At one point, you’re going to need to write a check. It’s less common to write personal checks, but sometimes it becomes necessary, like a landlord who wants a rent check.
For instance, I recently had to send a check to renew my passport. I hadn’t written one in years. As I wrote the check, I realized this was an educational opportunity to show examples of writing checks to others, yourself, or cash.
Writing checks is a fundamental part of personal finance, even though alternative methods are Zelle, Cash App, and Venmo.
In this quick guide, I want you to grab your checkbook register and physical checks, if you have them, and use these steps to help you.
6 Steps to Write a Check Example
The check-writing process is simple. However, you 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 are the six steps to write a check. You can complete the steps in any order.
Step 1: Check Date
On a blank check, write the current date. The date field is often found in the upper 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. Make sure you have the correct spelling.
Step 3: Amount Box
There are two fields to enter the amount. The first is the numerical dollar box. That’s the small box with the dollar sign on the right side of the check. Enter the amount clearly in numeric form. If you’re paying ten dollars, then write $10.00. Don’t forget the dollar sign and review for correct payment.
Step 4: Amount Line
For additional clarity, there is a second amount field that appears below the Payee. Clearly write the amount in the blank space. 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.
Things to keep in mind
After writing your check, make sure you have a record of it. You can use a check register to do so. Make sure to verify the funds are in your checking account. Some people don’t deposit or cash checks immediately, so that means it may take time for it to clear. You don’t want your written check to bounce. This may lead to a non-sufficient fund fee assessed by the bank.
Lastly, you’ll find your checking account number alongside the bank routing number at the bottom of the check. These are the numbers that are required for things like direct deposit.
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 or the check recipient. Using the check-writing example above, make sure you write the payee’s name on the “Pay to the Order of” line. Ensure it’s legible and spelling is correct.
Write a Check to Cash
It’s acceptable to write a check payable 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 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, you may need 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. Review and check details for accuracy.
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.
- Mobile deposits: snap a photo of the check with your smartphone using your bank or credit union’s 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.
Writing Post Dated Checks
What are post-dated checks? When you write a check today but indicate a future date on the check. This is an acceptable practice but can be considered illegal if you don’t have funds in the account or your purpose is to defraud. Check with your state for specific guidelines along with your financial institution’s processes.
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.
Hopefully, this check writing process was helpful to you. Remember to keep your check register safe and secure. And don’t have checks pre-signed.
Find an online-only bank or checking account with better transfer and payment features. Check the financial marketplace to discover your options.