How to Take Care of a Bad Check

••• check and pen in close up image by Alexey Klementiev from

Writing bad checks is no laughing matter. In fact, most states punish those who intentionally write bad checks with stiff penalties and possibly jail time. Of course, not all bad check writing is done intentionally. A minor mathematical error or failure to document a check in your checkbook register is a common oversight that can result in bouncing a check. The manner in which you choose to take care of the bad check you've written will determine what costs you incur and your future check writing privileges.

Contact your bank as soon as you discover that you have written a bad check. Whether you find the overdraft while checking online or through a notice in the mail, it's a good idea to contact the bank to resolve the situation.

Call the business or individual you wrote the check to. Chances are that if your bank has not paid the check, the bad check will bounce once it hits the receiver's account. The bad check will cost the receiver fees, so you will need to contact him to cover his overdraft costs.

Pay the incurred fees. Each time your bank has to cover a bad check, they will charge you a fee. You may still incur this fee even if the bank does not cover the amount of your check. Most banks automatically deduct these fees from your account balance, so you must deposit extra cash into your checking account to avoid future shortages.

Update your checkbook. You can cause a chain reaction of bounced checks if you fail to add the check into your balance, along with the subsequent fees. Subtract the amount of the check from your checking account balance, along with any overdraft fees.

Talk to a representative of your bank about overdraft protection, which can ensure that if you write a bad check in the future, it's covered. Overdraft protection is a second account attached to your present checking account that contains emergency funding to cover bounced checks. But keep in mind that you must replenish this money each time it's used for for the service to continue.


  • If you catch the mistake right away, you might be able to avoid any fees. Deposit cash into your account immediately. If the check has not yet hit your account, you may get lucky and avoid a bounced check.


  • Do not avoid the situation. Failure to make good on a bad check can hinder your ability to write checks in the future. Many merchants connect to a central system that alerts them to customers who have written bad checks.