How To Write a Check in 6 Easy Steps: A Visual Guide

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In a world where you can pay someone with the click of a button, writing checks may seem outdated.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. 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.

Here’s How To Write a Check — With Examples

You can avoid costly errors when you know how to write a check to someone. It’s a good idea to fill in the check from top to bottom so you don’t miss a label.

1. Write the Date

Write the correct date in the date label near the upper right corner of the check. Use the current month, day and year. You can postdate a check by writing a future date in the hope that it won’t be cashed until then. However, your account must have enough money to cover the check because the bank can deposit or cash it at any time as long as it’s signed.

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2. Write the Recipient’s Name

Write the full, proper 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.”

How Do I Write Myself a Check?

You can write your name on the “pay to” line and deposit or cash the check like you would a check someone else had written to you. Alternatively, you can write the check to “Cash,” but keep in mind that doing so can be risky since anyone can cash a check written to cash.

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 dollars and cents separated by a decimal point. Write the first digit as close as possible to the dollar sign and use a decimal point between the dollar amount and cents — even if there are no cents — so that no one can add numbers to the amount. 

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4. Write the Amount in Words

Spell out the check amount on the payment line located under the “pay to” line. The amount written out on the line must match what you wrote in the box above the line. This serves as an additional confirmation of the amount the check is written for. The word “and” is used to indicate the decimal point and should always be used.

How To Write a Check Amount With Cents

Use a fraction to indicate any cents — or no cents, as in the image above. For example, write “50/100” for an amount ending in 50 cents, and “00/100” to indicate no cents.

5. Add a Memo

The memo line in the bottom left corner of the check is where you can write a note, such as one that indicates the purpose of the check for your record keeping. You can also write a note that indicates your account number when paying a bill to help your payment get properly credited. 

6. Write Your Signature

After you’ve filled out all the other sections of the check, sign the check on the signature line in the bottom right corner. Your signature indicates to your financial institution that you want to pay the payee the amount written on the check and have the funds subtracted from your account balance. Use the same signature style your bank has on file. If your signature looks different from the bank records, your check may not be valid.

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Remember To Record the Checks You Write

Even though you might not write many checks, it’s still important to have a record of those you do write and subtract their amounts from your bank balance. Sometimes, checks take a while to be cashed by the payee, which means that you might forget that you wrote a check if you don’t keep a record. Consider if you wrote a $500 check as a donation to your favorite charity this month, but the check wasn’t cashed this month. If you have no record that you wrote the check, it’s possible that when the check does finally come through, you might not have the funds to cover it. 

Keeping a record of checks you’ve written is easy. When you receive your checks from the printer, you should also receive a check register. A check register is where you can record not only any checks you write but also any deposits or withdrawals you make, as well as debit card purchases. This helps you keep a running record of your bank account balance. For each check you write, you’ll need to record the number of the check, the date, the payee and the amount paid in the check register.

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If writing in a check register isn’t preferable, you can keep a record of your transactions, including checks, in an electronic spreadsheet or a financial tracking app. Your record-keeping method doesn’t really matter as long as it’s effective in helping you keep tabs on the amount of money you have. 

Check Writing Safety Tips and Takeaways

Check 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.
  • Keep your signature consistent.
  • If you make a mistake, write the word “void” in capital letters across the entire front of the check before disposing of it.

The bank may refuse to reimburse you for loss resulting from check fraud if it can prove the fraud was the result of your own negligence.

Cynthia Measom, Daria Uhlig, Sean Dennison and Barb Nefer contributed to the reporting for this article.

This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.