At one point, you’re going to need to write a check. It’s less common to write a check but sometimes it becomes necessary. Recently, I had to send a check to renew my passport. I hadn’t written one in years. As I wrote the check, I realized this could be an educational opportunity to show examples of how to write checks to others, yourself, or cash.
Before I dive deep into writing checks, I want to state there are many ways to pay people and transfer money to ourselves using electronic means. It’s actually much more convenient to send money to others on Zelle (a system created by banks to rival Venmo) and to electronically transfer money between our linked accounts at different financial institutions.
6 Steps to Write a Check Example
Writing a check is simple. But you do need to ensure it’s written properly to be an accepted form of payment. This ensures the Federal Reserve can process the check for payment.
The following is the six steps to write a check. You can complete the steps in any order.
Step 1: Check Date
Write the current date. The date field is often found in the top right-hand corner.
Step 2: Recipient
Who is this check payable to? Clearly right their name or the business name. This field will have “Pay to the order of…” and a line to write the payee’s name.
Step 3: Amount Box
There are two fields to enter the amount. The first is the numerical box. That’s the small box on the right side of the check. Enter the amount clearly. If you’re paying ten dollars, then write $10.00.
Step 4: Amount Line
The second field appears below the Payee. Clearly write the amount. This serves as double verification for the check amount. For the $10.00 check, you’ll handwrite Ten Dollars and 00 Cents.
Step 5: Signature
Sign the check to authorize it for payment by your financial institution.
Step 6: Memo
This is an optional field where you can place a note that helps your Payee identify the purpose of the check. This is also the line where you can add account numbers or reference codes if making a payment that needs to be applied to your accounts. For example, you may need to write your Social Security Number on the memo line when paying the IRS by check.
After writing your check, make sure you have a record of it and verify the funds are in the account. It may take time for a check to clear. Some people don’t deposit or cash checks immediately. You don’t want it to bounce. This may incur a non-sufficient fund fee assessed by the bank.
How to Write a Check Examples
Whether you’re writing a check to a person or a business, the steps are the same. The only difference is the payee. Taking the check-writing example above, make sure you write the name of the payee on the “Pay to the Order of” line. Ensure it’s legible and spelling is correct.
Write a Check to Cash
It’s also acceptable to write a check out to cash. On the payee line, print the word cash. However, it’s important to understand that a check written to cash can be deposited or cashed by anyone who has possession of the check. Why would you need it to cash? For whatever reason, you may not want to indicate who is getting paid. Also, it’s common for people to write checks for cash to deposit into one of their other accounts.
Write a Check with Cents
There are few ways you can write a check with cents. It’s important to write the numerical amount on the Amount Box and to either spell out the cents on the Amount Line or use the cents amount with a slash and 100. This indicates how many “pennies” out of a 100. Include a line to indicate there is nothing else that follows the written amount.
Write a Check to Yourself
Even though it is quite easy to transfer money from one of your accounts to another online or through a mobile app, it may be necessary to write a check to yourself.
It’s completely legal to write a check to yourself. And a common practice used by some to transfers money between personal checking accounts held at different banks.
The process is simple: fill out the check as you normally would by writing your name as the payee, date accordingly, write the amount, and sign the check.
How to Deposit a Check Written to Yourself
Once you’ve written the check to yourself, endorse the check on the other side by signing it. You can print “for deposit only” or “mobile deposit” depending on how you choose to deposit the check.
- Snap a photo of the check with your mobile device through your bank or credit union or app
- Use an ATM with the debit card belonging to the account you want to deposit the check into
- Take the check in-person to the bank or by mailing it
Waiting for Check to Clear
When depositing checks it may take time for the check to clear and be available for withdrawal. Most financial institutions clear checks using a Check 21 Act process that allows financial institutions to handle checks electronically. This helps banks verify the check through the Automated Clearing House (ACH). This can make your fund available as quickly as the next business day.
Better Alternatives to Paper Check
There are going to be moments you’ll need to write a check. However, before doing so, you may want to ask about other ways of making a payment or sending cash. Here are alternative ways you can pay others without the need for a paper check.
- Consider using mobile money transfers to send payments to others quickly and efficiently.
- Link your accounts together to move money between accounts at different financial institutions. You may need to connect or link your “transfer into” bank to your “transfer out of” bank.
- Use online bill pay services, offered by your bank or credit union, to send printed checks to people and businesses.
- Find an online-only bank or checking account with better transfer and payment features. Check the financial marketplace to discover your options.
Remember, to keep any checks you have safe and secure. Don’t have checks pre-signed.