How To Write a Check: A Step-by-Step Guide, Security Tips, And Example

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While less common than they once were, checks are still widely used, including in the digital world. Paper checks are an effective and inexpensive tool for moving money; however, you probably don’t know how to fill out a check simply because you don’t use it every day.

Well, if this is you, we have to be honest with you: Filling out a check is easy, and in this article we are going to show you how to do it . You can follow the steps one by one or in any order you like, as long as you don’t leave out essential information. This article will mainly serve to learn how to fill out a check in dollars, but it can be useful to anyone anywhere in the world since the way to fill out checks, whether in dollars or another currency, is very similar. Likewise, this article will help you write a Chase Bank check, write a Wells Fargo check or any other bank.

In the example that we are going to use, we will start at the top of the check and end at the bottom, which will ensure that you do not forget any steps. Lets start..

How to fill out a personal check, step by step

If this is your first time writing a check, seeing all those lines, spaces, and boxes can be a bit intimidating. But don’t worry, the checks are created to be filled out quickly and easily. Now, let’s see how to fill out a check step by step.

Step 1: Write the date

In the upper right corner of the check you will find a space to fill in the date. In almost all cases, this should be the date you are writing the check, but there are some situations where you should/can postdate it, i.e. fill out the check to be cashed or deposited at a later date . Regarding the format, it does not matter which one you use as long as you write the day, month and year correctly.

Step 2: Write the name of the person or company to whom the funds are directed

The next step is to fill in the beneficiary details. In most cases, this will be the name of a person or company. You must write this, clearly and without any errors, on the line that is marked “Pay to the order of” . You do not need to put the full name, as you can write “John Smith” or “J. Smith”; however, we recommend that you do so as a protection measure against possible fraud .

Step 3: Write the amount to pay

Most checks have a blank box with a dollar sign to the right of the payee line. Once you have filled in the details of who you wish to pay, you need to fill in the amount you are paying. In this part you must write the figures in numbers only , and it is not necessary to add the sign or symbol of the currency (in this case, the US dollar).

Be sure to write clearly, so there are no problems reading the amount of the check. You must also detail the cents if it is the case. In this regard, you can display cents in various ways, the simplest being to use a decimal point, writing it like this: $25.01.

Sometimes a decimal point can be confused with a comma in the amount field, so to avoid confusion, many people will write cents as a fraction. For example, like this: $25 01/100.

Step 4: Now write the amount in words

Below the payee line, you’ll see another blank line, usually with the word “Dollars” after it. This is where you should write the amount of the check in words.

By writing the amount in words, you allow your bank to double check, so if there is a problem reading the number box, the words provide a backup. In cases where the words and numbers differ, most banks will use the amount in words to pay the check.

Therefore, write this information as clearly as possible, and include both dollars and cents. Now, it’s common for people to also write the cents as a fraction here.

If you don’t use the full line to write the amount, draw a line to block the rest. This is another way to avoid possible fraud, since it basically prevents anything else from being written.

Step 5 (Optional): Write the note or memo

Filling out this part of the check is optional, but the notes section can be helpful for keeping track of your spending, as you can write additional information in this section so everyone can see what the payment is for.

For example, if you are paying a utility bill, you can write “January Gas Bill” on this line. You can also include your tax identification number if you are paying federal income tax or a billing account number. This can be helpful in case your check accidentally gets separated from your bill, and can ensure that your payment is applied to the correct account.

Processing of the check will be carried out regardless of what you have written in the note section; however, this section is an invaluable feature to help both parties, for example, keep an organized record of payments and/or transactions.

Step 6: Place your signature in the signature section

Finally, you must sign the check in the corresponding section. This step is undoubtedly the most important, but it is the easiest to forget. While a check might still process if there’s an error elsewhere, the lack of a signature will prevent your bank from processing it, which could lead to returned check fees, late fees, or other costs. Now, the signature section is in the bottom right corner of the check. You just need to get used to it, and that’s it! You managed to fill your first check!

What are the numbers printed on a check?

