When someone writes you a check, you must endorse it to access the money that’s written out to you. Endorsing a check means signing the back of it — once you’ve done that, you can cash the check or deposit it into your bank account.
Check endorsements enable people and banks to specify methods of deposit. Learn how to endorse a check properly to prevent fraud or other problems with your deposits.
- What Is the Correct Way To Endorse a Check?
- How Do You Endorse a Check for Deposit Only?
- Do You Have To Sign the Back of a Check To Deposit It?
- What Happens If You Deposit a Check Without Endorsing It?
The correct way to endorse a check varies slightly depending on how the check is written and what you want to do with it. Here are the general steps to endorsing most checks:
- Wait until you’re ready to deposit or cash the check.
- Turn the check over so you’re looking at the back.
- Look for a box near the top that says “Endorse Here.”
- Sign your name on the top line.
This is called a “blank endorsement.” You shouldn’t sign a check until immediately before you deposit it because once it is endorsed, anyone could (theoretically) cash it. Banks and credit unions will typically only cash and deposit checks presented by the account holder, but it’s best to be safe.
Can You Sign Over a Check to Someone Else?
Technically, after someone writes you a check, you can sign the check over to someone else who can cash or deposit it. That’s called a special endorsement. To endorse a check this way:
- Turn the check over so the back is facing up.
- On the first lines, write “Pay to the order of [person’s name].”
- Sign your name on the next line.
Keep in mind that banks take a risk when they cash this kind of check because anyone can find a signed check and fill in the endorsement information. For this reason, not all banks and credit unions will accept checks with a special endorsement.
More on Checks: An Illustrated Guide to Reading a Check
Endorsing a check for deposit only, which restricts the ability to cash it, is also called a restrictive endorsement. This method is more secure than a blank endorsement because it limits what can be done with the check. To endorse a check for deposit only:
- Turn the check over so you can see the back.
- On the top lines, write “For deposit only to account number XXXXXXX.”
- Sign your name on the next line.
Make sure you sign within the endorsement box. You’ll see a line on your check that says, “Do not sign, write, stamp below this line.” Anything you write should be above that line.
Your bank might have additional requirements if you’re making a mobile deposit. You might need to write “For mobile deposit” instead of “For deposit” and check a box that indicates it’s a mobile deposit. Ask your bank or search its website for mobile deposit instructions. There might also be instructions in your mobile app.
To make a mobile deposit:
- Open your banking app.
- Click on your bank’s mobile deposit option.
- Endorse your check per the app’s instructions.
- Take pictures of the front and back of your check.
- Confirm the pictures show a clear view of each side of your check.
- Enter any information required by the app, such as the amount of your check.
- Deposit the check.
- Follow your bank’s instructions for how long to keep the paper check.
Do You Have To Endorse a Check If You Write ‘for Deposit Only’?
It’s generally best to still endorse a check, even if you write “for deposit only.” Your endorsement enables your bank to confirm your signature. It’s an important security step that can prevent problems if there are any questions down the road.
Can you deposit a check without endorsing it? Some banks will accept a check that hasn’t been endorsed. It varies by bank, though, and yours might limit the amount it will accept without an endorsement. It might also hold the funds longer to ensure the check goes through. For your own security, it’s generally best to endorse your checks.
In other words, what happens if you forget to endorse a check? It’s not the end of the world if you deposit an unsigned check. What happens depends on your bank’s policies and the origin of the check. Your bank might endorse it for you. Or it might reject the check and return it to you so you can endorse and deposit it again.
In the event you realize you’ve forgotten to endorse a check, the best approach is to contact your bank and ask how you should proceed.
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This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.