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Technology has changed the way the world banks, but some traditional banking methods and instruments remain. Writing a check, for example, is still a viable payment method.
Whether sending payment for services rendered, receiving a paycheck from your employer or getting a birthday check in a card, checks are an integral part of daily banking life.
Here’s a quick guide on writing, endorsing, depositing and ordering checks.
Three Numbers You Must Know
Before you start writing and using paper checks, you need to be able to identify the sections of a check. There are three important numbers whose locations are similar on every printed check.
- Bank routing number. Each bank has an identification number called the routing number. This number is always nine digits. (You will need to locate this number, for example, for any online banking transactions you may choose to do.)
- Account number. This is your individual checking account number.
- Check number. Each paper check is numbered, and the number appears both in the upper right corner of the check and after the account number, as shown above.
how to write a check
Writing a check isn’t tricky, but there are things to keep in mind to ensure the check will be valid. Here’s how to correctly fill out a check.
- Date. In the upper right-hand corner, enter the date the check is written (most likely today’s date). This helps the person receiving the check know when it was written.
- Payee. Write the name of the person, company or organization you want to pay on the line that says “Pay to the Order of.” If you’re unsure of the person or organization’s exact name, find out to ensure it’s written correctly.
- Check amount (numerical). Write the amount for the check in the box on the right-hand side of the check. Make sure you write the amount as close to the left-hand border as possible to prevent someone from committing fraud by writing additional digits to the left (for example, changing 100.00 to 2,100.00).
- Check amount (written out). Below the “Pay to the Order of” line, write out the check amount in words. So, if you write a check for $243.26, you will write it out as “Two hundred forty-three dollars and 26/100.” Writing out the correct amount is essential because the words win out legally if there are inconsistencies between the two amounts.
- Memo. While using the memo section isn’t always necessary, it’s good practice to include notes in case you need to track down a payment later. When paying taxes, utilities and vendors, you might want to use this section for writing your account number or Social Security number.
- Signature. Sign the check. You’ll do this on the line in the bottom right corner of the check. A check is not valid without the proper signature. Adding your signature is your way of agreeing that you are paying the payee the listed amount.
One way to keep track of the checks you write is to record them in the paper check register that comes with a standard order of checks. Even with the rise in mobile and online banking—and peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps like Venmo and Paypal—it’s important to know how to balance your checkbook to stay on top of your financial transactions.
Example of Writing a Check
Let’s say you need to send a payment to your electric company. Statements, whether sent via mail or email, typically include instructions on making a payment. For this example, suppose that your electric company, ABC Electric, requires you to mail checks as payment for services rendered. The statement shows an amount due of $113.97.
Using information from your statement, you can start writing your check. You’d fill out the:
- Date. Write the date you’re mailing the check in the upper right-hand corner of the check. For example, if you’re mailing your check on July 1, 2022, you’d include that date.
- Payee. Write the payee’s name on the line that says “Pay to the Order of,” unless your statement lists another name to use. In the example above, you’d write “ABC Electric.”
- Check amount (numerical). Write the payment amount in the payment amount box on the right-hand side of the check—”$113.97″ in this scenario.
- Check amount (written out). Write out the check amount, which is “One hundred thirteen dollars and 97/100” in our example.
- Memo. Write a memo to yourself or use the memo line for additional information. In our example, ABC Electric requires customers to write their account number on the check memo line. You can find your account number on your statement.
- Signature. Check that all of the information is correct and sign the check.
Once you’ve filled out your check, you’d mail it and other required documents to the address provided by ABC Electric.
Tips for Writing a Check
Checks may seem outdated in this digital age, but sometimes they’re the preferred payment method. Follow the tips below to ensure your checks are accounted for and end up where they need to go.
Record Your Transactions
Keep a record of checks you write—use a check register, a spreadsheet or another tracking method. However you track checks, be sure to record all of the pertinent information from your check, including:
- The check number
- The check date
- The payee
- A short description of the transaction
- The payment amount
Keeping detailed records of your written checks can help you avoid bouncing a check.
Reconcile Your Bank Statements
Bank reconciliation, or balancing your checkbook, can help you track checks and other transactions each month. This helps ensure every transaction is accounted for and provides a better picture of your financial health.
Be Safe When Writing Checks
Without proper safety precautions, your checks may be susceptible to fraud. Take these safety measures when writing checks:
- Use a pen to write checks so the information can’t be erased.
- Avoid writing blank checks.
- Don’t sign a check until you’ve added the payee and amount.
- Avoid writing a check payable to cash.
- Don’t leave room on your check where someone could add to it, especially the check amount.
Following these tips can help you avoid the headaches and financial troubles of check fraud.
Can You Write a Check to Yourself?
Yes, writing a check to yourself is perfectly legal. You may be wondering why you would do this. Writing a check to yourself is another way to withdraw cash from your bank account or transfer money between accounts. To do this, you write your name on the payee line. While there are more efficient ways to withdraw money from the bank, writing a check to yourself is an option.
How to Endorse a Check
When you receive a check from someone else, you need to endorse the check before you can deposit it into your account or cash it. A check endorsement is for security purposes to verify you are the intended recipient of the check.
To endorse a check is to sign the back of it. Most checks have a line on the back for your signature that reads something like, “Endorse here.” Often, you will see another line that says, “Do not write, stamp or sign below this line.” This is so that your endorsement information doesn’t end up in the space the bank requires for its processing and stamping.
