How to Write a Check (Step-by-Step)

Banking
Updated: 9th Oct 2021
Written by Jennifer Pacheco
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Banking
October 9, 2021
Written by Jennifer Pacheco

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Is writing a check a traditional banking method? Absolutely. Do we stray away from such methods?

Not necessarily, but to be honest, the more and more we grow in the modern world, the less and less we use traditional methods.

That doesn’t mean that we should avoid learning how to write a check – especially considering it’s a very trusted form of payment, and some vendors/consumers still require checks vs. other payment methods.

How to Write a Check (Step-by-Step)

How to write a check, that is the question. This step-by-step process should clear it all up for everyone.

#1. Become familiar with the three numbers present on a check.

Before writing anything on the check, you should know what the different areas mean and why they’re there.

Generally, three important areas are printed on every single check. These areas are the bank routing number (bank identification number that is nine digits long), account number (your personal checking account number), and a check number (each check is numbered in the upper-righthand corner).

#2. Fill out the date.

In the upper righthand corner, under the check number, you’ll find a dated area. You’ll want to either write today’s date or future date it for the first date it can be cashed or deposited into another account.

#3. Fill out the payee information.

There’s a line that says “Pay to the Order of” on the front of the check. This is where you’ll put the name of the person or company you’ll be paying.

#4. Fill in the numerical check amount.

Over to the right of the check, after the “Pay to the Order of” area, you’ll find a small box. This box is present for you to write the numerical dollar amount in.

I highly recommend writing the number as close to the left of the small box as possible and then writing a dash at the end of the number so that no fraud can take place.

#5. Fill in the check amount using words on the line below the “Pay to the Order of” area.

Not only do you have to fill in the numerical amount in the check box, but you have to also write out the check amount under the “Pay to the Order of” in words to confirm that the amount is correct.

If the two values – written and numerical – do not line up, the check may not be cashed. If it is cashed, the words will be the amount that is cashed from the check, not the numbers in the little box.

For example, if you are writing a check out for $47.53, you would write it “Forty-seven dollars and 53/100.”

#6. If applicable, fill out the memo field.

It’s not absolutely 100% necessary, but it is nice to fill out the memo area to include a note on why the payment was made. Account numbers or reference numbers can also help.

#7. Always sign the check to make it valid.

Last but not least, sign the check on the line in the bottom right corner of the check. Without this signature, the check cannot be cashed or deposited at all.

Terminology to Know When Writing Checks

  • Account Number: Your individual, personal, and specific account number.
  • Bank Routing Number: Your bank’s identification number that’s 9 digits long.
  • Checking Number: You can find the check number in the upper righthand corner of the check; this number allows you to track what check is associated with bill payment/expense/gift.

Tips for Writing Checks

Before writing a check, make sure you don’t want to use a different payment method first, like online bill pay, debit card transactions, or setting up automatic payments.

These three ways to pay are easier, and they withdraw from your account much sooner than a check would.

After writing a check, keep track of that check. Record it in your checkbook, or somewhere else that’s safe and secure. Write the check number, the amount, and who the check is being paid to the order of.

That way, you’ll never make a payment twice, and you’ll be able to keep track of how much money you currently have in your checking account.

Additional security tips include:

  • Always use a pen when writing out a check because if you use a pencil, you have the risk of someone erasing the dollar amount or the payee area and changing it to their liking.
  • Never sign a check until you’ve filled out the entire front – you want the date, payee, and amount to be on the check before you make it valid. If you’re not sure who the payee will ultimately be, bring a pen with you and fill out the check on site.
  • Put a dash or some subtle line mark after all check numerical and written out amounts so that no one can add commas or numbers to the price.
  • Sign checks the same way every time, that way, if fraudulent behavior is occurring, the tellers and bank managers will pick up on it quickly.
  • Try not to write a check payable to “cash.” This is similar to that of carrying around a blank check. If you lose the check, someone may use it to cash in on your savings.
  • Try to write as few checks as possible. It’s much more trustworthy to make payments online and through debit cards nowadays. Checks could potentially get lost in the mail, could get stolen, or could even be tampered with.

Endorsing a Check

Before depositing or cashing a check, you need to endorse it for the funds to be valid. This process was created just to ensure that the person depositing or cashing the check is the person that the check was initially made out to.

All you have to do to endorse a check is sign the back. Be careful and pay attention, though.

There’s a specific area for endorsement on the back, it’ll read “Endorse Here.” There will be another line that has the phrase, “Do not write, stamp, or sign below this line,” so avoid writing in that area entirely. This area is strictly for bank usage.

Remember, the name you sign must match the name that is on the front of the check exactly, to a tee, with every letter included. No incorrect spelling will be accepted.

Voiding a Check

If you need to void a check that you’ve written due to an error or mistake, simply take a blue or black pen or even a thick black marker, and write VOID in large letters across the front. This will ensure no one can cash the check.

>> More: What Is a Voided Check? 

What Should I Do If I Make a Mistake Writing a Check?

Simply write VOID in large letters across the front surface area of the check in blue or black pen or black marker.

You can start from scratch with a new check once you’ve completed this process. You can also shred the mistake check after writing VOID on the front.

What Is a Post-Dated Check?

A post-dated check is a check with a future date in the upper-righthand corner. Many people will take advantage of this nifty trick if they know they won’t have the correct funds in the bank until a certain date.

For example, you can send a check in the mail in late November but date it for its original due date on December 5th.

That way, once they get the check, they can’t cash it until that date, but you also don’t have to worry about remembering to get it out in the mail.

What Is the Safest Way to Write a Check?

The safest way to write a check is to fill it out properly and then draw straight lines across the empty areas on the check.

For example, writing the words out for the numerical value of the check and then putting a long dash after it will avoid any fraudulent behavior.

>> More: Can You Deposit Cash at an ATM?

Is Writing a Check to Myself Allowed?

Absolutely, just write your name after “Pay to the Order of.” This is often looked at as a simple way to move money from one checking account to another.

Bottom Line: How to Write a Check

Once you get the hang of it, writing a check out is fairly easy. Just be sure not to miss any of the areas, not to write in restricted areas, and to protect yourself from fraud by all means.

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Jennifer Pacheco
Jennifer Pacheco attended the University of Dartmouth, Massachusetts and earned her degree in English Writing & Editorial Work. She is a seasoned writer with over 5 years of professional work under her belt, and supplies easy-to-read information that's highly educational, engaging, and conversational to help you make the most of your money.