In this guide, I will show you how to write a check using step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow diagrams.
Even though digital payment methods are continually becoming more popular, it is still important you know how to write a check.
If you haven’t written a check before, it may be a little confusing to know where to put your pen and begin or what to write.
Do People Still Use Checks Today?
15 years ago, it would have made a lot of logical sense to teach people how to fill check books and balance check registers.
This is because everyone had checks then and actually used them.
Today however, doing that may sound absurd.
Millennials and post-millennials have never really had a reason to write checks. This is due mainly to the emergence of automated systems like credit cards and internet banking. And boy, the convenience they bring.
Undoubtedly, less people carry checkbooks around today.
But it may surprise you to know just how much people still depend on checks today, and for several reasons too.
For instance, if you need to pay someone who doesn’t have access to or use digital payment methods, or if you are a business that doesn’t accept payments via online transactions, using a check will be your next available alternative.
The importance and usefulness of paper checks today, cannot be overemphasized.
As strange as it may seem, several businesses such as insurance agencies, government offices, churches and community groups do not accept credit or debit cards, but will gladly take your check.
On the same hand, in events of person to person payments, you really can’t expect everyone to have a smart phone ready at hand every time.
When that plumber who isn’t comfortable with or doesn’t have the means of internet banking gives you the bill, and you happen to not have that kinda cash sitting around anywhere, what do you do?
Yep, you write a check.
But what if you don’t know how to write a check?
Don’t worry, I have written this post just for you!
Let’s get started.
Understanding Parts of a Check (With Pictorial illustrations)
A checkbook wouldn’t naturally come with instructions and you definitely don’t want to be making mistakes while writing one. We’ll, except you’re okay with getting your checks thrown back at you. Lol!
A check will typically contain pre-printed information and also blank spaces that should be carefully and accurately filled.
To fill out a check correctly, you must understand the various parts of a check and what they are for.
The picture provided below is a typical blank check and each important aspect of the check has been given a number and explained in details.
Your Personal Information
No. 1: This section contains your name and address; providing details of the owner of the account (the one paying) and is always pre-printed on all pages of your check book.
No. 2: The check number is a security measure to track and identify each payment made through your check. It is unique to each check page and corresponds to that particular check’s order in your account. Note: you can find it written in two different places on the check.
No. 3: The date line represents the timestamp of the check. This is where the date the check is issued is written.
No. 4: The payee line [PAY TO THE ORDER OF] designates the organization, business or individual that you’re writing the check to.
No. 5: This line is where you write out the amount you’re issuing out in words. It ends with “DOLLARS” pre-printed on the slip.
No. 6: This line or box is called the dollar box and is where the proposed amount is numerically written.
Your Bank’s Information
No. 7: The contact information of your bank is pre-printed here, containing the bank’s name and logo.
No. 8: The number on the bottom left is the American Bankers Association (ABA) routing number of your bank. It holds important identification details of your bank. You will also find another format of this number as the fractional ABA number of your bank on the topmost right corner of your check .
No. 9: To the right of the ABA routing number is your own account number which you’re most likely already familiar with.
Purpose of the Check
No. 10: The memo line is where you indicate exactly what the check is for so you and the recipient can easily identify what the payment was for.
No. 11: The signature line on the bottom left is where your autograph goes into.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks of writing the check.
Writing a Check: Step By Step (With Pictures)
Step 1: Fill in the Date
With your check slip and a pen in hand, you’d see on the top right corner and empty line where “DATE” is clearly printed. Begin by filling in the appropriate date which is the date at the time you’re signing the check. The standard American format for date is the month/day/year format. So you can either write 1/24/2020 or January 24, 2020.
Step 2: Write the Payee’s Name
Next, fill in the recipient’s name appropriately into the payee line. You can’t miss it as it says “pay to the order of”.
The payee could be an individual, a trust, a company, a school or any entity that has a bank account to receive funds. Use the full name of the recipient rather than nicknames or short forms.
If you do not know the recipient’s full name or for some reason, you do not want to use a specific name, you can fill in “cash” in the payee line but beware as this means anyone at all that tenders the check in the bank can cash it. Hence, it’s generally unsafe to do this.
Step 3: Fill in the Amount in Numbers
The next step is to fill in the amount to be paid into the dollar box.
Ideally, it is easier to write money out in numbers than in words, so doing this first may simply help not to make a mistake in the next step.
So, to the right of the payee line, write the amount in the box or line provided. Ensure you write it out clearly in dollars and cents. For example, “$1540.52”.
Step 4: Write the Amount in Words
Just below the payee line, the empty line there is where you will fill in the corresponding amount in words.
There is a standard way for filling out this segment for clarity reasons.
The idea is to write the amount out in full and put the cent in numbers as a fraction over 100.
What this means is, say the amount to be paid is $1540.52, what you’d write will be “one thousand five hundred and forty and 52/100. If the amount is a whole number, e.g. 1540, still include the fraction of the cent as 00/100 to be extra clear.
Step 5: Fill Out the Memo
The memo is the basically where you write the purpose for the check. It could be payment for a service, an item or even a monetary gift to someone.
The memo however, unlike other necessary spaces to fill out is only optional. It is an unofficial note and can contain informal information such as:
- Notes to the recipient
- An invoice or transaction number
- Details of your own for personal record keeping, etc.
You can include additional information that may be important to the receiver anywhere in front of the check, just ensure it doesn’t cover up important information.
Step 6: Sign the Check
Signing should always be the final step after you’ve ensured that all information written is correct. Pen down your official signature just as you would on any legal document.
Note that signing is a security feature as it authorizes the check. That said, you have to note that signing a blank check would mean anyone who lays hands on it can fill in anything into those empty spaces.
When you’re done, your check should look similar to this one.
Important Tips to Note About Checks
In the United States, you typically will write a check using a checking account as savings accounts rarely come with check books.
Also, you can issue a check to someone up to the monetary value of your account balance. If you have overdraft protection from a linked savings account, a credit card or another eligible checking account, you may be able to issue a check that is more than you have in your checking account at that moment without it getting bounced.
You don’t want a check you issued to get bounced or returned to you due to insufficient funds in your account, right?
Good, because is actually considered a crime in many states in the US. The person to whom you issue the check may at the very least, charge you up to $35 and this is separate from the $25 to $70 that your bank may charge you for the fault.
In extreme cases especially in situations where huge sums of money are involved, this could attract legal action and prosecution.
So if you want to avoid all these, simply ensure that you have the minimum amount in the bank account you’re issuing out a check or rather, get an overdraft protection.
Meanwhile, there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a check for very little amounts (as low as 2 USD).
What To Do After Writing a Check
After writing a check, you should do a little record keeping.
Put down information of the date, check number and the recipient into your check register and deduct the amount paid from your account balance so your account is updated on your end.