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There may be situations in life where you have given someone a check, only to realize you have paid them in error. Perhaps you paid for something and later realized the item was fraudulent, or that you overpaid. In these instances, you may be thinking about cancelling a check to prevent the person from cashing it. If you act quickly, you should be able to accomplish that goal by following these simple steps.
When is it Possible to Cancel a Check?
From the start, it is important to understand that you can only cancel a check that has not already been cashed. The easiest way to determine if a check can be cancelled is to check the transaction history on your bank account. If a check has been posted as deposited and cleared, then it cannot be canceled. If it has not been posted, then you might be able to take action to cancel it.
Importantly, if a check has cleared and you believe that it was stolen, then you can report the incident to your bank as fraud.
The Process of Cancelling a Check
In order to cancel a check, you must have several pieces of information. This includes your account number, the check number, and the exact amount on the check. Your bank may also ask you for the date of the check, the recipient (the person the check is made out to), and who signed the check (if you have a joint account).
Once you have this information, you can then contact your bank to request what is known as a “stop payment” on the check. You can contact your bank orally or in writing to request a stop payment, which can usually be done via telephone, by online request, or by stopping at a local branch.
If the check has not already been presented to the bank, requesting a stop payment will effectively cancel the check as soon as the bank authorizes it. However, banks typically charge a fee in order to approve a stop payment request. These fees can be as much as $35, although some banks do not charge for these requests. You must approve the fee in order for the stop payment to be authorized.
Stop payment orders typically last for six months, although some last for as long as a year. If necessary, you can renew the request for an additional six months. Most banks will not cash a check that is more than six months old.
Can You Cancel a Deposit?
If you are the recipient of a check you deposited and that someone later claimed was sent to you erroneously, you may be wondering if you can cancel the deposit. As with canceling a check, the answer depends on whether the check has cleared. It may be possible for the deposit to be canceled if the funds have not already been paid by the bank that issued the check. However, if the funds have been paid, the check cannot be cancelled.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
Jeff Gitlen writes about a wide range of finance topics including everything from student loans to credit cards to small business financing. Jeff's work has been featured on a number of sites including Bloomberg, CNBC, Forbes, Market Watch, and more.