Sending a check via mail, either for personal reasons or to pay a bill, and finding out it was never received or cashed, can throw a wrench into balancing your checkbook. But fast action can keep it from becoming too much of a headache. If you record all of your checks using an accurate check register, it's easier to find out if a check you sent was never received.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If the recipient of a check you wrote never received it, and you're sure it isn't still in your possession, you'll want to consider putting a stop payment on the check.
If you sent your niece a birthday card and check and it never arrived, double-check to make sure it isn't stuck in your purse or in the sun visor of your car. Many lost checks are often misplaced checks, so look around to make sure the error isn’t on your part. If you're sure you sent it, check with your bank to see if the card was intercepted and the check cashed by someone else. If that's the case, follow your bank’s procedures for reporting a fraudulent transaction.
If you send out a check to pay your bill and your service provider tells you your payment never arrived, it could lead to late fees and even a ding on your credit report. Talk to someone in the business’s finance department. Make arrangements to send a replacement check with the understanding that if and when the original check shows up, that it be returned to you or destroyed so you don't end up paying twice.
Your bank might offer an option for canceling a check once it's written and sent. This may be called a check cancellation or a stop payment. While this process generally applies to personal checks, some banks also extend it to cashier checks and money orders, provided you have receipts for the transaction and can provide a valid reason for your request. You’ll usually have to pay for this service. Banks such as Chase may charge $30 or more for a stop payment.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, it takes approximately three days to deliver a first-class piece of mail to its recipient. Keep in mind that time period may be longer if you mailed the check past your local post office’s pickup schedule, or if your mail overlaps with a holiday or weekend. In the future, if you're sending a big or important check, spring for a delivery-confirmation or tracking service so you can trace the check if necessary.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.