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Anatomy of a check

Checks are chock full of codes, boxes, lines and icons.

Here is a diagram highlighting specific components. Click on the check and then move your mouse over any area of the check for a description of the component.

Anatomy of a check

Personalization -- There are up to five lines available for the personalization of your checks. This information typically includes your name and optional information such as your address and your phone number. In these days of identity theft you may want to just list your name. There is no requirement that your address or phone number need to be printed on your checks. Never include your Social Security number.

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Bank information -- Your bank information must be printed on your checks. The bank's name is required, but you might also need to include your bank's address. Refer to your existing checks to see what information should be included.

Cut/monogram area -- If the design of your check allows, you may select an optional cut or monogram to appear to the left of your personalization.

Over signature text area -- If the design of your check allows, you may include a personal message over the signature area on your check.

Routing number -- The first number in the MICR, or magnetic ink character recognition, line at the bottom of your check is your bank's routing number. It is nine digits and always starts with 0, 1, 2 or 3.

Account number -- Your account number may appear before or after your check number in your check's MICR line.

Check number -- The sequential number for your checks appears in both the MICR line at the bottom of your check and the upper right corner of your check. This number allows you to keep track of the checks you write.

Signature line -- The account owner endorses the signature line on a check to authorize its use.

Pay to line -- The "pay to" line is where you identify the person or business to whom the check is payable.

Dollars box -- The "dollars" box is where you write the numeric amount of the check. It is written out additionally on the amount line, which is below the "pay to" line on the check.

Amount line -- This is where you write out the amount of your check.

Fraction -- The fraction on your check is used to identify your bank.

Padlock icon -- This icon references security features that have been included on your checks to help your bank identify check fraud. The features are described on the back of your check.

Source: Custom Direct LLC

If your discount check comes apart during processing, you might get hit with a fee. See "Cheap checks can cost you" for more information.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Posted: Aug. 25, 2006
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