How to Cancel a Misdirected Money Transfer

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Woops!  Did you just send a bunch of your hard-earned money to the wrong person?  You are not alone.  It is quite common in this age of faster, on-the-go payments for people to accidentally mistype a recipient’s account number.  So what recourse do you have?  That depends on a number of factors such as the type and location of the money transfer provider, how much time has passed since you submitted the transfer request, and whether the funds have been deposited or picked up by the recipient.

Cancelling Money Transfers from the US

In the US, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforces rules about cancellations of remittance transfers, which are defined under federal law as “most electronic money transfers from consumers in the United States through ‘remittance transfer providers’ [i.e., banks, credit unions and online services] to recipients abroad.”  According to CFPB, you have a right to cancel an international money transfer within 30 minutes of paying for it, provided that it hasn’t yet reached the recipient.  Some US-based providers offer more generous cancellation windows under certain circumstances.

Xoom, PayPal’s international money transfer app (read our review), is an example of a provider that falls under the regulations outlined by CFPB.  Xoom users who submit a cancellation request within a half hour of having authorized the transfer will receive a refund within 3 business days (assuming the transfer didn’t complete).  If it’s been longer than a half hour, you may still be in luck.  As long as Xoom’s partner hasn’t yet processed the transaction, you can get a refund.

In contrast, payments through peer-to-peer money transfer apps like SquareCash and Venmo (also owned by PayPal) can’t be cancelled, because they’re instantaneous.  As soon as you send funds through these apps, the recipient can access them.   This means that the only way you can get those funds back is by requesting them from the recipient.  If the recipient is unresponsive or noncompliant, reach out to customer support for guidance.  

cancel money transfer

Cancelling Money Transfers from the UK

While the British banking initiative known as “Faster Payments” has reduced transfer times between banks from a few days to just a few yours, it has also made it harder to undo transactions.  “The sad fact is, it’s all-too-easy to input a wrong digit when doing an online bank transfer,” said David Black, money expert at DJB Research. “Electronic payments using ‘faster payments’ mean that funds are transferred very quickly. As a result, there’s no opportunity to stop the payment.”

To address this problem, most high street banks and building societies have voluntarily adopted a set of guidelines for resolving misdirected payments.  The guidelines require banks to respond to a customer’s problem within two days of being notified.  If the money has already been credited to the recipient’s account, then the banks must attempt to contact the recipient and obtain approval of the reversal.  If the unintended recipient refuses to acknowledge the error, however, things get more complicated.  In that case, the banks have 20 days to investigate and inform the sender of the investigation’s outcome.

If you used an online money transfer company instead of a bank, cancellations are also possible.  For example, Transferwise (learn more) lets you recall a payment after they receive your funds but before the transfer is complete.  Once the money is converted to a different currency and/or deposited to the recipient’s account, cancellation is not allowed.  Cancellation involves a simple process of locating the transaction online, selecting a cancel button, and inputting refund information.

If you have a complaint about how your cancellation request was handled, you can take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).  But you may want to adjust your expectations about getting your money back.  If the problem resulted from consumer error, all the FOS can do is ensure that the money transfer provider “promptly took any reasonable steps open to it, to try to prevent or minimise loss to the consumer.”

Act Fast or Hope for the Best

In summary, the sooner you catch misdirected payments and request cancellations the better, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider’s customer support.  If you’re too late, all you can do is hope for an understanding and cooperative person on the receiving end of your payment.  And, if all goes well, your faith in humanity will be rewarded.

 

Make sure your international money transfers go more smoothly in the future.  Use our comparison tool to find the best way to send money online.


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