The name signed on the back of the check must match the payee’s name listed on the front of the check. If your name is misspelled on the check, sign it with the incorrect spelling and then sign it again with the correct spelling.
Some banks accept checks without endorsements, but this is rare. Check endorsements protect people from check fraud. A mobile check deposit without an endorsement is likely to be rejected, even if initially accepted from your phone.
While this seems easy enough, there are several ways you can endorse a check, depending on what you’re doing with it.
The most common method of check endorsement is a blank endorsement, which is signing your name on the back of the check. No instructions are added to the check, so you’ll have to tell the bank teller whether you want the check cashed or deposited.
This method also is commonly used for ATM deposits and mobile deposits. However, it is the least secure. Once that check is signed, anyone in possession of it could attempt to cash it.
To make your check secure and provide instructions to your bank, write “For Deposit Only to Account Number XXXXXXXXX.” Then sign your name below that, staying within the endorsement area.
For an added level of security, wait until right before you are ready to deposit the check to add your signature.
You may receive a check and then want to hand it over to someone else for payment. You don’t need to deposit the check and write a new one to the third party. Instead, you can endorse the check by writing “Pay to the order of [Person’s Name]” and then signing the check as you would normally.
Not all banks accept third-party endorsements. Check with the payee’s bank before using this method.
Mobile Deposit Endorsement
Some banks require extra work with mobile check deposits, which means adding “For Mobile Deposit To [Bank Name]” or something else to your endorsement. Your bank’s app may provide these instructions, or you can contact your bank prior to preparing your deposit.
Checks payable to a business require the signature of an authorized person from the company. Typically the endorsement would need to include:
- The name of the business
- Your job title within the company
- Any added restrictions like “For Deposit Only”
Multiple Payee Endorsement
There are times when a check is made out to multiple people, such as a parent and child or a couple as a wedding gift. The endorsement depends on how the check is written.
For example, If the check is written out to “Jane and John Doe,” both parties must endorse the check. However, if the check is made out to “Jane or John Doe,” then either party can endorse the check.
How to Deposit a Check
There are several ways to deposit a check into your bank account.
In-person deposit. Visit your local bank branch, endorse your check and present it to a bank teller. Then, either let the teller know what you would like to do with the check or fill out a deposit slip. Be sure to have a valid form of I.D. with you, such as a driver’s license.
ATM deposit. Many bank and credit union ATMs allow customers to deposit checks. Make sure you endorse the check before depositing it. Depending on the specific ATM, there may be an envelope you need to use for your deposit.
Mobile check deposit. With the rise of mobile banking apps, mobile deposits have become a popular way for people to add funds to bank accounts. Typically you’ll need to:
- Choose a specific bank account for the deposit
- Enter the amount of the check
- Take and upload a photo of the front of the check
- Take and upload a photo of the back of the check
Hold onto the check until you know it has cleared and the funds are deposited into your bank account. It’s a good idea to destroy the check once credited to your account.
How to Order Checks
If you write checks, you’ll run out and need to order more at some point. Some banks provide complimentary checks when you open a checking account. If not, you’ll have to pay for checks.
Often, you can order checks online directly through your bank account. Other options include ordering checks at your local bank branch or calling the bank’s customer service number.
Third-party check providers also are an option, either through a partnership with your bank or by ordering directly.
When ordering checks, note the check number of your last check so the new batch will start with the next number in sequence. Have an existing check handy because it features all of the information you need to order checks, including your:
- Account number
- Routing number
- Bank information
- Contact information
The cost of checks varies depending on where you order them and whether you go with a basic personal check or a more personalized check design.
How to Order Checks Online
Many banks and credit unions allow you to order checks online. To do this, log into your bank account via the financial institution’s website or mobile app. Typically, you can find instructions for ordering checks under the customer service or account services section.
You don’t have to go through your bank or credit union to order checks. There are third-party businesses that sell checks online. To order checks from somewhere other than your financial institution, you’ll need to provide the name of your bank or credit union, bank account number, routing number and the starting check number. Check costs may vary depending on the supplier and the style of check ordered.
Find The Best Online Savings Accounts Of 2022
Effectively managing your checking account means acquiring basic skills, including writing and endorsing a check. Knowing how to write a check, endorse it for deposit and order more checks can help you maximize the value of your checking account and your banking relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it illegal to write a post-dated check?
Writing post-dated checks is legal in most cases, but check your state laws for specific guidance. A post-dated check is a check with a future date listed on it. Sometimes this is done if someone is sending payment before the due date or doesn’t have sufficient funds in their account when the check is written.
How do you write a check to the IRS?
When writing a check to the IRS, you’ll need to include the standard check information on it and some other required information. You must include your name and address, daytime phone number, Social Security number or EIN, the tax year and the related tax form or notice number. Refer to the tax form or contact your tax professional or the IRS for the correct address to send the check.
Make your check payable to the U.S. Treasury, not the IRS.
Can you deposit a check at an ATM?
Some banks and credit unions allow you to deposit checks at an ATM. If your bank allows this, find an eligible ATM, insert your debit card and PIN and follow the on-screen instructions to deposit your check. Check with your bank or credit union to see if they allow ATM check deposits and specific instructions on how to deposit a check.
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