Check Writing 101

Dating a Check

  • Write today’s date in standard U.S. format MM/DD/YYYY. Partial dates are not accepted.
  • Do NOT write a future date on your check. This is called postdating and it is illegal in many states. There is no guarantee that your check will not be cashed prior to the postdate, and if the funds are not available you may be charged with overdraft fees.
  • Checks that are more than 6 months old are considered staledated and are void. Many checks from corporations have an expiration date of 90 or 120 days printed on the check face.

Pay to the Order of

Pay to the Order of is where you write the name of the person or business that is to receive the funds of the check. Be sure that you know this information, as any mistakes may make it difficult for the check to be cashed. If you have a friend whom you refer to as “Buddy”, but his real name is Robert, you should make the check out to Robert. Be sure to always include first and last names. it is best to always ask your payee how they prefer the check written.

The “AND/OR” Debate

When writing a check to multiple parties, simply write the word “and” or “or” between the two payees; however, it is important to understand that each word makes a difference in how the check may be cashed. “And” requires both parties to have access to the funds, which means they must both endorse the back of the check. This can cause difficulty if the parties have separate finances or if one is not available to provide a signature. The word “Or” allows just one party on the check to control the funds. “Or” is often a better choice for convenience of the payees. A check payable to two parties without either conjunction is subject to the interpretation of the financial institution handling the item.

Consider these tips when writing a check as a wedding gift:

Does the couple have a joint account together? If you are not sure, it is best to use OR.

If Katie Price is marrying John Cash, you might be inclined to write the check to “John and Katie Cash”; however, do you know if Katie will be changing her name? Perhaps it will be easier to make the check to John Cash or Katie Price.

Writing a Check to “Cash”

A check written payable to “Cash” can  be cashed or deposited by anyone. This is convenient, but also requires precaution. Guard a check written to “Cash” just as you would any money you possess and never send one in the mail.

Writing the Amount

To prevent fraud, the amount of a check is written twice; once in numerical form and once fully spelled out. If the two amounts do not match, the written form is always the one accepted.

Write 54.49 in the small box.

Write “Fifty-four dollars and 49/100————————-.” The line drawn through the extra space is to prevent the check from being altered.

A check numerically written as 54.49 in the box, but spelled out fully as “Fifty- four dollars———–” will be only accepted as $54.00

Signature

To be considered valid, every check requires a signature. Signatures are your first line of defense against fraud, so make sure yours is unique and distinguishable.

Ink

Write your checks in blue or black non-erasable ink only. Checks must be scanned by your institution and scanners may not pick up colored inks or pencil.

Check, Routing and Account Numbers

All checks have two or more series of numbers printed at the bottom which tell your institution where the check is coming from. A check cannot be processed if any of these numbers are missing or damaged.

Endorsement

When presenting a check for cash or deposit, you must sign the back of the check exactly as your name appears on the front and be sure to have a valid ID. If a check is written to your maiden name and you have legally changed your name, you will sign with your maiden name first and then with your married name.

For checks made out to you and another party, you must both endorse the check.

If you are mailing a check for deposit it is best to sign your name and write “For deposit only”.

Alterations

If there are any errors on a check you have received, go back to the issuer and request a replacement. Do not ever make changes to a check, alterations are not accepted.

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