Check writing has been a secure form of payment for decades. Yet, with more payment types than ever, is it a payment method of a bygone era?
If you’re under the impression that only your grandparents still write checks, think again. In fact, according to one study, 42% of millennials still write checks (that’s more than own a game console, by the way). And some businesses still only accept checks – landlords, for example.
At some point, you will likely need to write a check. It’s important to know how to write a check safely, not only to have a bank honor the check without issue but also for security reasons.
Why It’s Important to Write a Check Safely
Once you have written a check and handed it over, several people will likely handle the check along its way to being deposited. A check can contain quite a few personal details, like your account number, address, and more. Consider limiting the number of checks you write and writing them only to people and organizations you know and trust. For the times that you do need to write a check, follow the tips below.
Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Check
Now that you know why it’s important to write a check safely, what is the correct way ? We’ve provided a step-by-step breakdown.
Step 1: Date
The dateline is found on the top right-hand corner of the check. Most likely, you will want to write the current day’s date. Doing so helps you keep an accurate record. The date may seem like a simple matter, but there are a few things to watch out for.
Post-dating checks. Some people will occasionally postdate checks, but be aware there may be some risks in doing so.
Write out the full date. It is important to write out the full year instead of abbreviating like we are all used to. If you only include the abbreviation “20” on your checks, the check could be changed to a previous year or a future year – for example, in 2015 or 2025.
Step 2: Payee
Under the name and address information on a check, you will find “Pay to the Order of.” This is where you will write out the name of the person or the organization you are writing the check to. It’s important that this line is accurate so that the payee can process it through their bank. You don’t want to leave this line blank – if you aren’t sure who to make it out to, just ask.
Step 3: Amount (Numeric)
You will find a box where you will write the amount the check is for to the right of the payee line. When you enter the numeric amount in the box, try to make the first number as close to the left side of the box as you can. This will help prevent someone from entering another number in front, making the amount larger. This is also a line you want to complete before a check leaves your control – if you do not fill out the amount yourself, someone could take the check and fill out whatever amount they want.
Step 4: Amount (Written Out)
Below the payee and amount box, you will find a line where you write out the full amount of the check, using words instead of numbers. Here are a few tips to make sure this line is accurate, easy to read:
● Like in the numeric amount box, make sure this line is complete before the check leaves your control. ● Say the amount out loud as you write it. It may feel odd, but we will write what we say, which makes amounts like one thousand, one hundred, and twenty-two easier to get right. ● Use hyphens so that the amount is read properly. ● Use fractions for the cents. For example, if you need to write a check for $234.22, you will write out: two hundred thirty-four dollars and 22/100. ● After you have written the amount, if there is additional empty space, draw a line to the end. This will prevent adding additional numbers. ● Write the amount in capital letters.
Step 5: Signature
The bottom right-hand side of your check contains the signature line. Your check will not be valid without a signature, so this is a critical step to complete. Sign the check legibly and use the same name as what is on file at your bank.
Step 6: Memo
The memo line is on the bottom left-hand side of your check. The memo line is where you can include a note. The memo line is an optional step. It is, however, a good place to write a reminder to yourself on what the check is for. It is also a good place to use an account number or other specific details if you are paying a bill.
Step 7: Recording the Check
This final step is not completed on the check but rather in your electronic or paper register. Write down the check number, amount, the payee, and the date. This will help you know what is scheduled to come out of your account. It is also helpful to reference once the check has cleared to make sure it was cashed for the amount you wrote.
Additional Safety Tips
There are a few additional ways to make sure you are safely completing your check.
Use a pen, not a pencil. If you use a pencil, anything you write can be erased and changed. There are even pens that you can purchase that are considered fraud-resistant.
If possible, invest in checks with carbon copies. That will help you review what you wrote on the check if a transaction on your account doesn’t look right.
Don’t write checks payable to cash. When you do this, you lose control over who cashes the check, which can be bad if the check is lost or stolen. In this day and age, there are a lot of options to get cash – for example, you can get cash from an ATM, receive cash back from a debit card purchase, or go into the bank and talk to the teller – so writing checks to cash is mostly unnecessary.
Take care where and in what type of envelope you use to mail a check. Try to mail checks from the post office, preferably in a security envelope.
Don’t keep your checkbook in a purse, bag, or car. Keep it in a safe and secure location.
Writing checks may no longer be an everyday occurrence, but it is unlikely you will go through life without ever needing one. Knowing how to write a check in the right way may make your life easier, and it can help keep your bank account safe.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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