaning the money leaves your account as soon as they're issued, not when they're cashed.
Can you cancel a deposit?
Yes, but only if it hasn't been sent for processing yet. Some banks let you cancel deposits online, but others require you to call.
How long will the stop payment order last?
A written stop payment order lasts six months, after which you can renew it for another six months. However, if you request a stop payment order over the phone without confirming it in writing, it might expire after 14 business days.
Keeping track of all your payments can be challenging, and mistakes sometimes happen.
Knowing how to stop payments work at your bank and how much they cost will help you prepare for any inconveniences that may arise in your financial life.
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