Knowing how to write a check correctly is an important skill. If a paper check is filled out incorrectly, it can leave you with a defaulted payment or a bounced check.
In the age of credit cards and mobile payments, it’s easy to transfer money digitally, and you may not even have a personal checkbook that you use regularly. But there are still times when cash or checks are the only acceptable payment methods.
Has it been a while since you’ve used your checkbook—or is it your first time writing a check altogether? Follow these steps when writing checks to ensure recipients can cash them without any issues.
Types of checks
First, let’s get clear on what types of checks we’re talking about here. Although there are several types of checks, from traveler’s checks to cashier’s checks, the main type of check you’ll write is likely to be a personal check.
That’s because other types of checks are typically filled out by your bank or another financial institution. You may need to sign the check, but the cashier will fill out the details (and ensure there are sufficient funds in your account to cover it).
With personal checks, it’s up to you to fill out the information correctly, such as the payment amount and name of the recipient.
How to write a personal check
OK, so you’ve double-checked that you have enough money in your bank account and taken out your checkbook—now what?
Here’s how to go about writing a check step-by-step.
1. Write the date in the upper-right corner of the check.
In the top right-hand corner of the check, you’ll need to fill out today’s date. The correct date is important, since banks aren’t required to accept checks that are more than six months old. In the U.S., there’s a set of laws called the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) that regulates these details.
Sometimes, you may need to postdate a check: that means writing one with a future date on it. Just keep in mind that postdating means your check will not be cashable before the date listed on it, so it’s best to use the current date when possible.
Be sure to write the month, day, and year correctly in the upper right-hand corner of the check. The payee may not be able to cash the check if the date is inaccurate or illegible. In that case, your financial institution will return the check to you.
2. Include the payee name.
On the first line of the check, you’ll see the words “Pay to the order of________.” This is the payee line and where you should fill in the name of the person or business who will cash the check.
The recipient’s name must be on the check for them to deposit the funds into their bank account or credit union account. Be sure to include their full name, not a nickname, and write clearly, so the recipient can successfully deposit the funds.
3. Fill in the amount of the check in numerals.
Next, you’ll see a small box on the right-hand side of the check. In this space, fill in the total payment amount using standard numerals (i.e., 1, 2, 3, etc.). Some checks have a dollar sign and some do not. If not, you don’t have to put one in.
Be sure to include the decimal point in the right place, so there aren’t any errors in the withdrawal process.
4. Write the numerical amount in letters.
Just beneath the payee line is a blank line with the word “dollars” to the right of it. On this line, fill out the dollar amount of the check in words.
For example, if your check is for $142.57, you would write, “One hundred forty-two and 57/100.” If the dollar amount is even, you should still include “00/100” to clarify that there are no cents that were mistakenly omitted.
Why do you have to write the amount of the check twice? In short, it’s to ensure that the check is filled out correctly. If the numbers in the amount box are different from the amount spelled out in letters, the recipient won’t be able to cash it.
To the right of this line, you may also see a number 100 with a line above it. If your check has this option, you can include the number of cents here instead of with the written dollar amount. You can simply enter “00” for an even dollar amount here as well.
5. Sign the check.
On the bottom right-hand corner of the check, you’ll notice a blank line. This is where you sign the check. A check can’t be cashed unless there’s a valid signature on the bottom of the check, so make sure it’s clear and legible.
In some cases, a checking account may have more than one signing authority—for example, if it’s a joint or business bank account. Usually, only one account holder’s signature needs to be on the check.
6. Jot down notes in the memo section.
Filling out the memo line on the bottom left-hand side of the check is optional, unless the payee has requested it.
A memo can help the recipient keep track of incoming payments, but it’s also useful to you for your own record-keeping purposes. For example, you could write “June rent,” “car deposit,” or “birthday gift,” depending on what the check is for.
Leave the back of the check blank. The recipient will need to sign their own name on the back of the check in order to endorse it.
7. Keep track of your checks.
Once you’ve written a check, it’s a good idea to record the transaction in your check register (if you don’t have another method of tracking expenses).
At the back of your checkbook, you’ll see a register where you can list what each check is for. You can write the check number, the check amount, the payee, and the date of the check. This can help with budgeting and keeping track of your personal finances.
Online banking can also help you track your checks. Many banking apps will allow you to see a scanned image of your checks once they’re cashed. You’ll see it recorded in your account activity after the recipient cashes it.
How to void a check—and why
Sometimes, you may need to void a check. What is a voided check? It’s simply a check that you’ve canceled so it can’t be cashed. You can void a blank check or one that you’ve filled out but decided not to use.
Consider this scenario: You start a new job that requires you to receive direct deposit for your payments. To ensure your employer has the correct routing number and account number, they may ask for a voided check.
If you make a mistake when filling out a check, you can also void it. It’s best to void or destroy a check with a mistake on it rather than try to correct it.
To create a voided check, cross out the signature line, the date line, and the small box where the check amount usually goes. Then write “VOID” in capital letters across the check to make the check unusable, meaning no one can manipulate it or cash it.
By voiding the check, you protect yourself from fraud. Once you’ve voided the check, be sure to make a note of it in your check register so you can keep track.
Never provide your employer—or anyone else—with a blank check. Anyone can fill out a blank check and wrongfully cash it.
How to order checks
You can order checks associated with your checking account directly through your bank. You can do so in person at your local branch or online.
In most cases, your banking institution will deduct the cost of your checkbooks from your checking account.
Many banks work with a third-party check supplier, so your checkbook will include an information sheet with the contact info you need to reorder.
Send money with a mobile app
Knowing how to write checks is a useful skill—but often, sending money online is faster and easier. Besides, with the exception of traveler’s checks and money orders, you can’t cash a check in another country. You’ll need to use a money transfer service like Remitly to send money overseas.
Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, and more transparent. Our easy-to-use mobile app is trusted by over 5 million people around the world.
Download the app to get started and send your first transfer today.