While it’s not an everyday practice in 2019, we still need to write checks every now and then. As a result, it’s easy to forget how. Fortunately, it’s an easy process. For every check you write, there are five integral steps:
- Fill out the date
- Add the recipient’s name
- Enter the payment amount
- Sign the check
- Add a memo note
With a bit of practice, you’ll be cutting checks like a champ in no time. We’ve also put together a step-by-step guide that will no longer have you Googling “how to write a check”!
Step 1: Fill Out the Date
In the top right corner, write out the date. In most cases, this will be the current date, but there are some special situations. You may also choose to set the date in the future. This is handy If you’re mailing your check and want to make sure no one can cash the check before it’s set to arrive.
You can also postdate the check allowing for it to be cashed at a future time.
Step 2: Add the Recipient’s Name
On the line that says “Pay to the order of,” write out the name or organization that the check is for. If you’re not sure what to write, it’s best practice to ask before filling this out.
Step 3: Enter the Payment Amount
For this step, there are two things to be mindful of: the written amount and the amount in numeric form.
Words: To avoid fraud, write out the amount on the line under “Pay to the order of.” This written amount is the legally binding portion of the check and will be acknowledged even if the amount in the numeric box varies, so double-check yourself before writing.
Another important thing is how to include cents. The best way to do this is by writing out the whole dollar amount followed by “and XX/100.”
For example, if you have a check for 125 dollars and fifteen cents, the amount that follows the whole number would be 25/100.
Your final written amount should look like this: “One hundred twenty-five dollars and 25/100.”
Numeric: There will be a box on the right side of the check where you’ll add in the amount for the check. Make sure to write the amount as far left as possible in the box, as many times space is limited and you can prevent someone from fraudulently writing in additional numbers.
Step 4: Sign the Check
In the bottom right corner, sign your check legibly with the same name and signature that your bank has on file. Without a signature or the proper one, your check will be invalid.
Step 5: Add a Memo Note (Optional)
While not a requirement, the memo box does have a purpose. You’ll most likely use this for things like account numbers or social security numbers when paying utilities or taxes. You can also use this to leave a note of what the check is for, which is useful when tracking down payments where issues have occurred.
How to Record a Check
Every checkbook comes with a check register book that allows you to record all of the data around the checks you’ve written. After writing a check, be sure to log:
- Check number
- Transaction Description
- Withdrawl or Deposit
- The Amount
Should anything happen, this register will help you locate the check number and amount to clear up any issues with the bank.
3 Tips for Writing a Check
Here are some quick tips to make writing checks pain- and error-free.
- While it may be obvious, try saying the amount you’re going to write in your head to avoid any errors. Remember — there are no do-overs with checks!
- If you find yourself writing checks frequently, get a checkbook with carbon copies. This saves you the headache if you forget to record a check-in your register.
- Avoid a pencil at all costs! While not super common, a check written in pencil may not be accepted by banks and also opens you up to fraud since people can alter the check more easily.
How to Void a Check
If you make a mistake writing your check or just need to cancel it, voiding it is a straightforward process. In pen, write “void” over the signature box, payment amount box, and payee line. If you need to cancel a check that you’ve already given someone, simply call your bank and provide your information along with the check number. They’ll be able to cancel it and you should be good to go.
Caution When Using Checks
Before you write a check, make sure that it’s 100% necessary and that you have the funds in your checking account. Checks require more work for you, the recipient, and the bank. Essentially, every party involved has to handle the check and make sure everything is done correctly to prevent problems.
Another issue with them is the elusive hot check or a check for more than is in the account. Whether accidental or not, being on the giving or receiving end of one can cause serious issues. If you purposefully write a hot check you are liable for civil and legal action and if you received a hot check you are out of funds for quite some time; the legal process takes a while to sort this out.
Writing checks may seem overwhelming to the unexperienced but after a couple of tries, it’s a piece of cake! Just like with any financial activity, by keeping an eye on your account and credit score, you’ll prevent any problems before they arise. Remember to fill out the date, add the recipient’s name, write the amount, sign it, add a memo if necessary, and you’re good to go.