Many people who pay by check appreciate having a record of the amount of the check and other pertinent details of a transaction. Checks can provide a safe and convenient way to manage personal finances, if they are used correctly. Signatures are a prominent and vital feature of any check transaction.
Why Sign a Paper Check?
There are a few key pieces of information that are required for drafting a check. First, it requires a bank account such as a checking account. Your financial institution will issue you a checkbook and check register to use for writing and managing your account.
Consider that a check is a legal document detailing a payment. Signatures are required to formalize any payment by check; both the payor and payee must sign it. Like any legal document, there are a couple of places on a check where signatures are required.
The signature line is one of these areas. It is on the front side of the check in the lower right-hand corner. On the back of the check, there is also a section to endorse the payment.
The signature line and endorsement of a check should both be signed in cursive. The names printed on the check must have corresponding signatures that identically match in spelling.
Signing a Check in Cursive Writing
While writing your memo line or dollar amount in cursive is optional, your check should be signed in cursive. This is the primary identifying marker for verifying a payment. It must match what your bank has on record or be otherwise identifiable as your signature. Cursive writing is ideal because it is unique to each person.
Signing your full name in cursive is best for a few reasons. Your signature must match the name that is printed on the checks in your checkbook. If a transaction is disputed, the signature will provide evidence, so it is best to use something distinct.
If you receive a check, such as a paycheck, you will also sign your check to match the payee name. This time, it will be signed in the area for endorsing the check. The name of the person or company issuing the check will be on the front side of the check.
Your name will be on the “Pay to” line, and you will sign on the back. There are a few types of endorsement per Huntington, the most basic endorsement requires only a signature.
Writing a Personal Check in Pencil
Now that we know that a check is a legally binding contract, using a pencil is definitely not recommended. It is a very bad idea to write a check in pencil or erasable ink. It is also a bad idea to sign blank checks. If you do not have a pen, hold off on drafting the check or find another payment method.
Both of these situations can create the opportunity for fraud, as a thief could easily erase or write in any dollar or numerical amount and cash it. If someone has been able to cash a check without your actual signature, you have 30 days to dispute the transaction per the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Many financial institutions provide relief for fraudulent transactions by check or debit card. However, it can be a harrowing experience and an all-around hassle to file that claim. You may even be assessed overdraft fees on the fraudulent check.
If you are not confident about handling or writing checks, online banking is an available option from most banks. This includes direct deposit and digital transfers of funds. The FDIC is another good resource for learning more about checks and using them safely.
Hashaw Elkins is a financial services and tax professional, as well as a project management consultant. She has led projects across multiple industries and sectors, ranging from the Fortune Global 500 to international nongovernmental organizations. Hashaw holds an MBA in Real Estate and an MSci in Project Management. She is further certified in organizational change management, diversity management, and cross-cultural mediation.