How To Write a Check in 6 Easy Steps
In a world where you can pay someone with the click of a button, writing checks may seem outdated. Yet, there are times when writing a check is the easiest way — or the only way — to pay for goods or services.
The neighborhood teen who cuts the grass may not have a bank account. Your landlord may not accept digital payments. Some merchants don’t want to pay the additional fees required of merchant accounts. As long as it’s a valid form of payment, you should know how checks are written. Follow this guide on how to write a check so you can avoid any mistakes.
Writing A Check With Examples
You can avoid costly mistakes when you know how to write a check to someone. For example, if you write $80 in numerals and “eight hundred dollars” in words, the bank may refuse to cash it. Even worse, the bank may pay out $800. If you don’t have enough money in the bank to cover that amount, you face insufficient funds fees.
Establish the habit of filling in the check from top to bottom so you don’t miss a label. Here’s an example of how to write a check to help you complete each section of the check.
1. Write the Date.
Write the correct date in the date label near the top right-hand corner of the check. Use the current month, day and year. You can postdate a check by writing a future date with the expectation that it won’t be cashed until then.
Postdating a check is legal as long as you have enough money to cover the check. The bank can deposit or cash the check at any time as long as it’s signed. If there’s not enough money in your account, you’ll pay insufficient-funds and returned-check fees.
2. Write the Recipient’s Name.
Write the name of the person or company receiving the check on the “pay to” line. You’ll find it in the middle of the check, labeled “Pay to the order of.” Use the full name of the person or company, including suffixes like Jr. or Sr. Avoid using nicknames or acronyms.
How To Write a Check to Yourself
You can write your name on the “pay to” line and deposit or cash the check like you would any other check. Alternatively, you can write the check to “Cash,” but anyone can cash a check written to cash. Avoid doing this.
3. Write the Amount in Numbers.
You will write the amount of the check in two places. The first is the box to the right of the “pay to” line. That’s where you write the amount of the check in numbers. Include the dollars and cents separated by a decimal point. Add the dollar sign if it is not preprinted on the check. For example, you would write “$10.50” in the box for a $10.50 check.
How To Write a Check Not To Exceed a Certain Amount
Write the numbers large enough to fill the entire box. Start writing on the left side of the box and don’t leave space where someone can add to the numbers. Make sure your numbers are easy to read.
4. Write the Amount in Words.
Here’s how to write a check in words. Spell out the check amount on the payment line located under the “pay to” line. This amount should match what you wrote in the box above the line. This is one way the bank verifies the legal amount of the check.
How To Write a Check Amount With Cents
Spell out the words and use a fraction to indicate any cents — or no cents. For example, a check for $10.50 would say “Ten dollars and 50/100.” A check for $1,000 would say “One thousand dollars and 00/100.” After the fraction, draw a line to fill any remaining space so no one can add to or change what you wrote.
5. Write the Memo.
The memo line in the bottom left corner of the check is optional. A bank won’t reject a check if the memo isn’t filled out, but it can be handy for your records. This is where you can write the invoice or account number or note the purpose of the check, such as for a birthday gift.
6. Write Your Signature.
Sign the check on the signature line in the bottom right corner of the check. Before signing, make sure you have filled out all other sections of the check. Otherwise, you’re signing a blank check that anyone can fill in and then cash.
Use the same signature style your bank has on file. If you forget to sign the check or use a signature that looks different from the bank records, your check may not be valid.
What To Do After Writing a Check
When you’re filling out a check, record the check number, the date, payee and amount in the check register. You can use the check register that was included with your box of checks, a digital money tracking app or a spreadsheet.
If you neglect this step, you might forget the check information details and end up overdrawn. The register is also a useful tool for tracking your spending, balancing your checkbook each month and avoiding duplicate payments.
Check Writing Safety Tips and Takeaways
Check fraud isn’t only a problem for certified checks. Fraud includes forging or endorsing checks that belong to someone else, using chemicals to remove information from a check and stealing or counterfeiting checks that belong to another person.
Take these precautions to avoid being a fraud victim:
Ways To Prevent Fraud
- Use pigment-ink pens to write checks.
- Fill out the entire check before signing it (no blank checks).
- Order carbon copy or duplicate checks.
- Keep your signature consistent.
- Find out if you can use a more secure form of payment.
The bank may refuse to reimburse you for loss resulting from check fraud if it can prove fraud was the result of your own negligence.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.
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- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Answers About Forgery and Fraud."