Not too long ago, people used to pay most of their bills and for necessary items with a check. However, with the increased use of debit cards and the frequency of shopping online, the use of checks has dwindled so that there are actually some people who have never written a check because they've never had a need to. However, there will still be some rare instances where a check is required for payment instead of a debit card or a credit card or cash. And since this is the case, it would be a good idea to know how to write a check.
What Is a Check?
A check is an instrument used by financial institutions to transfer money from one account to another. For example, if you were grocery shopping and you wanted to write a check for your items, the check would represent the money used to pay for the items. The store would take the check and then present it to your bank in exchange for the money that the check represents.
Whatever amount the check is made out for equals the amount of cash used in that transaction. Therefore, a check is considered legal tender.
When Would You Write a Check?
A person might need to write a check to pay for various items such as rent or to make a deposit or place a hold on a purchase. One reason checks are used in this manner is that they also serve as receipts. A canceled check shows that you wrote out the check, presented it to the person you are paying, they cashed it and the bank honored it. This makes checks handy tools because not only will you have a record of writing the check, but the bank will also have a record of it being cashed.
How to Write a Check
A check holds a lot of information. Your name, address, bank account number and the person you're paying are all included on the front of a check. On the back is a space for an endorsement. Endorsements are when you have presented the check and the other person has to sign it in order to take ownership and cash it.
Who Gets the Check?
To make a payment with a check, the first thing you need to know is to whom you are writing it. As Bankrate.com refers to this entity as the "Payee." The first line on a check says "Pay to the order of." On the line that follows those words is where you write the name of the person or company you are paying. So if you're buying groceries, the "pay to the order of" would be the name of the grocery store.
How Much Is It?
Once you've filled out who is getting the check, then you can insert the amount of the check. So if your groceries totaled $100.34, in the rectangular box next to the line where you put the name of the grocery store you would write “$100.34” in the box. Underneath the line where you stated who was being paid, you'll write out the dollar amount in words, with the cents written in number form.
So the $100.34 check to the grocery store amount written out would state, "One hundred 34/100." As Huntington Bank explains, you don't have to include "dollars" in the written portion because it’s already printed at the end of the line.
The Why and Your Permission
On the next line, you will see a memo section, a space and then a long line. The memo section is where you can place a reminder for why you wrote the check. In the case of the grocery store, you could write "bought groceries." On the line next to that is where you sign the check; your signature should match the name printed at the top of the checks.
When you finish writing the check, you can give it to the person who is receiving the money. In the case of the grocery store, the cashier will put the check in the register. To make things even easier, some stores do not require you to fill out the check at all. You can hand a signed check to the cashier and the register does the rest.
Writing checks is a somewhat antiquated procedure, but since it still does happen from time to time, it's a good idea to know how the process works.
- Bankrate.com: How to Write a Check
- Huntington Bank: How to Write a Check
- National Credit Union Administration. "Understanding a Check and Balancing a Checkbook." Accessed June 4, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "I Received a Check Where the Words and the Numbers for the Amount Are Different." Accessed June 4, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Can a Bank or Credit Union Cash a Post-Dated Check Before the Date on the Check?" Accessed June 4, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "My Bank/Credit Union Cashed a Post-Dated Check Even Though I Told Them About the Post-Dated Check Before They Received It." Accessed June 4, 2020.
- Department of the Treasury. "U.S. Treasury Check Security Features." Accessed June 4, 2020.
- Federal Reserve Consumer Help. "Can a Bank Refuse to Cash My Check?" Accessed June 4, 2020.
- Georgia Department of Banking and Finance. "Check Fraud / Counterfeit Checks." Accessed June 4, 2020.
- American Bankers Association. "ABA Routing Number." Accessed June 4, 2020.
- Never give anyone a signed check without filling in all the spaces.
K.A. Francis has been a freelance and small business owner for 20 years. She has been writing about personal finance and budgeting since 2008. She taught Accounting, Management, Marketing and Business Law at WV Business College and Belmont College and holds a BA and an MAED in Education and Training.