Your money is precious to you, and you need to do everything you can to safeguard it. There are some commonsense ways you can minimise any risk. For example when writing cheques, you should do it in such a way that they cannot be easily altered.

Put a line after the amount in words and the amount in figures, and cross the cheque by drawing two parallel lines across the name of the payee and the amount in words, and write ‘Not Negotiable’ in large clear letters between the lines, meaning that the bank must pay the cheque into a bank account, and not give cash to the payee. This means that a thief cannot claim to be the payee, and receive the amount in cash.

If you need to stop a cheque, you should do so immediately by contacting the branch at which you hold the account. The stop should be done in writing, preferably by using the bank’s form for requesting a stop on a cheque, and attaching additional information on a separate piece of paper if you need more room. Either signatory to a joint account may stop payment of a cheque drawn on the account. As long as you properly and promptly inform the bank, you will not be liable if the bank pays the cheque after it has been stopped.

Most banks require three working days to clear a cheque. This can give you time to stop the cheque if you find it has gone into the wrong account. The three-day period allows time for the cheque to be sent from the payee’s bank (the collecting bank) to the drawer’s bank (the paying bank). The paying bank will check that the drawer’s account has sufficient funds to cover the amount of the cheque, and to verify the signature. If no errors are found, then the paying bank will notify the collecting bank that the cheque has been honoured.

If there are insufficient funds to cover the cheque’s amount, or there is some other irregularity, the cheque will be dishonoured and returned to the collecting bank with an explanation. Dishonour fees may apply to both the drawer and payee of the cheque. If the date of a cheque presented to the collecting bank is more than 15 months in the past, it may be considered invalid and dishonoured. For a fee, most banks will clear a cheque within 24 hours. A post-date valid cheque is valid, but the paying bank will not pay the cheque until the date on the cheque has been reached.

To protect your money when using an ATM you need to have memorised your PIN and not recorded it anywhere. Recording it, especially carrying it with your debit or credit card, can make you liable for any financial losses incurred. Choose a 6-digit, rather than 4-digit, PIN of numbers, letters or both that you will remember. Do not use any thing obvious, like consecutive numbers or letters, your name, phone number or date of birth. Be aware of who is around you when you withdraw money from an ATM, and try to cover your hand with the other one, when entering your PIN.

Summary

Stop cheques by writing to the branch at which you hold the account, preferably by using their official ‘stop cheque’ form.
Either signatory of a joint account can stop a cheque drawn on the account.
You are not liable if the cheque is paid after you have stopped it.
Cheques will be dishonoured if there are insufficient funds in the drawer’s account, or if there is some irregularity.
Dishonour fees may apply for both the drawer and payee of a dishonoured cheque.
Cheques normally take 3 working days to clear, but most banks will provide 24-hour clearance for a fee.
You should never record or disclose your debit or credit’s card’s PIN. If you do you may liable for any losses incurred.

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