With the advent of Venmo and Cash App, paper checks might seem so last century, but that doesn’t mean you no longer need to know how to read a check. Some online transactions require an understanding of where to look for important information on a check. For example, you can find your routing and account numbers on a check so that you can set up direct deposit or arrange a wire transfer into your account.
Here’s a look at how to read a check and locate your routing and account numbers.
How To Find Your Account and Routing Numbers on a Check
At the bottom of your check, you’ll see three groups of numbers. Your routing number is in the first group, your account number is in the second, and your check number is in the third group.
How To Read a Check
Here are the different parts of a check and where you can find them:
- Personal information
- Payee line
- Dollar box
- Check amount
- Memo line
- Date line
- Signature line
- Bank name
- Routing number
- Account number
- Check number
- Bank’s fractional number
1. Personal Information
In the upper left-hand corner of the check, you’ll find the personal information of the person to whom the account belongs. This typically includes their name and address.
2. Payee Line
On the payee line, you’ll find text that reads “pay to the order of.” This is the person or business to whom the money will be paid. If the check is made out to you, then you’re the payee. You’ll need to endorse the check by signing the back when you’re ready to cash or deposit it. Don’t endorse it until you are ready to cash or deposit it.
3. Dollar Box
Inside the dollar box, you’ll find the amount that the check is worth written in numbers. Write your amount like this: $20.65.
Begin writing as close to the left side of the box as possible with the dollar sign snug against the first number. You don’t want someone to alter the check to $2,220.65.
4. Check Amount
Write the dollar amount out in words on this line, which is below the payee line. The cents, however, will still be in number format. For example, the amount line would say “Twenty dollars and 65/100” for a check that amounts to $20.65. It must match the amount in the dollar box.
If there is any room left over on this line once you’ve written out the total amount, you can strike through the remaining space so that no one can adjust the amount without your knowledge.
5. Memo Line
The memo line is optional, but it’s good practice for keeping track of check payments. The memo line is used to signal the reason for the transaction. For example, a renter could write “November 2023 rent” on the memo line when writing a check to their landlord.
6. Date Line
On the date line, you’ll find the date the check was written.
Sometimes, the paying party might postdate the check to indicate when the payee should cash it. For example, you might make out a check on March 5 but write March 15 on the date line. This often is done if account funds won’t be available until a specified future time.
Although the payee potentially could take this as a direction to wait before cashing a check, the check is valid from the moment it’s signed by the issuer. The payee doesn’t have to wait until the date on the date line to cash the check. If the payee attempts to cash the check before the date on this line and the check bounces, the person who wrote the check and the one who cashes it could face fees from their bank.
7. Signature Line
The issuer will sign this line to authorize the check.
8. Bank Name
If you have any questions or concerns about a check, you can contact the bank that is listed on the check.
9. Routing Number
The routing number is a nine-digit number assigned to your bank. This number identifies the bank through which the funds will be withdrawn.
You’ll also use your routing number to set up direct deposit and recurring payments. Some banks will have more than one routing number, depending on their size, so always make sure you’re using the correct one before setting up these types of payments.
10. Account Number
This is the number that’s associated with the checking account from which the funds will be withdrawn. It is the second set of numbers printed at the bottom of your checks.
11. Check Number
The check number is used to identify the individual check. That set of numbers is located at the far right along the bottom of your checks.
12. Bank’s Fractional Number
The fractional number, usually placed toward the top right of your check, contains numbers that correspond with your bank, such as your routing number. Because these numbers are readily available elsewhere on the check, the fractional number isn’t widely used anymore.
How To Find Your Account and Routing Numbers If You Don’t Have a Check
Need to know your routing number and don’t have a check handy? You can also find your routing number by:
- Using the ABA routing number lookup tool
- Checking your bank’s website
- Downloading your bank’s mobile app
You also can locate your account and routing numbers on your monthly bank statement. Alternatively, you can call or visit the bank to find out your routing and account numbers.
Caitlyn Moorhead contributed to the reporting for this article.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.
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- Huntington Bank. "How to Endorse a Check: What It Means to Endorse a Check."
- State of Connecticut Department of Banking. "Checks and Related Issues."
- Huntington Bank. "How to Read a Check."