Surely you have noticed that a series of numbers are printed on a check. Well, usually on each check there are three series of numbers:

  • Bank routing number. This nine-digit number identifies the bank where your checking account is located, along with other information. It usually appears first on the check.
  • The account numbers. The second number on the check is usually your checking account number.
  • Check number. The last number is usually the check number. This will match the check number printed in the upper right hand corner of the check.
When making a check payment, you must ensure that these numbers are intact and clearly visible, as they are required for check processing. Machines at banks and financial institutions read these numbers, so even a small hole in one of the numbers can cause the machine to miss the check.

Also, without these numbers the payee’s bank will not be able to track where the money should be drawn from , resulting in a bad check. Therefore, avoid writing over these numbers or accidentally erasing them from the check.

Now let’s talk about the check register

Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with how to write a check, many people don’t adequately understand the importance of the check register. Tracking your spending is crucial to good financial habits, and properly managing a check register is a solid start.

As you may have already gathered from the name, a check register is a record of the checks you have written that you use for the purpose of keeping track of them. This will allow you to better manage your finances and avoid costly unauthorized overdraft fees on your account. Accordingly, you should record every check you have written in your check register .

Steps to record a check in the check register

Step 1: Enter your opening balance on the first line. This should be the amount that is currently in your checking account, and is written in the column that is marked ‘balance’. Most check registers have a larger box and a smaller box, so you should put the dollars and cents separately in each box .

Step 2: On the next line, fill in the check number you wrote in the “check number” column.

Step 3: Working on this line, fill in the date of the check in the date column and the name of the person or company in the “transaction description” column and the amount of the check in the “payment/debit” column.

Step 4: Next, you need to create a new balance in the balance column by subtracting the amount of the check from the old balance. This balance will be different from the balance on your online account or ATM receipt since the check has not yet been processed.

Step 5: Repeat these steps for each transaction. This will help you keep track of activity in your checking account. You’ll need to include all transactions made from this account, including ATM withdrawals , deposits, ACH payments , and more. Doing this will help you be as accurate as possible and avoid additional fines or fees.

Step 6: Finally, when you receive your monthly bank statement, identify the checks and transactions that have been processed and add a check mark in the verification column.

Security tips to fill out a check and avoid fraud

When you write a check, make sure that it is used in the way it was intended, that is, to pay the indicated amount to the person or organization to which it is addressed.

Thieves can alter checks that are lost or stolen. The chances of a check being lost or stolen once it leaves your hands are endless, so it’s easy for thieves to cause headaches. Whether or not you permanently lose money, you’ll need to put in the time and effort to fix any problems caused by fraud. Therefore, below we present a series of security tips that you must follow to reduce the chances of suffering check fraud.

Make it permanent

Use a pen every time you write a check, since if you use a pencil, anyone with an eraser can change the amount and name of the payee.

No blank checks

Do not sign a check until you have filled in the name of the payee and the amount. If you’re not sure who to pay the check to or how much to put down, ask. Handing over a check without this information for someone else to write can mean giving unlimited access to the funds in your account.

Prevents the amount from being altered

When you write a check, be sure to write the amount in such a way that it is impossible to alter it. To do this, write from end to end, and if there is a blank space, draw a line after the last digit. For example, if your check is for $8.15, place the “8” as far to the left as possible. Then draw a line from the right side of the “5” to the end of the space or write the numbers so large that it is difficult to add numbers. If you leave room, someone else can add digits, and your check could end up being $98.15 or $8,159.

Make copies of every check you write

If you want a paper record of every check you write, get carbon copy checkbooks. These checkbooks come with a thin sheet that contains a copy of each check you write. As a result, you can quickly identify where your money went and exactly what you wrote on each check.

Have a consistent signature

Many people do not have a legible signature, and some even sign checks and credit cards with humorous images. However, having a consistent signature and using it on every check helps you and your bank identify possible fraud. In fact, this way it will be easy for you to prove that you are not responsible for a fraudulent charge .

No cash”

Avoid writing a check payable to cash. This is as risky as handing a blank signed check to a stranger or carrying a wad of cash with you. If you need cash, withdraw it from an ATM, buy a piece of gum and get a refund with your debit card, or simply go to the bank and make a withdrawal at the box office.

