A void check means the check no longer holds any monetary value, which is helpful when setting up a direct deposit or an automatic payment. Checks may seem like something from the past, but there are still several reasons why you may need to know how to void a check. Knowing how to cancel a check may even save you a lot of trouble one day.
It’s easy to make mistakes when writing out a check. Maybe you wrote the incorrect number in the payment box, or you wrote who the check was to on the wrong line. Things happen! Or maybe you’ve just started a new job and want to get paid without waiting to deposit a paper check. Continue reading below to find out how to void a check, how void checks can be helpful, and how to void a check that’s already been mailed.
What is a void check?
A void check is a paper check that has the word “VOID” written across the front of it. It looks like this:
To make a check void, clearly write “VOID” across the front of the check in large letters using a pen. You may have to write “void” in smaller letters on the payment amount box, the signature line, payee line, and check register. You’ll also want to write the reason for the void check on the memo line and the check number in your check registry.
Though it may seem like a flimsy preventative, a void check is one without any monetary value regardless of the written amount on the check. This means the check is not usable and cannot be used to withdraw money from your account. Essentially, a voided check is “empty” and no longer carries any monetary value. Despite this, you’ll want to keep the original check to monitor your personal finances.
Why would I need to void a check?
Voided checks are helpful in many situations, but they can be summed up in three main categories: (1) set up direct deposit; (2) schedule an automatic payment; and (3) cancel an issued check.
This is a common form of electronic payment seen in most modern workplaces. When you first start working for a new employer, one of the first things you’ll do is fill out your bank account information on a direct deposit form. This will include your bank account number (usually your checking account), the routing number, the bank or credit union you work with, and a voided blank check as an example.
In this case, the void check acts as evidence to verify your bank account information matches what you provided your employer.
Automatic payments are electronic payments scheduled for a certain date. You’ll see this scheduling tool often with utilities providers. In order to schedule an automatic payment, you’ll need to provide your bank account number and routing number, and sometimes a voided check as well. This process is very similar to setting up your direct deposit and ensures you’re kept up-to-date with every bill payment and deposit made.
We all make errors, including when writing a check. For example, writing the wrong amount in the payment amount box or writing the check out to the wrong payee. Whatever the reason, simply write “void” across the check in big letters and in any smaller fields you’ve filled in. If you still have room, add the reason for the voided check to the memo line and in your online banking platform. This helps you track what checks are written through your bank account.
What if you receive a check with a mistake?
Sometimes you may receive a check that was either sent by mistake or has an error. For example, a client may send you a check for the wrong amount, or the IRS could send you a refund you are not entitled to. In such cases, you can simply write “void” on the front to cancel it like any other voided check.
In the case of an erroneous IRS refund, the IRS requires you to:
- Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
- Submit the check immediately, but no later than 21 days, to the appropriate IRS location listed below. The location is based on the city (possibly abbreviated) on the bottom text line in front of the words TAX REFUND on your refund check.
- Don’t staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
- Include a note stating “Return of erroneous refund check” and give a brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund check.
What if I don’t use paper checks?
Not everyone keeps a physical checkbook anymore, and depending on your financial institution you may not have the option to buy physical checks either. If you need to set up a direct deposit or a scheduled payment, you can do so using other paperwork from your bank or credit union.
Deposit slips will generally work in place of a voided check if setting up direct deposit, or you can visit your bank and ask for a single or starter check to void.
If none of these options work, you can always ask your bank for a statement identifying you as the accurate account holder.
How do I void a check after sending it?
If you’ve already sent out a check and only then realize that you’ve made an error, first visit your online banking account. You’ll need to look for “stop payment” or “stop payment order” on your bank website. Once you find it, use your check register to find the particular check number you need to void, including the payment amount and the payee. (Double check the check number is accurate, as voiding the wrong check could lead to missed payments.) Once you’ve input all the necessary details, you’ll likely have to pay a fee to finish voiding your check.
If you don’t have an online banking account, contact your bank as quickly as possible. Let them know that you need to stop payment on an issued check. The customer service representative will need your account number, the specific check number, the payment amount, and the payee.
Is voiding a check the same as canceling a check?
A voided check is essentially the same as a canceled check. You generally use “void check” when you need a check to set up direct deposits or open a new account. Whereas a “canceled check” is typically used to describe a check that was issued but voided before the bank paid the check amount. However, these terms can be used interchangeably.
How much does it cost to void a check?
Any costs associated with canceled checks often come down to why the check was voided. For example, if you need a void check to set up a direct deposit, then the only cost will be the price of the check (which is usually less than $0.20). However, if you need to void a check because you don’t have the money necessary to pay the check in your bank account, this will be a larger fee.
Most banks charge a $10-50 fee for this service, but the exact amount will depend on who you bank with. The average stop payment fee among the banks and credit unions SuperMoney tracks is $23.8. However, some banks do it for free, but this is pretty rare and usually reserved to premium accounts with large minimum balances. However, this fee will likely be less than any overdraft fees required if you can’t pay the issued check.
Voiding a check may seem like a hassle, but it can save you from a lot of headaches. Direct deposits and payments make personal finance a snap, and any fees associated with voiding a check will seem small compared to bank overdraft fees. If you have any concerns about voided checks or an issued check that needs to be voided, contact your bank immediately.
- Be sure to use a pen to void the check; this prevents anyone from “undoing” the voided check.
- You can use a voided check to set up direct deposit, schedule an automatic payment, or cancel any mistakes made on a written check.
- If you don’t have paper checks, ask your employer what else you can provide to set up direct deposit.
- If you need to void a check after it’s been sent, visit your online bank account or contact your bank to void the check. This is referred to as a “stop payment order.”
- Voiding a check will require different fees depending on why the check is canceled.
Samantha Toner is a SuperMoney personal finance writer currently based in Colorado. As a previous graduate student, she understands the special challenges students and graduates face today. She enjoys writing articles discussing getting out of debt, credit cards, and insurance. When she’s not writing, she enjoys exploring Colorado with her pup Koda.