Receiving a paycheck or personal check with a misspelled name can be frustrating. Nobody wants to wait for a new check to be issued with the name change and correct spelling. This scenario is more common than you may realize. If you find yourself in this situation, there are options aside from setting up direct deposit if your name is printed with spelling errors on a check.
Cashing a Misspelled Check
A check is not automatically void when someone fills it out with your legal name misspelled. The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) contains provisions that allow you to cash or deposit a check with misspellings, a wrong name and other identification errors.
According to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, UCC Article 3 stipulates that a check is payable to the intended recipient of the check, even if the check bears the wrong payee name. Article 3 extends beyond simple misspellings to checks featuring a different name, such as a nickname, maiden name or middle name, instead of the recipient's legal name.
For example, if a check is made out to Jane Smith, but the legal name on the bank account is Janet Smith, the check can be cashed.
Be aware that individual banks have their own policies and may refuse to accept a check without proof of identification, especially if it is not for deposit only. Your bank may also reject a mobile deposit if the name is misspelled.
Endorsing Checks with Misspelled Names
You are not alone if your name has been misspelled on your check. This common error can be remedied relatively easily by providing the bank with verifiable identification when you attempt to cash it.
It isn't a serious problem if you have been given a check on which your name is misspelled. You can typically resolve the issue by speaking with a bank teller and presenting the required and legal forms of identification. You should also be confident that the check is good.
When you prepare to cash a check with a simple error, such as a missing letter on your name, sign the back of the check (this is known as "endorsing" the check) with the misspelled name and your proper name. All banks have policies regarding the acceptable way to endorse a check that is outlined in the deposit account agreement.
If the check features an egregious identification problem, like the use of a nickname, endorse the back of the check with both the nickname (or maiden name) and your legal name. Using both signatures lets you establish your identity as the payee named on the check while also providing your legal name.
Take care not to create marks outside the designated 1.5-inch area on the right side of the back of the check. This part of the check is strictly for bank endorsements. According to Bank of America, a "nonconforming endorsement" can cause a check to be rejected or returned.
Handling a Spelling Mistake
Each bank, and even individual branch offices of larger financial institutions, follows different check-cashing and identification policies. Further, some banks may charge a check-cashing fee if you do not hold a bank account with them.
A local bank branch office where the tellers know you have an account number may not question a check featuring a nickname. A different branch might ask for proof of identification and may not accept a check with the alternate payee name.
If you are depositing the check into your own bank account, the bank may require a temporary hold until it clears. If a bank refuses to either cash or deposit a check into a savings or checking account, request a copy of the bank's deposit account agreement to verify that the policy exists.
If an employer has issued you a check with the wrong name, make sure your Social Security number is correct on your pay stub. While a misspelled name on a check is relatively minor, the wrong Social Security number can create issues with the IRS and Social Security down the road.
Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.