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

picture of a check
Photo by Adobe Stock/Illustration by Bankrate

Steps to fill out a check

Many consumers send money electronically these days, but occasionally it may still be necessary to pay by check. Checks can be ordered from banks or third-party printers.

It’s important to note that there are several different kinds 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.

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 4/24/2023 or April 24, 2023, 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 spots 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 was 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! (You may also want to check out Bankrate’s list of the best checking accounts.)

Additional tips

  • 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.

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.