How to write a check

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

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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 — for example if you wrote the wrong amount — you can make sure no one is able to cash it by writing VOID across the check. Make sure to write clearly and large, covering the entire 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.

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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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