Most checks are made out to a specific person or group, but sometimes a single check is made out to more than one person. A check could go to a married couple, a group of friends, or any other group that has something in common or owns something together. One word on these kinds of checks tells you how to handle them. The key is whether “and” or “or” comes between the names of each person.
The word “and” means that everyone on the check must sign it. Most of the time, “or” only lets one of the payees sign.
Banks have to find out who signs the back of a check, which is called “endorsing” it, so that it can be cashed or stored. If a check is made out to two people and the money is deposited into an account with the same two names, there isn’t much of a risk. However, if someone wants to cash the check, there is a risk that one person will fake the other’s signature and take the money.
Do we all have to sign at the same time?
Some banks demand that all the payees on a check sign it in front of a bank staff at the same time. Everyone who wants to sign that check must show proof that they are allowed to do so. Other banks will take a check even if only one of the people who it is made out to has an account with them.
Banks are extra careful with checks for large amounts of money. If the amount is small, like $5 or $10, one person can often sign and pay it without having to get everyone together.
Deposits Are Easier
If the plan is to send the check instead of cash it, the process should be easier. This is especially true if all the payees have the same bank account. For instance, it could be a shared account for a married pair, and the check could be made with both of their names. In this case, one person might even be able to pay the check without both signatures.
‘Or’ Means Anybody
Most of the time, only one person can sign checks that are made out to more than one person by using the word “or.” In some cases, though, all payees may need to sign the check.
If the payment is very large or is part of an insurance or court settlement, talk to your bank or an attorney in your state about how to handle the check. Even if it says “or,” it might be a good idea or even the law to have everyone sign the check.
What if you don’t understand?
Some checks don’t say anywhere where “and” or “or” should go. In this case, the answer isn’t as clear. When it comes to the law, you can usually treat the check as if it said “or.” The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which is sometimes used as a model for how states and banks handle these kinds of deals, says that anyone named on an “ambiguous” check can discuss it.
Changes in Bank Policy
The UCC rules are not something your bank has to follow. Banks can avoid losing money by being extra careful with these checks. When there is any question about the check writer’s motives, some banks have a rule that everyone must sign the check. They might even need everyone to sign in front of bank staff, so you can’t just send it in by mail or put it in an ATM.
You could try your luck by depositing or cashing a check with only one payee’s name. There is a chance that the bank will turn down your deposit and tell you to get the missing forms before you can try again. This can take a few days, a couple of weeks, or even longer.
Contacting both the bank the check is made on and the bank where you’re putting it to find out what they need is a safer way to go. Don’t be surprised if different people give you different answers. Bank rules aren’t always clear or well-known.
You Always Have a Chance
Even when bank rules say that checks need more than one signature, checks with only one signature may be accepted because the missing signatures might not be noticed. You have to decide what’s best for you in the end. Think about how easy it is to get everyone’s signature and if you can wait if the bank wants more signatures. Then decide which option is best.
Checks to More Than One Person
If you’re writing checks to more than one person, keep in mind that you can make it easy or hard for the people to pay the money. The right choice relies on what you want to do, how much you believe the two (or more) people and other things like law and tax problems.
“Or” makes things simple. Using “or” between names gives you the most freedom if you don’t worry that one of them will steal the money.
“And,” tells everyone what’s going on. Use “and” if you want to make sure that everyone knows about the check. This could slow things down, but that might be a good thing.
If you’re giving a check to a married couple, be careful what you pick. Either or both of the partners could change their last names. Money is always a good gift, but it can get complicated if you write a check to both of them using the word “and”:
- One of them could change their name, and then the name on the check won’t match their new name.
- You might think that one of them is changing their name, but that’s not true.
- Even if the names on the checks don’t match up exactly, newlyweds can often still cash them. This happens a lot in banks. But putting the money in the bank might take a trip to the branch or a few extra phone calls and papers. Write the check with “or,” or ask the couple
- how they would like to receive gifts to make the deposit as easy as possible for them.
Questions Most Often Asked (FAQs)
Where do you write your name on a check?
Always write your name on the back of a check, above the line that says “Endorse here” or “Do not write below this line.” For checks written to more than one person use the word “and,” sign the “Pay to the order of” line on the front of the check with everyone’s name.
Who can write a name on a check?
The back of the check can only be signed by people whose names are on the “pay to” line. If you want to give the check to someone else, you must sign the back and write “Pay to the order of [First and Last Name]” in the space for the signature.
Can you cash a check written to two different people?
You can cash a check that is made out to more than one person, but it can be harder than putting it in the bank. To get cash, the bank may need both people to be there and sign in person.