How To Properly Write a Check in 5 Simple Steps
How do you write a check? When would you use one? Learn the answer to both of these questions in this step-by-step guide.
These days, people often send their money electronically. With mobile banking options, everything from budgeting and bank statements to credit cards and direct deposits can be handled by account holders right from their phones.
Still, you might need to send a physical check to someone from time to time. Furthermore, knowing how to write a check in your checkbook is a crucial business skill, whether you're an employer and need to pay your workers or want to send money to another organization.
This resource will break down how to fill out a check step-by-step.
Before you get started
Before you write checks, ensure you have a legitimate one by checking for some critical information. A check should have the following:
- A routing number at the bottom left-hand corner, which represents a financial institution's specific branch.
- An account number next to it. This is the bank account to which the check and debit card are most likely connected.
- A check number next to the account number.
If your paper checks don't have this information, contact your online banking institution or check register to get more.
Step 1: Write the date
Your first step is to write the check date in the top right-hand corner. There should be a clear line for this information. You can write the date however you like, but in the United States, most states follow the month, day and year sequence, such as 11/17/2022 for November 17, 2022.
Step 2: Write the recipient's name
The next step is to write the recipient's name on the personal check. You can do this on the "pay to the order of" line — the first long line on the surface of a standard check.
You should write the name of the person or company receiving the money from the check. Use the full name as you know it.
Alternatively, you can just write "Cash" if you don't know the name of the person or organization you are paying. But this is risky since anyone can cash the check if you don't designate a specific entity.
Step 3: Write the payment amount
Now it's time to write the payment amount in numbers. You'll notice that there are two spots to report how much money the check is worth.
Start with writing the number numerically in a small box on the right-hand side of the check. You should write this as clearly as possible; a good practice is to underline the cents after the dollars so bank tellers can read the information quickly.
Then you have to write the numerical amount of the check in words on the line below, "pay to the order of." Here, write out the dollar amount to match the numerical dollar amount you already wrote.
For instance, if you are writing a check for $100.12, you would write, "One hundred dollars and twelve cents" on this line.
If you are writing a check for a whole dollar amount with no cents, you should still include "no cents" or "00/100" for even more clarity. It's never bad to be as specific as possible when writing a check.
You can also write a blank check, allowing someone else to take over the check-writing process once they recover it.
Step 4: Write the memo
You'll note a "memo" line in the lower left-hand corner of the check. You don't have to fill it out, but it can be helpful if you want to distinguish the intended use of the check. For instance, you can write "utility bill" if you write a check to your utility company.
When you pay a bill with a check, the company may ask you to write your account numbers on the check memo area. Writing your account numbers will help them know who is paying them and balance your account quickly, as they are unlikely to remember your name alone.
Step 5: Sign the check
The last step is signing the check on the line at the bottom right-hand corner of the surface. Practice writing your signature a few times if you have not done this already.
Be sure to use the same signature you used when you opened the checking account. This tells the bank that you agree to pay the written amount as soon as someone cashes the check.
What about the endorsement line?
On the back of the check, you'll notice one or more lines on one side for "endorsement." You don't have to fill anything into these lines.
Instead, the endorsement lines are for the person or entity who deposits or cashes the check. They are supposed to sign the endorsement line to show that they have accepted the check and have taken responsibility for the funds.
If you write anything on the check, it may not be cashable by your intended recipient and could ruin the entire process.
When to use a check to pay someone
Checks can generally be used and considered as cash or debit.
For instance, if you need to pay your utility company or another company a bill, using a check is still an excellent way to do so. Checks are more secure than cash, and companies expect checks from many customers.
Alternatively, you can use a check to pay someone a cash gift. Since checks have to be cashed by someone with the matching signature of the recipient, any money you give to someone via check is automatically safer than giving them a bundle of cash.
You can also use checks to give people money on a future date. If you put a check in the mail and postmark it for a specific date, the recipient will only receive it when you decide it's appropriate.
Postmarking checks can be an excellent way to ensure that funds don't come out of your account before a certain point, like your next payday.
Post-dated checks can help avoid overdraft fees, so they can be good personal finance tools if your money needs to be accounted for carefully.
Writing a check is reasonably straightforward and only takes a brief moment.
However, you might use this crucial skill hundreds or thousands of times throughout your life, and now you know how to write a check correctly.
For more information about checks, payments and skills to learn as a business owner, check out Entrepreneur's numerous guides and resources today.