Use checks only when necessary

Checks are just as risky as any other payment method, but there are safer ways to pay for things. For example, electronic payments. Plus, most checks are converted to an electronic payment anyway, so you ‘re not avoiding technology by using checks . On the other hand, electronic payments are generally easier to track because they are already in a searchable format with a timestamp and payee name. In this sense, we recommend that you use tools such as online bill payment for your recurring expenses, and that you use a credit or debit card for your daily expenses.

Frequently asked questions about writing checks

Since checks aren’t as common as they used to be, here we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions to help you feel confident every time you pull out your checkbook.

Can a pencil be used to fill out a check?

If you need to write a check in a hurry, you may be wondering if using a pencil instead of a pen is okay. Answer: It is possible to write a check in pencil, it is not a good idea. The pencil can be easily erased, and someone could change any details you’ve written. So that little check for a few dollars could be cashed into thousands of dollars, without altering your signature . For the best protection against any fraud, it is important to use permanent ink whenever you write a check.

When should you use a check?

This depends, but today there are not so many scenarios where you have to pay with a check. However, there are still companies that do not allow credit or debit card payments , so a personal check may be the safest option.

On the other hand, sometimes writing a check can save you some money. Businesses must pay a fee for processing credit or debit card payments, so if you pay with a personal check, you may get a discount . While this may only be a percentage, it could add up to a few hundred dollars if you make a large purchase. We know there are some credit cards that offer rewards points, but you’d need to spend a lot to rack up equivalent savings.

Is it possible to write checks for yourself?

Although ATMs have made this method a bit obsolete, it’s still possible to write a check to yourself to get cash from your checking account or to move money between accounts.

If you live in an area where there are no ATMs or if you don’t have one nearby, or if they charge too high a fee, you can write a check and endorse it by signing the back. Just make sure you wait until you’re at the bank before endorsing your check, because if you lose an endorsed check someone else could cash it and you’ll end up losing money .

How is a check postdated?

As we mentioned earlier, you are not required to use the current date on your check . In this vein, postdating a check simply means that you use a future date on your check. This is usually because there isn’t enough money in your checking account to cover the amount, so the later date gives you time to get the additional funds for check processing.

In general, while you can postdate checks, it’s not a good practice and should be avoided. Postdated checks can be a sign that you’re not managing your finances as well as you could or that you’re spending more than you can afford. Also, payees aren’t required to accept postdated checks, so you can run into issues, including returned check fees.

What happens if I make a mistake when filling out a check?

It is important to avoid any mistakes whenever possible. We recommend that you always check your check for errors such as not signing, putting the wrong date or entering different amounts in words and numbers. Any error on your check that prevents or delays processing could cost you money. If your bank or a business can’t process the payment, it could result in returned check fees, late fees, or other costs.

How do you write a voided check?

To process direct withdrawals, direct deposits, automatic bill payments, or other transactions, a business or employer may require a voided check. This helps ensure they have access to the correct accounts and can process the transaction without error.

Voiding a check is pretty easy to do. You just need to write “VOID” in very large letters in the middle of the check. You can also write void elsewhere on the check, as many times as you like to make it clear that it’s no longer valid.

If you made a mistake filling out the check and need to void it, simply do what we’ve instructed you to do and then shred or tear it up.

What alternatives to checks do I have?

Today, there are many alternatives to writing a check that can make your life easier.

  • Online bill payment. Most banks allow you to set up electronic bill payment through their online interface. In this regard, payment is made electronically when possible, and in some cases they will print and mail a check.
  • Debit and credit cards. Most retailers accept debit and credit cards these days, which was uncommon back when checks were the preferred method of payment.
  • Person-to-person payment services. These services (such as Venmo , PayPal , Google Pay) allow you to send money to friends, family, or anyone else. They are often free, but sometimes there is a charge, so make sure you do your research before using them.
  • Of course, you can always use cash too , so don’t forget to ask for your receipt!

Knowing how to fill out a check is still important

Knowing how to fill out a personal check is still important . While many people consider personal checks obsolete, they may still need to be used in various scenarios.

While writing a check isn’t complicated, making a mistake can cost you money, so it’s worth brushing up on your check-writing skills to make sure you get it right.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.

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