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.

Lindsey Crossmier, writer for Annuity.org
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APA Crossmier, L. (2022, June 20). How To Write a Check. Annuity.org. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from https://www.annuity.org/personal-finance/banking/how-to-write-a-check/

MLA Crossmier, Lindsey. "How To Write a Check." Annuity.org, 20 Jun 2022, https://www.annuity.org/personal-finance/banking/how-to-write-a-check/.

Chicago Crossmier, Lindsey. "How To Write a Check." Annuity.org. Last modified June 20, 2022. https://www.annuity.org/personal-finance/banking/how-to-write-a-check/.

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6 Steps to Writing a Check

Understanding how to write a check is a valuable skill to have for managing both business and personal finances. If you don’t have any checks on hand, you can order them for free from your bank.

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
  2. Address the Check to the Recipient
  3. Payment Amount in Numbers
  4. Payment Amount in Words
  5. Write a Memo
  6. Sign the Check
Check Example

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.

Date of Check

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.

Check Recipient

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.

Check Amount in Numbers

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.

Check Amount 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.

Check Signature

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.

Check Memo

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.

Check Register Entry

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.

Security Tips
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

How do I endorse a check?
Sign your name on the gray lines on the back of your check to endorse it. For extra security, you can also write your account number to indicate exactly where you want the check sent to.
What should I do if I make a mistake?
If you make an error while filling out your check, write VOID in permanent ink across the front of the check, then start over on a new check.
What is a post-dated check?
A post-dated check has a future date on it, indicating the payee wants you to cash the check on or after the date listed. However, the person who receives the check is not legally required to wait and can cash out the check when they have it in hand.
Can you write a check to yourself?
Yes, you can write a check to yourself, but it may take several days to clear into another account.
Can I write a check for cash?
Yes, you can write a check for cash. In the section where it says “pay to the order of” on a check, you will write “cash” instead of the name of a person or business.
Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: June 20, 2022

4 Cited Research Articles

Annuity.org writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

  1. 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
  2. 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/
  3. 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
  4. 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