Bank Of America: A Stop-Payment Isn't A Guarantee We Won't Process The Check Anyway

There’s a funny little thing about putting a “stop payment” order on a check that most banks don’t tell you about until it’s too late: They often only last six months and the only way to guarantee that check never gets deposited is to close the associated checking account. This is a lesson being learned the hard way by a Bank of America customer who saw her account drained of its last few dollars after an old landlord cashed a 16-month-old check.

Back in the summer of 2010, Consumerist reader Erin wrote a check to her landlord that was then believed to be lost. So she paid around $35 to have a a stop-payment put on it.

And then suddenly just a couple weeks ago, BofA honors this ancient, supposedly stopped check.

From Erin:

The check was 16 months old, which is what is known as a stale dated check. As I have been told, checks older than 90 days are never supposed to be cashed or credited. When I spoke with the bank manager at Sovereign Bank, he said he was really shocked, that cashing a 16 month old check was, as far as he knew, illegal.

The check had originally had a stop payment placed on it. The B of A rep who finally called me back about my complaint told me that:

1. A stop payment isn’t a guarantee. The only way to guarantee that a check is not cashed is to close your checking account. I replied that no one I knew had ever heard this. If it’s not a guarantee, why wasn’t I ever told this? If it’s not a guarantee, why am I charged for it?

2. A stop payment expires 6 months after it is put in place. Again, how does this make any sense? And, again, no one ever mentioned this to me.

3. That cashing a previously stopped, 16 month old check was a “courtesy” extended to me by B of A. The cashing of this check has made me $530 overdrawn.

Making matters worse, Erin had been laid off from her job only two weeks before this check came back from the past to haunt her.

We’ve reached out to Bank of America in the hopes that someone there will be willing to listen to Erin’s story to see if it can be resolved without bloodshed. We will update if we hear anything back from her or the bank.