How To Write a Check
With the increase in online banking, writing checks is a less common skill than it used to be. Checks are oftentimes still required for large payments, like rent or payroll, so understanding how to write a check can be a valuable financial skill to have. There are six simple steps to help you write a check properly.
6 Steps to Writing a Check
Keep in mind that if your check is filled out incorrectly, then it is not valid, and there could be legal repercussions or a fine.
The only section on a check that must be written in cursive is your signature, the rest can be written in either print or cursive, as long as everything is legible.
1. Date the Check
Write today’s date in the top right corner of your check. It should be written out in numerical form with the month, date and year.
Be sure to write legibly to avoid any issues.
2. Address the Check to the Recipient
On the top left corner of a check, next to the line that says “pay to the order of,” write the name of the person or business who will receive the check.
For example, if you were paying your rent with a check and you live in an apartment, you will write the name of the apartment complex on this line.
If you have an independent landlord, who isn’t affiliated with a business, you will write your landlord’s first and last name.
If you’re not certain whether to put a business name or an individual’s name, contact who you’re writing the check to before filling out this section.
3. Payment Amount in Numbers
On the right-hand side, below the date section, write the amount of the check in numerical form. Include the dollar value and cents.
This is the first section that indicates the amount you are paying — step four is the second.
Both sections are required to be filled out for the check to be accepted.
4. Payment Amount in Words
On the line in the middle of the check, below the recipient’s name, you must write out the amount of the check in words.
Keep in mind that cents are written out of 100 in this section.
For example, if your check amount is $1,542.45, you would write “one thousand five hundred forty-two and 45/100.”
5. Sign the Check
Write your legal name in cursive on the bottom line, to the right of the memo section.
Do not deviate from your usual signature. You should try to match the signature you used when you first opened your account, so no fraud is suspected.
6. Write a Memo
This is the only step that is optional to fill out. If you leave the memo section blank on a check, it will still be accepted and considered complete.
Most who fill out the memo section do so for records purposes. Some businesses that accept checks may ask you to include a note in the memo section such as an account number or what the check is for.
You can leave this section blank with no legal repercussions.
How To Record Written Checks in a Check Register
A check register is a ledger used to record and document checking account transactions manually. The main benefit of using a check register is to have an accurate balance of your account.
Since most checks take a few days to clear, you could believe you have more money in your account than you actually do, which could lead to overdrafting by accident. Most banks have overdraft fees, and multiple bad checks could hurt your credit score.
Record your checks in a register to help ensure you do not overdraft from your account. An example of a register entry is pictured below.
You should always have your balance written in your check register. At minimum, you should include the check number, payee name, deposit amount and date during this process.
Security Tips for Writing Checks
According to a Cybersecurity Research Group at Georgia State University, 1,325 stolen checks were put up for sale on the darknet every week of October 2021.
Luckily, there are some precautions you can take to avoid fraud.
- Pick up your checks in person
- Many of the checks stolen and put up for sale were taken out of mailboxes. Getting your checks in person removes that risk.
- Use permanent ink
- Using a pencil makes your check information easy to erase and change. Using permanent ink ensures the amount will remain the same.
- Don’t sign until the amount and payee sections are filled out
- Some try to save time by signing all their blank checks once they receive them. While this will make filling out a check faster, it also places a high risk. If a signed check falls into the wrong hands, it could be harder to convince a bank you’ve been scammed if your signatures match.
- Don’t leave space in the amount section
- Write your numerical amount in large print to help fill the space. Some prefer to even draw a line through leftover blank space to avoid any room for alterations to the original amount written.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, fake checks scammed consumers out of more than $28 million in just 2019. Use the simple security tips above to help prevent common scams with checks.
Frequently Asked Questions About Writing Checks
4 Cited Research Articles
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- Wynne, D. & Keith, T. (2022, February 3). Check Fraud Is on the Rise. Here’s What You Need to Know and How to Avoid It. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2022/02/03/1077766541/usps-checks-mail-fraud-bank
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2020, August 19). Can a Bank or Credit Union Cash a Post-dated Check Before the Date on the Check? Retrieved from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/can-a-bank-or-credit-union-cash-a-post-dated-check-before-the-date-on-the-check-en-967/
- O’Brien, S. (2020, February 13). This Old-School Scam Has Jumped 65% Since 2015 and Costs Consumers Millions. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/13/this-old-school-scam-has-jumped-65percent-since-2015-and-costs-consumers-millions.html
- HG. Legal Resources. (n.d.). What Happens if I Write a Bad Check?Retrieved from https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/what-happens-if-i-write-a-bad-check-36532