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How to write a cheque in Canada

Learn how to write a cheque, how to read a cheque, how to void a cheque and how to avoid a bounced payment by following this step-by-step guide.

Online money management, mobile banking and digital payments are normal in the financial world, but there are still situations when you may need to resort to old fashioned means of handling money. Enter: cheques. But don’t be intimidated. Cheques are simpler to fill out than they look. Here’s how to write a cheque, how to read a cheque, cheque examples and the answer to the question: What do cheque numbers mean?

How to write a cheque: 6 steps

Writing a cheque is easier than you think. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how to fill out a cheque.
Sample blank Canadian cheque

1. Write the date in the top right corner, next to a box or line that says “Date.” Always write the same date as the date that you signed the cheque.

2. Write the recipient on the line next to “Pay to the order of.” If it’s a person, write their first and last name. If it’s a company, make sure you have the company name that’s used for payments, and only using acronyms if asked to. You can also write cash here, and that means anyone can take the cheque to the bank and take the cash from your account.

3. Write the amount in numerals. Next to the dollar sign ($) write the amount of money you want taken out of your account in numerals. If the amount is less than $1, you still need to write $0. Include the cents you want withdrawn, even if the amount is zero. Do not use the cents sign (¢), and be sure to include 2 decimals. For example, if you want to write a cheque for fifty cents, you should write $0.50, not $.50, $.5 or 50¢.

4. Write the amount in words. Although not legally required, you should spell out the dollar amount in words on the line beneath the recipient, including the cents as a fraction like 25/100 or 89/100. This helps clarify the amount you want withdrawn.

The fraction is sometimes pre-printed on cheques with a blank numerator, so all you have to do is write the cents in the blank. For amounts less than $1, write zero dollars before writing the cents. If the word dollars is already printed on the cheque, you don’t have to write it yourself. Otherwise, you should.

It’s a good idea to draw a horizontal line connecting the dollars you wrote (in words) to the cents as this makes it impossible for anyone to use that otherwise blank space to change your dollar amount.

5. Sign the cheque. In the bottom right corner there is a space for your signature. If you don’t, it won’t be valid.

6. Fill out the memo section (optional). Here, you can write what the cheque is for like rent payment, reimbursement for business expenses or security deposit. This part isn’t required, but it can remind the recipient what the purpose of the cheque is for record-keeping purposes.

A fully completed cheque should look something like the one below. Remember the memo field is optional. But make sure you remember to sign the cheque!

Sample of a completed Canadian cheque

What to do after you’ve filled out your cheque

Tear off the cheque and keep a record for yourself. If you’re using an old school carbon-copy cheque book, tear off the top copy of the cheque to give to your recipient. The second, lighter copy is yours to keep.

If your chequebook doesn’t come with carbon copies, make sure you fill out a cheque register with the details of the transaction. Your cheque book may come with a blank register at the front or back of it or may even include stubs attached to each cheque that remain in the book after the cheques are torn out. If this isn’t the case, you can buy a register separately.

Pro tip

Make sure you write clearly! Avoid writing in bright or unusual colours – use dark ink, like black or blue, instead. This helps ensure that the information on the cheque is visible even if the writing has begun to fade or the paper has been scanned in as a digital image.

How to void a cheque and how to write a void cheque

If you wrote the wrong amount on a cheque or are giving someone a cheque just to verify your bank account information, it’s important to make sure that no one can cash the cheque and take money out of your account. This can be done by writing VOID across the cheque. Be sure to write in clear, large letters, covering all the primary fields of the cheque.

Sample of a VOID Canadian cheque

Who is most likely to be researching how to write a cheque?

Finder data suggests that men aged 25-34 are most likely to be researching this topic.

ResponseMale (%)Female (%)
Source: Finder sample of 14,998 visitors using demographics data from Google Analytics

How to write a cheque to yourself

If you want to move money from one account to another, you can write a cheque to yourself by putting your own name in the “Pay to the order of” field. Before depositing the cheque, you’ll have to endorse it by putting your signature in the appropriate field on the backside of the cheque.

What if I make a mistake while writing a cheque?

Although there’s a possibility that your cheque may be rejected by the bank, most of the time this can be avoided by (1) crossing out the error with a single, horizontal line, (2) writing the correct information above it and (3) initialing the change to indicate your approval.

Some mistakes, like writing out the wrong amount on the line, might be considered more consequential than others, and an initialed correction probably won’t be enough. In such cases, you’re probably better off voiding the cheque and writing a new one.

Sample Canadian cheque with corrected mistake

How to write a cheque out to cash

Cheques are generally safer than cash because only the payee can cash the cheque. But when you write a cheque out to cash, anyone can receive the funds — whether you want them to or not. For this reason, it’s usually not advisable to write a cheque out to cash.

But if you find yourself in a pinch and need to write a cheque out to cash, here’s how you do it:

  1. Fill in today’s date in the top right corner of the cheque.
  2. Write Cash in the Pay To The Order Of section.
  3. Fill in the dollar amount next to the $ symbol.
  4. Write out the dollar amount in words on the blank line under the Pay To The Order Of section.
  5. Add a note in the Memo section if you want to note why you’re taking out cash.
  6. Write your signature on the blank line in the bottom right corner of the cheque.

