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How to Write a Check: A Step-By-Step Guide 2024

Write a check with no errors with our guide

A check is a written document that orders a bank to pay a specific amount of money to a person or organization. Writing a check is a common payment method, especially for bills or purchases. 

To write a check, first, date the check and write the recipient’s name. Write the payment amount in numerical and written form, and add a memo if necessary. Sign the check in the bottom right corner.

This guide will provide a step-by-step guide on how to write a check, including what information to include and where to put it. Additionally, it will cover some tips for preventing fraud or errors when writing your check.

Understanding checks

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A check is a written document that orders a bank to pay a specific amount of money to a person or organization. It’s a form of payment used to transfer funds from one person to another.

The purpose of a check is to provide a secure and convenient way to make payments, especially for bills, purchases, and other expenses, without the use of physical currency. [1]Central Bank, What is check, https://www.centralbank.net/learning-center/understanding-check-basics/#:~:text=A%20check%20is,account%20to%20another.”

Types of Checks and their uses

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Here are the different types of checks available:

Personal checks

These are the checks issued by a bank with the account and routing number printed on them, but the payor must fill in the amount and recipient. The payee then deposits the check, transferring funds to their account.

Certified checks

This type guarantees the drawer’s account has enough funds to cover the amount. Certified checks are certified at the bank where they are drawn to prevent bouncing due to insufficient funds.

Cashier’s checks

Cashier’s checks are guaranteed by the bank and signed by a cashier, making the bank responsible for the funds. They are typically required for large transactions like buying a car or house, and most banks charge a fee for them.

Payroll checks

They are issued by employers to compensate employees for their work. However, electronic transfers have become more common than physical checks.

Bounced check

A bounced check occurs when the payor writes a check for an amount larger than what is in their account, resulting in non-sufficient funds (NSF) and fees for attempting to overdraw the account.

Void check

A voided check is a paper check with “VOID” written across it, rendering it unusable.

Money order

Money orders are secure forms of payment representing a specified amount of money. They are purchased for the full amount plus a small fee and are not directly linked to the purchaser’s account.

How to write a check?

To write a check, follow these steps:

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Step 1: Write the date on the check

Write the current date on the line at the top right-hand corner. This is important because it lets the bank and the payee know when you wrote the check.

Be sure to write the date clearly and accurately.

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Step 2: Mention the payee’s name

Write the name of the person or company you want to pay on the line that says “Pay to the order of.” Be sure to spell the name correctly to avoid confusion.

If you’re not sure of the exact name, you can write the word “cash” instead. However, this is risky as anyone can cash or deposit a check made out to “cash.”

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Step 3: Payment amount in numbers

Write the dollar amount numerically in the small box on the right. Be sure to write this clearly and accurately so the bank can accurately subtract the amount from your account.

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Step 4: Fill out the payment amount in words

On the line below “Pay to the order of,” write out the dollar amount in words to match the numerical dollar amount you wrote in the box.

For example, if you’re paying $25.50, you would write “twenty-five and 50/100.” This is important as it confirms the correct payment total.

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Step 5: Write a memo

Fill out the line that says “Memo” to provide a brief description of why you wrote the check. This section is situated above the account number.

This step is optional, but it is helpful for both you and the payee to keep track of the purpose of the payment. For example, write “rent” or “utilities” in the memo line.

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Step 6: Sign the check

Sign your name on the line at the bottom right-hand corner using your signature when you opened the checking account. This shows the bank that you agree to pay the stated amount and to the correct payee.

Be sure to sign in ink and with your usual signature to avoid confusion or suspicion.

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Tips for avoiding mistakes

Here are some tips for avoiding mistakes when filling out checks:

Use a pen

Always use a pen when filling out a check. Pencil marks are easily erased, making it easy for someone to alter the check.

Avoid writing blank checks

Fill out all fields and never sign a blank check. Make sure to fill out all fields, including the payee and the amount.

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Prevent check tampering

Write the dollar amount as far to the left as possible and draw a line after the last digit. This will prevent anyone from adding extra digits or altering the amount. Keep a check register and keep track of every check you write.

Use carbon copies

If you want a paper record of every check you write, consider using checkbooks with carbon copies. This will provide you with a copy of every check you write and help you track your spending.

Use a consistent signature

Use a consistent signature every time you sign a check. This will help you and your bank identify any fraudulent activity.

Write fewer checks

Use electronic payments and online bill payments for recurring expenses. Use a credit or debit card for everyday spending. This will make it easier to track your spending and reduce the risk of check fraud.

What to do with a completed check?

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After completing a check, you can deliver it by hand, mail it, or deposit it electronically. Hand-delivery is suitable for paying someone in person, and you should obtain a receipt or confirmation.

If mailing the check, address it to the payee, include enough postage and a return address, and consider using certified mail or tracking.

You also have the option to deposit the check electronically using an online banking mobile app by taking a picture of the front and back of the check and submitting it. 

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Do I need to use cursive when writing a check?

The only section that needs to be written in cursive is the signature line. All other fields can be filled out in print or cursive as long as everything is legible.

What happens if I make a mistake on a check?

It is important to inform the bank immediately about the error. If the check was tampered with, the bank may ask you to fill out an affidavit to record the issue formally.
If it was a mistake during encoding, the bank will correct the problem on your account and notify the paying bank.

I use a pencil when writing a check?

No, it is not recommended to use a pencil when writing a check. Pencil marks can be easily erased, making it easy for someone to alter the check. It’s best to use a pen and sign it in ink.

How do I write a check for an amount with cents?

When writing a check that includes cents, express the cents amount as a fraction over 100. Even if the dollar amount is a whole number, it’s recommended to include “and 00/100” to avoid confusion.

For example, for $21.25, the check should read “Twenty-one and 25/100.”

Can I write a check to myself and cash it?

Yes, writing a check to yourself is allowed by law. You must ensure that the amount doesn’t exceed your available bank balance.

Attempting to cash a check for funds more than your balance is illegal. Checking your account balance before you do so is important.

Do I need to sign the back of a check I write?

Yes, you must sign the back of the check to make it legally valid. This is typically done by signing your name on the designated line in the upper right-hand corner.

Writing a check may seem like an old-fashioned tradition, but it is still the most secure form of payment. Following the steps above will help learn how to write a check correctly and prevent potential mistakes.

It’s important to use caution when writing checks and never sign a blank or incomplete check.

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