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How to write a check

Avoid a bounced payment by following this easy step-by-step guide.

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Fact checked

Credit cards, debit cards and online bill paying have taken over the financial world, but not everything has caught up. Paper checks still exist — and they’re simpler to fill out than they look.

How to write a check

Blank check

  1. Write the date in the top right corner, next to a box or line that says “Date”. Always write the same date that you signed the check on.
  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 their company name correct for payments, only using acronyms if asked to. You can also write cash here, and that means anyone can take the check to the bank and get the cash from your account.
  3. Write the amount. Next to the dollar sign ($) write, in numerals, the amount of money you want taken out of your account. Including the amount of pennies, even if that amount is zero.
  4. Write the amount (again). Spell out the dollar amount with letters on the line under the recipient, including the cents as a fraction. It’s a good idea to draw a line afterward so no one can add to your check.
  5. Sign the check. In the bottom right corner there is a space for your signature. If you don’t sign there, the check won’t be valid.
  6. Fill out the memo section (optional). You can write what the check is for, like utilities or rent. This isn’t required, but it can help you keep track of your finances.
  7. Tear off the check. If you’re using a checkbook, tear off the top check. The top copy is what you give your recipient. The second, lighter copy is called a carbon copy — it’s for you to keep.

How to void a check

If you wrote a check that you don’t want anyone to cash, there are three ways to void it. But you’ll want to act as quickly as possible because your bank can’t do anything once it’s cashed.

  1. Write VOID across the check. If you still have the check in your possession and you simply wrote in the wrong information, write the word VOID across the check as clearly and as largely as you can, making sure it covers the entire check.
  2. Void it online. Depending on your bank, you may be able to log into your account and cancel the check there. If not, look for a live chat function on your bank’s website where you can request a stop payment order with a customer service representative. Be prepared to give your account number, check number and the exact amount you wrote the check out for.
  3. Void it by calling the bank. If you can’t or don’t want to cancel the check online, you can call your bank to request a stop payment order. You’ll need to give the representative your account number, check number and the exact amount of the check, so have this information on hand before you call.

Be prepared to pay a fee if the bank has to authorize a stop payment request. Fees vary by bank but they’re are usually around $30.

How to write a check out to cash

Checks are generally safer than cash because only the payee can cash the check. But when you write a check 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 check out to cash.

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

  1. Fill in today’s date in the top right corner of the check.
  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 memo in the For section if you want to note why you’re taking out cash.
  6. Sign your name on the blank line in the bottom right corner of the check.

What is a cashier’s check?

Writing a check to yourself

If you want to move money from one account to another, you can write a check to yourself by putting your own name in the “Pay to the order of” field. You’ll also need to sign the back of the check before you can deposit it.

Compare checking accounts

Name Product Minimum deposit to open ATMs Out-of-network ATM fee
BBVA Online Checking
$25
No ATM fees nationwide at more than 64,000 AllPoint, participating 7-Eleven and BBVA USA ATMs
$3
A full-service account with convenient, surcharge-free access to two massive ATM networks, plus a $200 signup bonus when you meet deposit requirements
Citibank® Account Package
Citibank® Account Package
$0
No access to ATMs
$2.50
Earn a $400 bonus after opening new eligible checking and savings accounts and completing required activities.
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
$10
55,000 free in-network ATMs
$0
A spend and save combo account with unlimited cash back rewards and deposits insured by the FDIC. The Aspiration Spend & Save Account is a cash management account offering of Aspiration Financial, LLC, an SEC-registered broker-dealer. Aspiration is not a chartered bank.
NorthOne Business Banking
$50
More than 300,000 ATMs across America.

$0
A digital bank account featuring free cash deposits, on-demand customer support and streamlined bookkeeping integrations.
BBVA Free Checking
$25
1,000 fee-free ATMs across the country
$3
Pay a $0 monthly service charge and get free access to BBVA ATMs.
Chase Total Checking
$0
Access to 16,000 ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches nationwide
$2.50
Get a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking account and set up direct deposit within 60 days of opening your account. Chase's simplest checking account is easy to use and gives you access to 16,000 ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches. Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
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Bottom line

The easiest way to make payments is usually online. But if you need to go old school, writing a check is simpler than it looks. And some banks will even print out a check for you at the teller if you don’t have a checkbook handy.

Frequently asked questions

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