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.
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, 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 Include the cents you want withdrawn, even if the amount is zero.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 This helps clarify the amount you want withdrawn.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!
What to do next…
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
Fill in today’s date in the top right corner of the cheque.
Write Cash in the Pay To The Order Of section.
Fill in the dollar amount next to the $ symbol.
Write out the dollar amount in words on the blank line under the Pay To The Order Of section.
Add a note in the Memo section if you want to note why you’re taking out cash.
Write your signature on the blank line in the bottom right corner of the cheque.
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:
Keep your cheque book in a secure location.
Regularly review you 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 signed cheque, they can easily withdraw any amount of money from your account.
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.
The numbers on a cheque are like a roadmap to your account. This 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.
The cheque number reflects the sequence of cheques in the cheque book (the first cheque will be 001, the second will be 002 etc.).
The transit number is used to identify your bank branch, which is likely the specific location where you opened the account. This is like the 9-digit routing number used by US banks, though transit and routing numbers cannot be used interchangeably. Online banks that don’t have any physical branches may provide all their customers with the same transit number to avoid confusion.
The institution number (also called the bank number) identifies your financial institution.
The account number identifies your specific account.
Compare chequing accounts
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.
The maximum holding period for cheques at, or under, $1,500 is 4-5 days. For cheques over $1,500, the maximum holding period is 7-8 days. However, cheques often clear sooner than this.
If you have a good, longstanding relationship with your bank, it’s likely that you can go to a teller and have the funds processed promptly.
To deposit or cash a cheque, you’ll first need to endorse (sign) the back of it. You can then either bring it to your local bank branch or deposit it using a mobile app, though not all banking apps support this feature.
To perform a mobile deposit, open your bank’s mobile app and navigate to the cheque deposit screen. Then follow the prompts. Typically, you’ll have to take a picture of the front and back of your cheque, and then enter information such as the amount being deposited and the account you want the funds to go into.
Once this is done, you can submit the information and pictures, and your cheque will be processed.
According to Payments Canada, which regulates the process of clearing and settling financial transactions in Canada, regular cheques and provincial government cheques are stale-dated after 6 months and can’t be deposited. Your bank can decide – at its own discretion – whether it will honour stale-dated cheques, though it’s under no obligation to do so.
In contrast, Payments Canada rules state that money orders, bank drafts and federal government cheques never stale-date.
Payments Canada, which regulates the process of clearing and settling financial transactions in Canada, has no official stance on whether the name on a cheque has to match the name of the account holder who is depositing the cheque. This is up to each financial institution’s individual policies.
Most banks will accept cheques made out to your maiden name as long as you can prove that you’re the same person. You’ll need identification such as a driver’s license or a passport and probably your marriage certificate as well.
Stacie Hurst is an editor at Finder, specializing in loans, banking products and money transfers. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Writing, and she completed one year of law school in the United States before deciding to pursue a career in the publishing industry. When not working, she can usually be found messing around with games, photography or floral arrangements in memory of her former days as a flower shop assistant.
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