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How Do You Stop Payment on a Check?

A stop payment order is a request to cancel a check so it can’t be cashed. You might need to stop payment on a check because:

  • You lose a check or your checkbook
  • You suspect a check was stolen
  • You mailed a check to the wrong address
  • You made an error on the check (e.g., wrong recipient or amount)
  • You’re disputing the product or service the check is paying for
  • You think you’ve been scammed

If you want to cancel a check, act fast. The longer you wait, the more likely the recipient will cash the check. And once it’s cashed, you’re likely out of luck.

How to Stop Payment on a Check

Stopping payment on a check is pretty easy. Here’s how to do it.

1. See if the Check Has Cleared

You can’t stop payment on a check that’s already been cashed. Look at your account online or call the bank to see if the check has cleared. If it hasn’t, you’re good to move on to the next step.

If it has, there isn’t much you can do about it unless the check was stolen or forged. In these cases, contact your bank and report it as fraud. If the bank won’t reimburse you, you can file a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Customer Assistance Group.

2. Gather Check Details

You’ll need to provide information about the check to request a stop payment. Before you contact your bank or credit union, make sure you know:

  • Your account number
  • The check number
  • The check date
  • The check amount
  • The recipient’s name

3. Contact Your Bank or Credit Union

Some banks and credit unions require written notice for a stop payment request, while others are fine with an oral or online request. Those that allow verbal requests might require written confirmation within 14 days. Contact your bank or search its website to find out its policy.

4. Pay Stop Payment Fee (if Any)

Your bank or credit union might charge a fee for a stop payment request. Some banks charge $30 or more.

Here are the fees for some of the most popular banks. Note that some banks waive stop payment fees for certain accounts, such as premium accounts, so check with your bank for specifics.

BankStop Payment Fee
Bank of America$30
Capital One$35
TD Bank$30
Wells Fargo$31

Fees subject to change.

5. Contact the Recipient

If you’re stopping payment because you made an honest mistake on a check, let the recipient know and arrange to send a new check.

If you’re in a dispute with a merchant or service provider, let them know you’ve stopped payment on the check while you resolve the dispute. You can always send a new check if you’re happy with the resolution.

6. Note the Expiration Date

When your bank authorizes the stop payment order, pay attention to the expiration date. These orders typically last six months. If the bank can’t trace the check by the time the order expires, the recipient might still be able to cash it.

Your bank might allow you to extend the order if you contact them before it expires. This may incur an additional fee.

Some banks won’t cash a check that’s older than six months. Contact your bank and ask about its “stale-dated check” policy. If it doesn’t cash checks more than six months old, there’s no need to renew your stop payment order.

Can You Stop Automatic Recurring Payments?

You can stop recurring payments as long as the payment has not been processed.

If these payments are set up through your bank’s online bill pay, contact your bank at least three days before the next payment date. If you don’t contact them in time, the next payment might still go through, but future payments should be canceled.

Some banks allow you to make this request orally. Others require written confirmation. Check with your bank for its policies.

If the recurring payments are set up through a service provider, like your utility company or a streaming TV service, contact the provider and ask them directly to cancel payments. It’s easier than requesting a stop payment through your bank and saves you stop payment fees.

Can You Stop Payment on Cashier’s Checks or Money Orders?

You cannot stop payment on cashier’s checks or money orders because they require upfront payment. The only potential exception is in cases of fraud.

You can cancel a cashier’s check or money order, however. This is a permanent action, unlike stop payments, which are temporary. This process can take up to 90 days and come with a fee of $30 or more.

Final Word

You can avoid having to place a stop payment order by being careful when writing a check. Review the information to ensure everything is accurate and you’re sending the check to the correct recipient.

If you’re disputing a charge with a merchant or service provider, try contacting them first to see if you can work out a solution. It can save you from incurring a stop payment fee.

That said, life happens. It’s good to know how to stop payment on a check in case you ever need to do it because time can be of the essence.

Kelly Ernst has written extensively about personal finance, careers, freelancing, and lifestyle topics, with her work appearing on The Penny Hoarder, The Write Life, Budgets Are Sexy, and Business Insider, among other places. She also served as Editor-in-Chief of Career Attraction and Assistant Editor of Brazen Careerist. She joined Money Crashers in 2018. In her free time, Kelly enjoys learning new frugal hacks, binging podcasts, and anything dog-related.