Checks may not be used as commonly as they once were, but whether you’re sending someone money, paying a bill or paying for your groceries, most of us will still use them from time to time, so knowing how to fill out a check correctly is important.
It’s easy to think that writing a check is simple and straightforward, but it’s just as easy to get it wrong, particularly in an age where debit cards and online payments have meant we write checks less often than we once might have. Not knowing how to write a check could mean your payment bounces, which could lead to you facing charges from your bank, or even mean you end up having to pay any additional fees that the recipient of your check has incurred.
If you need help with how to write a check, we’ve put together a handy guide to make the process as simple as possible. Follow our key steps to fill out a check quickly and correctly. Write every check this way to move your money safely, speedily and protect yourself against fraud.
Filling out a check: Your step-by-step guide
1. Filling out the date
Start your check writing by including the payment date. This goes on the line in the top right corner of the check. Filling in the date accurately means that both you and the payee have an accurate record of when any payment was made.
If you’re wondering how to write the date on the check, it’s entirely up to you. You can use all numbers (12/08/21), or write the date out in full (December 8th 2021). As long as the date is present and correct, that’s the most important thing.
2. Enter the payee’s name
The payee name when writing a check is written on the Pay to the order of line, and will depend on who you are paying. Sometimes it may be the individual’s name if you’re writing a personal check, or it could be the name of a company if you’re paying a bill. It is important to write the right payee’s name. If the name is not correct or spelled incorrectly your check could bounce.
3. Enter the payable amount in numbers
The amount you’re paying goes in the small box on the right-hand side of the check. You should always make sure you write as clearly as possible here to ensure the value is correct.
Always start close to the left-hand side of the box when writing a check value, as this prevents someone from adding a digit before the value and committing fraud. You should also write the cent value (.00, for example) or draw a straight line at the end to stop someone altering the total.
4. Write out the value in words
Below the payable amount box, write out the value of your payment in words. Writing ‘full amount’ using capital letters makes sure there can be no confusion about the amount. You can also add the word “only” to the end of your amount to ensure no one adds any more to the total.
5. Where to sign on a check
On any check, your signature should go in the bottom right-hand corner. You should ensure you use the same signature as the bank has on file to reduce the risk of your check bouncing.
Signing a check is one of the most important steps. All checks must be signed to be valid. Remember, never sign a check until you’ve filled out the total value and recipient name. A “blank check” – one which has been signed without being filled in – can easily be tampered with.
6. Adding a note
If you want to add extra information to your check, you can include a note on the ‘memo’ or ‘for’ line. This could be information to the payee on how to process your check, find your account or details about the payment – such as ‘January rent’.
This is not a necessary step, but it can help both you and your recipient keep better track of your payments and what they were for.
How to sign a check over to someone else
To sign a check over to someone else, you need to endorse the check. To do this, first verify the cashier will accept an endorsed check. Some places don’t accept checks that have been endorsed to someone else, due to the risk of fraud.
To sign a check over to someone else, write “pay to the order of …”, write their name and sign your name on the back.
Things to consider when writing a check
There are a few things to consider when writing a check to make sure the process is as simple as possible. These include:
- Write as neatly as possible to avoid any discrepancies or disputes, and always print rather than writing in cursive.
- Always double check the recipient and value once filled in. If you’ve made any errors, write “void” across the check in big letters.
- Ensure you’ve got the funds to cover your payment so the check doesn’t bounce.
- Make it as easy as possible for a bank to process by filling in all the information required.
- Be secure. Ensure you’ve done everything you can to protect yourself from fraud should your check fall into the wrong hands.
Top security tips for writing a check
Writing a check isn’t without its risks, and there are people out there who may try to fraudulently get their hands on your money if you’ve not filled it out correctly. To avoid this, follow our top tips below for writing a check securely.
- Always write a check in pen. Thieves can alter checks that get lost or stolen, so it’s important you always use a pen whenever you fill out a check. Pencil is easy to alter, but ink is not.
- Store your records. Whether you write it in your checkbook or add it to your online accounts, make sure you note down what the check was for, who it was for, when and for how much. Sometimes your check might not be cashed for a while, so it’s important to remember it’s coming out.
- Keep your checkbook safe. Treating your checkbook like you would cash is important to make sure it doesn’t get lost or stolen.
- Sign a check last. Don’t sign a check until you’re ready to hand it over. Once you sign the check, you’re granting access to your account. This can be dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands.
- Be consistent: When you’re signing your check, make sure you’re as consistent as possible with your signature. This way, it’s easier for both you and the bank to spot fraud.
Can I write a check to cash as a gift? The person I’m sending it to doesn’t have a checking account.
You can, but don’t mail it to them and make sure they keep it safe, as anyone can cash a check made out to cash. Why not give them a gift card for their favorite store instead?
What does ‘balancing your check book’ mean?
Every time you spend money or pay in a check, you should write it down in your check book’s register. It’s a good way to see what you’ve spent if you manage your bills offline and to remind you to check your online accounts to see if a check’s been cashed or credited yet.