Issuing a Stop Payment on a Check

By Sheryl Nance-Nash · February 23, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Issuing a Stop Payment on a Check

At some point in your financial life, you may need to issue a stop payment on a check to prevent it from being cashed. This might happen because a check gets lost or stolen. Or perhaps you need to cancel a check because you filled it out with the wrong information, such as an incorrect payee or amount. Or maybe you accidentally issued a duplicate payment and are worried about overdrawing your bank account. It happens!

Fortunately, if you take action quickly, you can prevent a check or an electronic payment from being processed with a stop payment order. It can be as simple to complete as contacting your bank.

Read on to learn more, including:

•   What is a stop payment on a check?

•   How do I stop payment on a check?

•   What are alternatives to stop-payment orders?

What Is a Stop Payment on a Check?

A stop payment on a check is a way of requesting that a financial institution cancel a check or other payment that hasn’t been fully processed yet. It’s a way of intervening to stop a payment you initiated.

Doing so can help lessen your financial stress if you have a check that’s circulating with incorrect information on it or that could cause you to overdraft your account.

Typically, you will pay a fee for this service and it can only happen if the check or other payment has not yet been processed. If the recipient of the funds has cashed the check, you cannot reverse that.

Recommended: Ordering Checks – A Complete Guide

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Issuing a Stop Payment on a Check

If you are in a situation where you want to stop payment on a check (say, you filled the check out for the wrong amount or to the wrong person), there are steps you can follow. This can also be a method for canceling an ACH payment vs. a check; say, a recurring electronic payment you set up.

Here are the specifics on how to stop payment on a check:

1. Checking Your Bank Account to See if the Check Cleared

Before you start the process of canceling a check or payment, it’s a good idea to make sure it hasn’t already been processed.

You can do this by pulling up your account online or calling the bank’s automated phone line to see if the check or payment has already been deducted from your account.

If the amount has been processed, your opportunity to stop payment is unfortunately gone. If it hasn’t, however, you can likely stop the check or payment from being cashed or deposited.

Note: You cannot stop payment on a cashier’s check or money order as these are prepaid forms of payment.

2. Compiling the Check Info

Next, in order to contact your bank with the full story on the check in question, gather the following information:

•   Your account number and routing number

•   The recipient’s or payee’s name

•   The date you wrote the check

•   The check number

•   The amount of the check

For ACH payments, you may be asked to supply the company name, account number, ACH merchant ID, and the payment amount.

3. Contacting Your Bank

The next step in how to stop payment on a check is contacting your financial institution. You’ll want to do this as quickly as possible. Here’s how this typically works:

•   You might call your bank’s customer service number or reach out online. Some people prefer to go in person to a brick-and-mortar branch if they keep their accounts at a traditional bank.

•   It’s possible that your bank will want you to fill out a stop-payment form in order to initiate the process. You may need to complete this within 14 days to prevent the stop-payment order from expiring.

•   You may need your ID handy to prove your identity.

Once your bank authorizes your stop-payment request, the check or payment should no longer be valid.

4. Getting in Touch With the Payee

Depending on your reason for requesting a stop-payment order, you may also want to contact the payee in order to let them know about the stop payment. You can then arrange for a new payment if needed.

Recommended: What Is a Duplicate Check?

5. Extending the Stop Payment if Needed

A stop-payment order is a formal request to cancel a check or ACH payment (such as a recurring monthly bill payment) before it’s been processed.

Stop-payment orders on checks typically last for six months. This is the same amount of time as how long personal checks are good after being issued. So that should therefore be a sufficient amount of time to prevent the check from being cashed.

However, many banks allow you to renew a stop-payment order if the check is still outstanding. If your bank charges a stopped check fee, they may also charge a fee to renew the stop-payment order.

Stop-payment orders on ACH payments last indefinitely.

Recommended: Guide to Altered Checks and How to Spot One

How Much Does It Cost to Stop Payment on a Check?

Now that you know how to stop a check, here’s how much it will likely cost you. Just as with cashing a check, fees for stopping payment on a check vary from one bank to the next. The typical fee is between $15 to $33. Some banks will waive the stop-payment fee for customers with premium-tier checking accounts.

Alternatives to Stop-Payment Orders

A stop-payment order is one way to prevent a payment from being processed. With an electronic payment, another option may be to contact the business or vendor directly.

Whether it’s your electric bill or a monthly streaming service, companies can typically stop or delay billing on request. A couple of considerations:

•   If you stop a bill payment via the bank without reaching out to the service provider, the company can respond by cutting off your access to its services.

•   If you instead delay the automatic debit by working with the vendor, you may be able to avoid a disruption in service, and also avoid paying a stop-payment fee to the bank.

The Takeaway

Mistakes and miscommunication can happen, and checks sometimes get lost or stolen. That’s when a stop-payment order can come in handy, canceling a check or electronic debit payment that’s waiting to be processed. While handy in some situations, note that stop payments often incur a fee that can typically range from $15 to $33.

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How long does a stop payment on a check take?

The time required for a stop-payment request will depend on your financial institution. You may be able to do it very quickly in person, by phone, or electronically with your bank (especially if you have all the pertinent details handy) and have it authorized within minutes. At other banks, you may need to fill out and submit a stop payment request and wait for the bank to process it. Once in place, stop payment orders typically last six months.

Is a stop payment the same as canceling a check?

Yes, a stop payment is the same as canceling a check that has not been processed or paid yet. Note, however, that there is a more complex process of check cancellation that is sometimes available for prepaid checks such as a cashier’s check or money order.

How much does it cost to put a stop payment on a check?

Typically, a stop payment will cost between $15 and $33 when you issue this order. In some cases, a bank may waive the fee; you can check with yours to see if this is possible.

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