What is a Stop Payment?: How They Work and What it Costs

What is a Stop Payment?: How They Work and What it Costs

A stop payment is a request for a bank to stop a check or recurring debit payment that's waiting to be processed. Stop payment requests can only be made by the account holder who sent the original payment, and must be made before the check or payment has been processed. Stop payments often incur a fee, which can vary from $15 to $35 depending on the institution you bank with.

What is a Stop Payment?

A stop payment order allows you to prevent payment on a check or recurring debit transaction that hasn't been processed yet. Stop payments are used if you write in the wrong amount or the wrong recipient for a personal check, among other things. Stop payments ensure that you aren't charged for a purchase that you cancel after sending out the check. Most banks charge account holders a fee of $15 to $35 for each stop payment order.

You can usually initiate a stop payment order by calling your bank, but some institutions may require you to follow up a verbal request with written confirmation or an application form. You'll also be expected to provide specific details to your bank or financial institution. These details can include the date, check number, amount, and the recipient.

If your request involves a check, your bank can prevent the check from clearing when the recipient attempts to cash it—just as it would with a bounced check. But unlike bounced checks, stop payment orders aren't permanent. At most banks, stop payment orders last for six months from the date of your original request. If the check isn't located by the end of that period, it can still be cashed in. Some banks allow customers to extend stop payment requests, although that process can involve extra fees.

If you’re expecting an automatic debit payment to hit your checking account, you can request a stop payment. However, it’s usually better to contact the source of the bill first. Whether it’s your electric bill, your mortgage, or a digital subscription—such as Netflix—companies should be able to stop or delay billing on request. If you stop payment on a bill payment without contacting a service provider, the company can respond by cutting off your access to its services.

Can You Stop Payment on Cashier's Checks and Money Orders?

You cannot stop payment on cashier's checks and money orders, which work differently from personal checks. Both cashier’s checks and money orders require upfront payment: the money leaves your account when the check or money order is issued, not when they're cashed. As prepaid forms of payment, both cashier's checks and money orders are designed to guarantee that a transaction will go through, which makes them particularly difficult to recall.

However, it's possible to cancel a cashier’s check or money order. Cancellation is more time-consuming than stopping a payment, usually taking 90 days or more. Unlike a stop payment order, cancellation represents a permanent refund rather than a temporary hold. Nevertheless, you'll need to provide plenty of documentation in order to successfully cancel a money order or cashier's check. It's important to keep any receipts and serial numbers you receive when making the purchase.

How Much Do Stop Payment Fees Cost?

As with many other bank services, stop payments typically come with a fee. Here's what you can expect to pay at some major banks and financial institutions when you request a stop payment.

Stop Payment Fee
Fee Waivers and Discounts
Capital One$35.00$25.00 for Capital One 360 Checking
Bank of America$30.00Waived for Interest Checking
Citibank$30.00Waived for Citigold®, Citi Priority, or Private Bank clients
Wells Fargo$31.00-
Fifth Third Bank$33.00Waived for Enhanced and Preferred Checking
Ally Bank$15.00-
HSBC$30.00Waived for Premier Checking
PNC$33.00Waived for Performance Select Checking
TD Bank$30.00Waived for Premier and Relationship Checking

Some banks don’t collect any checking account fees for a stop payment, but most charge around $30. If you want to avoid stop payment fees entirely, you can work with banks that offer this service free of charge. Some banks will also waive the stop payment fee for customers that open premium-tier checking accounts. Banks such as TD Bank, Chase, PNC, HSBC and Citibank each offer this service.

Of course, the best way to avoid a fee is to ensure that you don’t need to issue a stop payment in the first place. Verify the information on your check before you send it, and make sure you've communicated with the recipient and agreed upon the amount.

No matter how careful you are, mistakes and miscommunications happen. Be aware of how stop payments work at your bank, how much they'll cost you, and the rules around when you can and cannot request one. Being prepared will make the process simple and more efficient if you ever have to request a stop payment from your bank.