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If you lose a personal check or if you think it’s been stolen, you need to ask your bank or credit union to cancel the check. You’ll want to act quickly, before the check can be cashed. Here are the five steps to cancel a check.
1. See whether the check has already cleared
In general, you can stop payment on a check — known as a stop payment order — only if your bank hasn’t paid it. Log in to your bank account and look through your transaction history to see if the check has posted. If the check was stolen and the payment has cleared, it's important to act fast to report the fraud to your bank.
» Suspect fraud? Learn the four steps you should take if your account is at risk.
2. Gather a few pieces of information
There are several details you’ll need before you contact your bank:
Your account number
The check number
The exact amount of the check
Other details you might need include the date on the check and the name of the recipient (the “payee”) and the person who signed the check, especially if you have a joint account and someone else wrote it.
3. Contact your bank
You must give your bank notice orally or in writing to request a stop payment. Banks recommend various ways to contact them, but generally you can make a request online, at a branch or by calling the phone number on the back of your debit card.
Assuming the check hasn’t already been presented to the bank, the stop payment request should take effect once the bank authorizes it.
4. Approve any stop payment fees
A few banks and credit unions don’t charge customers to cancel a check, but others have fees as high as $30 or more that would be debited from your account.
The fee amount could vary depending on how you contact the bank. You may be charged more for requesting a stop payment over the phone instead of online, for example. You have to authorize the stop payment order in order for your bank to process the fee.
Some institutions waive fees for customers who have premium accounts. For more details, read our list of fees banks charge for canceling a check.
5. Note the expiration date on the stop payment order
A stop payment order typically lasts about six months to keep whoever has your lost or stolen check from trying to cash it at different times and places. Whenever the order ends, you can renew it for another period but most banks won’t cash a check that's more than six months old.