Online banking has made electronic payments fast and easy, but paper checks are still in use. When you’re paid by check, you need to sign the back of it before you can deposit or cash it. Pretty simple, right?

Signing a check is also called “endorsing a check.” There are a few different ways to endorse a check, depending on how you want to use it.

For instance, you can:

  • Endorse the check to sign it over to a third party;
  • Endorse a check for the benefit of another person;
  • Endorse a check for a business; or
  • Endorse a check for a certain kind of deposit, like mobile banking.

While the steps for endorsing a check are very similar in most countries, in this article, we will focus on how to endorse a check in the U.S.

Why Do I Need to Endorse a Check?

Endorsing a paper check makes it valid for deposit into a checking account, savings account, or for cashing. What’s more, with the right information, your endorsement tells the bank exactly how to use or deposit it.

For example, if you want to sign a check over to another person, you’ll need to endorse it and write “pay to the order of” their name.

To cash checks that are not written to an individual directly, financial institutions need to know the original payee endorses the payment.

On the other hand, let’s say you want to deposit your check at the ATM or on a mobile app. Even though you’re not giving it to a bank teller, the bank or credit union still requires your signature on the back of the check to prove its validity.

If a check does not have the right endorsement, or any at all, it may not be cashable and may even be seen as fraudulent.

How Do I Endorse a Check?

There are a few ways to endorse a check so that the recipient can access the funds.

First, find the endorsement area. Simply pick up a new check and flip it over. You’ll see the endorsement area on the back of the check, like this.

You’ll see language such as: “endorse check here” and three lines. Most checks indicate “do not write” below that endorsement area.

Blank Endorsement: A blank endorsement is the most common way to endorse a check. It means the payer signs the bottom right line to show the receiving bank that they allow these funds to be transferrable from their account to the recipient. It does not mean leaving the check blank. A blank check is not cashable and worse, it can be filled in by someone else and opens you up to fraudulent activity.

Restrictive Endorsement: This type of endorsement has some rules along with it. To complete a restrictive endorsement, you must sign the check as usual, and then write the words “for deposit only” underneath your signature. This means the check will not be cashable at a cash counter, and the recipient can only deposit the funds into their bank account. You may also include a specific bank account number to ensure the check is only cashable into a specific account. You can also write “for mobile deposit only” if you wish for the recipient to only be able to cash the check via mobile deposit through their personal banking app.

Full Endorsement: A full endorsement is a third-party check endorsement. This means you can endorse it to allow another person to make the check cashable to a third party. You will have to sign the check next to the words “Pay to the order of” and the name of the person you’re signing it over to.

How to Know Which Way to Endorse a Check

Each method serves a different purpose. A blank endorsement is a pretty secure way to pay a bill or send money to someone. It is best to use a blank endorsement when you are paying a service or utility bill. No one else can take that check to cash it, in that case.

Use a restrictive endorsement if you worry the recipient may not use the funds as you intend. It’s also a good idea if you’re concerned about theft. The banking information you include will ensure no one else can gain access to those funds illegally.

A full endorsement is a special endorsement. Only do this if you fully trust the person you’re giving it to. For example, let’s say you want to help a loved one pay a bill, but don’t know the name of the payee. You can send your family member a check with the full endorsement, and they can fill out the rest.

What Else Do I Need to Know About How to Endorse a Check?

It is important that the original check has the correct date, amount, signature, and payee name before you endorse it.

To protect yourself from fraud, ensure the amount in the right-hand box in numbers, as well as in letters on the second line in the middle is correct as well as all other information. If there are any errors, ask the original check writer to issue a corrected one.

If there is a discrepancy in the letter and numerical amounts, or if something is illegible or misspelled, the check may be useless to the recipient. The recipient can only cash the check if the information on the front of the check is correct.

Checks have a lifespan of six months. This means if the date is written incorrectly, and it appears as though the check is more than six months old, the recipient cannot cash it. Errors in the payee’s name will also prevent your recipient from cashing the check.

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