Example cheque payed to cash with 100 dollars

Safest methods for sending or giving cash

  • Interac e-Transfer. A feature commonly included with bank accounts, Interac e-Transfers let you send and receive domestic transfers instantly with just an email address or mobile number. Set up a security question/answer to further protect funds in transit, or set up auto-deposit to bypass the security question and receive money faster.
  • Money transfer. Money transfer services like MoneyGram, Western Union, Wise (TransferWise) and Xe Money Transfers focus exclusively on providing convenient ways to transfer money domestically and internationally. These services typically offer stronger exchanges rates and less expensive transfer options than banks.
  • Certified cheque. Certified cheques are guaranteed by the bank, which means your bank verifies that funds are available in your account, and the cheque won’t bounce. Cheques must be physically mailed or given to your recipient. Some premium bank accounts — like the RBC VIP Banking Account and BMO Premium Plan Chequing Account — come with free certified cheques.
  • Bank draft. Funds are withdrawn from your account when a bank draft is issued, not when it is deposited by your recipient, as with cheques. Like cheques, bank drafts must be physically mailed or given to your recipient.
  • Money app. With apps like Revolut and KOHO, you can send money anytime, anywhere via mobile app.

Tips for keeping your cheques secure

Generally, electronic payments are considered more secure than cheques. But in the situations where you have to use a cheque, you can follow these simple guidelines to help ensure your money stays secure:

  • Write in pen. Using pencil allows anyone to change the amount or payee on the cheque.
  • Regularly review your account balance to make sure no money was withdrawn from your account without your knowledge.
  • Don’t sign a cheque until you have completely filled it in. If someone gets their hands on a blank cheque, they have unlimited access to your account. If you aren’t sure of the payee or amount, simply bring a pen with you.
  • Draw a line through any unused spaces on the cheque to make sure somebody else can’t add or alter the information there.
  • Try to keep your signature consistent. That way, it will be easier to identify inconsistencies in forged signatures.
  • Try to avoid writing cheques payed to cash, because anybody can cash them.
  • Shred any cheques that are no longer usable, like cheques from an old account.

Looking for a quicker, safer way to move money?

With the advent of digital banking, it’s easy to make online payments and avoid the process of writing a cheque altogether. This is an easy, quick and paperless way to pay bills and transfer funds. In fact, about 88% of Canadians bank online. You can use our guide to digital banking to find the best online bank account provider for your needs.

What do cheque numbers mean? Here’s how to read a cheque

Sample Canadian cheque showing what cheque numbers mean

The numbers on a cheque are like a roadmap to your account. These cheque numbers allows the recipient to “find” your money and withdraw the amount specified on the cheque. Technically, though, all the recipient does is deposit the cheque at his or her bank — the rest is done electronically through Canada’s clearinghouse and settlement systems. Here are the parts of a cheque in Canada.

Cheque number

This number reflects the sequence of cheques in your cheque book. The first cheque will be 001, the second will be 002 etc.

Transit number (branch number)

What is a transit number? The cheque transit number is used to identify your bank branch, or the specific location where you opened the account. Online banks that don’t have any physical branches may provide all their customers with the same bank transit number to avoid confusion.

Do Canadian banks use routing numbers?

No. A routing number is a 9-digit bank code used in the US to identify a specific branch. US bank routing numbers are similar to transit numbers used by Canadian banks. However, bank routing numbers are not the same as bank transit numbers and cannot be used interchangeably. That means if you are looking to find a routing number for a specific bank, such as RBC or TD, you will not find one, unless the bank account is held at an American RBC bank or an American TD bank. If you’re curious about how to find a routing number, just look at a US cheque or go online to your US bank account where you can find routing numbers and account numbers.

Institution number (bank number)

Also known as the bank number, the institution number identifies your financial institution. Each bank has a different institution number.

Account number

The account number on a cheque is 7 to 12 digits long and identifies the specific bank account into which funds are to be deposited.

How do I find my bank account number on a cheque?

Cheques come in handy when you you need to set up direct deposit or make a payment. Here’s what you need to know about finding the bank account number on a cheque.

Where is the account number on a bank cheque?

On a cheque, the bank account number appears at the bottom after a long string of numbers consisting of a 3-digit cheque number, 5-digit transit number, 3-digit institution (bank) number and the account number.

How many digits is a Canadian bank account number?

Canadian bank account numbers are 7 to 12 digits long, depending on the bank. For comparison, US account numbers are usually 10 to 12 digits long, while UK account numbers are usually 8 digits long.

Bank details for major Canadian banks

Account numbers for all of the Big 5 Banks in Canada are 7 digits long. When transferring funds, you’ll typically have to provide your transit (branch), institution (bank) number and account number, which can add up to 15 or more digits in total. Here are the institution numbers and account number lengths for major banks in Canada.

BankInstitution (bank) numberAccount number length
BMO0017 digits
Scotiabank0027 digits
RBC0037 digits
TD Bank0047 digits
National Bank0067 digits
CIBC0107 digits
Tangerine61410 digits
EQ Bank6239 digits

Cheques still an in-demand banking feature

While higher interest rates on earnings and cash back rewards top the list of the most in-demand features of bank accounts, Canadians still want access to paper or digital cheques.

According to data from the recent Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q1, where more than 1,845 Canadians were asked about their banking preferences, 3.31% were looking for a bank account that offered paper or digital cheques.

Bottom line

The easiest way to make payments is usually online or using a mobile app. But if you need to go old school, writing a cheque is simple. And, if you don’t have a cheque book handy, your bank may be able to print one off for you. And if you need a void cheque, most banks let you print a void cheque online in no time at all.

Are you looking for more information on chequing accounts and features? Read our list of the best chequing accounts in Canada.

How to write a cheque and how to read a cheque FAQs

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