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Writing a check is becoming less common with the increased use of debit cards, peer-to-peer payments, digital banking, and bill pay. But it doesn’t mean you’ll never need to write a check.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how to write a check.
Let’s get started!
How To Write a Check
Faced with writing a check?
It’s a simple process, but you do need to take your time and make sure you’ve filled out each section properly.
Step 1: Date the Check
When writing a check, the first thing to do is fill in the date.
For all check writing, be sure to use a pen so the information cannot be later changed.
There’s a line in the top right-hand corner where the date goes.
You can use numbers or spell out the month.
For example, either 9/1/2022 or September 1, 2022 are fine.
Use the actual date that you are writing the check.
Backdating — writing a previous date — can be illegal especially if you’re trying to mislead the recipient.
Postdating — writing a future date — might be allowed in some cases but should be used with caution.
The bank may process the check before the date which could cause the check to bounce.
Step 2: Fill in the Payee Line
On the top line, you’ll write the name of the payee — the person or company that will be receiving the check.
The line is printed with the words “Pay to the Order of” at the beginning of it.
Use neat handwriting and write the full name of the person or company.
For individuals, be sure to use their full first and last names — no nicknames.
And especially don’t write words like “mom” or “grandpa” because the bank will not know who the recipient is supposed to be.
For companies, it’s best to write out the complete company name. Don’t use abbreviations or acronyms unless the company says it’s all right.
Step 3: Fill in the Dollar Amount Using Numbers
To write a valid check, you must write out the dollar amount in two ways.
The first place to fill in the dollar amount is next to the payee line.
You’ll see a box or line with a dollar sign in front of it.
Write out the full amount using numbers, including a decimal point for the cents.
For example, if your check is for one hundred and fifty dollars, write 150.00.
Since the dollar sign is already printed on the check you don’t need to write it.
Step 4: Write the Dollar Amount Using Words
The next place to fill in the dollar amount is underneath the payee line.
There is generally a long line with “Dollars” printed at the end of it.
This is where you’ll need to write out the amount using words.
Just like on the payee line, it’s important to use neat handwriting and write out everything in full.
If your check amount is for $150, you’ll write “one hundred fifty and 00/100.”
The cents are written as a fraction, even if your check is for an even amount.
If there is any space left, draw a line through the space and stopping at the word “Dollars”.
This prevents anyone from adding more words and changing the check amount.
Be careful when writing the dollar amount in both places.
When a check is deposited, the bank will look to make sure the numbers and the words match each other.
Step 5: Fill in the Memo (Optional)
This next step is optional but can be very helpful.
On the bottom left of the check there is a smaller line with the word “Memo.”
You can put anything you like on this line to help you remember what the check was for.
Some examples are:
- Dad’s birthday
Some companies may require you to put an account or invoice number on the memo line to make sure they credit the correct person for a payment.
Step 6: Sign the Check
Once you’ve gotten the entire check filled out, all that’s left to do is sign it.
A blank line at the bottom right is for your signature.
Sometimes this line is labeled with “Signature” or “Authorized Signature” or it might not have a label.
This is where you must sign your name, using the same signature that you used when setting up your account.
If your bank has any questions if your signature is valid, they will compare it to the one on file.
Remember that checks are legal documents and must be personally signed.
If a check is not signed, it is invalid and the recipient will not be able to deposit it.
Additional Elements of a Check
All checks generally follow the same format with the information in the same locations.
We’ve already talked about several key parts of a check:
- the two areas to write the dollar amount
- lines for the date, payee, your signature
- a memo
However, there are a few more pieces of information that checks have.
If you’re wondering what all those numbers of the check are for, we’ll break it down for you next.
Your Name and Address
Starting in the top left corner, you’ll see your name and address printed on the check.
When you order checks from your bank or another provider, they will print this information on each one.
When you first open your bank account, you’ll get a small number of starter checks that don’t have your information preprinted on them.
To use the starter checks you’ll need to write your name and address in the corner.
Each check you write from your account has a unique number.
This three- or four-digit number is printed in two places.
The first place is in the very top right-hand corner.
The second place is along the bottom after a string of other numbers — we’ll get to those in just a bit.
Bank Name and Address
The bank name and address are usually printed on each check.
Sometimes a bank will include a logo.
Along the bottom of the checks are two longer series of numbers.
The first set is the routing number and is always nine digits.
This is a special number that identifies the bank where you have your account.
The second string of numbers is your checking account number.
This tells the bank which accounts to take the money from.
Account numbers can be different lengths but are often between eight and twelve digits.
How to Write a Check: Frequently Asked Questions
Next, we’ll take a look at the most commonly asked questions associated with how to write a check.
Q. Can I write a check to myself?
A. Yes, you can. It sounds strange, but it’s a way you can withdraw cash from your account, or move money from one account to another.
Q. When should I sign the check?
A. Sign your name on the signature line only after all the other information is filled out.
Signing a blank check is a dangerous practice.
Whoever gets the blank check can fill it out for any amount they like.
Q. How to Endorse a Check
A. Endorsing a check means to sign the back in the space provided before depositing it.
Before depositing a check, you’ll have to sign the back to prove you are the payee.
If the payee line contains two names, both must endorse the back.
Q. What do I do if I make a mistake?
A. If you’ve made a mistake, the best way to handle this is to write VOID in large letters across the front and to start over.
Some banks allow you to cross off the wrong information to fix it, but many will reject the check as suspicious.
Q. What is a bounced check?
A. When you write a check and do not have enough money in your account, your bank will bounce it — meaning they return it to the payee — and will charge you a fee.
How to Deposit a Check
You’ve written a check.
It’s time to deposit it.
Here’s exactly how to deposit a check.
After receiving a check, you can head to your bank to deposit it.
You’ll first need to fill out a deposit slip with your account information and the amount of the check.
Then endorse (sign) the back of it.
Give both to the bank teller and be prepared to show some form of ID.
After it’s deposited, you’ll likely get a receipt.
Before trying to deposit a check through an ATM, you’ll need to confirm that your bank allows this.
They may only accept deposits in specific ATMs, so pay attention to the details.
Once you’ve found the correct machine, insert your card and follow the directions — each ATM may have a slightly different method.
Your check must be endorsed and some banks may require the use of a special envelope.
Many banks now have apps that you can use to deposit checks with your phone.
The process may be slightly different from app to app, but the basic steps are generally the same.
Launch the app and indicate that you want to make a mobile check deposit.
You’ll be prompted to take pictures of the front and back.
Once you’ve completed the deposit, you’ll be instructed to keep the check in a safe place for an amount of time, usually 30 to 90 days, in case there’s a problem.
The Bottom Line: How to Write a Check
If you’ve never written a check before, the first few times can feel awkward as you make sure you’ve gotten each section filled out correctly.
But after writing a couple of checks, you’ll be a pro.
The things to remember are to make sure you have enough money in your account, write neatly, take your time when writing the dollar amounts, and fill in each blank space.
Do these few things and you’ll be signing each check with ease.