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If you haven’t written one in a while (or ever), here’s a handy guide on how to write a check.

Key takeaways

  • Checks are still a valid form of payment, but are less commonly used due to the rise of electronic payments.
  • It's important to fill out a check accurately and legibly, as any errors can cause issues with the transaction.
  • It's important to keep a record of checks written and payments made to organize your personal finances.

Parts of a check

The parts of a typical check include:

  • Your personal details: Positioned in the top left corner, these details include your name and the address linked to your bank account.
  • Check number: Found in both the top and bottom right corners, this number is used for tracking and security purposes.
  • Date line: This is where you specify the date for the intended transaction.
  • “Pay to the order of” line: This is where you write the recipient’s name.
  • Box for the dollar amount: This is where you note down the amount numerically.
  • Line for the dollar amount: This is where you write the check amount, in words.
  • Memo line: A feature that gives you the option to indicate the purpose of the check.
  • Name of the bank: Usually accompanied by its logo or address.
  • Routing number: The initial series of numbers at the bottom left that identify your bank.
  • Your account number: The second series of numbers at the bottom that indicate the account from which the funds will be withdrawn.
  • Signature line: Where you sign your name to authorize the funds to be drawn.

Steps to fill out a check

These days, many consumers send money electronically, but on occasion it may still be necessary to pay by paper check. Checks can be ordered from banks or third-party printers.

It’s important to note that there are several different types of checks, including personal checks, cashier’s checks and traveler’s checks. Though they may come with different fees and different ordering protocols, the way you fill out each check is generally the same.

Before writing a check, you’ll need to have a checking account with sufficient funds to cover the amount of the check. Then, here are the steps to fill one out.

1. Fill in the date

Write the current date on the line at the top right-hand corner. This information notifies the financial institution and the recipient of when you wrote it. The date can be written in long form or all numbers. Either 1/11/2024 or Jan. 11, 2024, could work, for example.

2. Write the name of the payee

On the line that says “Pay to the order of,” write the name of the individual or company you’d like to pay, known as the payee. Use the payee’s full name instead of a nickname. If you don’t know the exact name, you can write “cash” here. Be aware that if a check is made out to cash, anyone can cash or deposit it.

3. Write the check amount in numeric form

There are two places on a check for stating the amount you’re paying. The first is a small box to the right of the line for the recipient’s name. Write the numerical dollar amount in this box. For example, you may write $100.30 if you wish to write a check for one hundred dollars and thirty cents. Make sure you write this clearly so that the bank can subtract the correct amount from your account.

4. Write the check amount in words

Next, write out the dollar amount in words on the line below “Pay to the order of,” making sure it matches the numerical amount. Add the cent amount over 100. For example, if you wrote $100.30 in the box, you’ll write “One hundred and 30/100.” If the check is for $100 or another round number, still include 00/100 after the dollar amount for clarity.

5. Write a memo

The memo section of the check is optional, but it’s a good idea to fill it out because it can serve as a reminder of what the check is for. If you’re writing the check to pay for a haircut, for example, you can write “haircut.” A company may ask you to write your account number or invoice number in this section, which helps ensure the payment is applied to the correct account. You would also write your account number in the memo area if the check’s for a bill payment.

6. Sign the check

Sign your name on the line at the check’s bottom right-hand corner. Sign legibly, and make sure to use the same signature on file at your bank. A signature confirms to the bank that you agree to pay the stated amount to the payee.

That’s it; your check should be all set to make a payment!

Additional tips for writing a check

  • Always use a pen instead of a pencil when filling out a check, to avoid alterations.
  • Write legibly to prevent any confusion.
  • Double-check the details on the check before handing it over to ensure accuracy.
  • Keep track of check numbers and maintain records of checks paid. That way you’ll have a record of the payment if there’s any question about whether a certain expense was paid or how much you spent.

FAQs about checks

  • Writing a check to yourself is a legal way to withdraw cash or transfer money between accounts. Simply write your own name on the payee line. However, there are often more efficient methods for withdrawing or transferring funds, such as by using an ATM or peer-to-peer payment service.
  • A postdated check is written with a date in the future and may be used when funds are not yet available. While legal to use, banks can still cash these checks before the specified date, so you should make sure funds will be available to prevent any issues.
  • For minor errors on a check, like a misspelled name or wrong date, draw a line through the error, write the correct information, and initial it. For significant errors, especially with the amount or payee name, void the check and write a new one. Check with your bank if they accept corrected checks, as policies vary.

Bottom line

With the rise of digital payment methods, writing checks has become less common, but it is still essential to know how to fill one out correctly in case the need ever arises. By following the steps outlined above and double-checking all of the information you’ve written out, you can make sure that your check payments will be processed accurately and securely.

–Freelance writer Anna Baluch contributed to a previous version of this article.