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How to Write a Check

By Melissa Green | Citizens Bank Staff

Maybe you have never written a check in your life, or it’s been quite a while since you’ve had to —because of, well … technology. Oddly enough the universe still presents instances where you may need to write a check, and filling one out incorrectly might result in a costly mistake.

Here’s a quick how-to guide along with some frequently asked questions on the lost art of check writing.

Step 1: Write the date

In the top right-hand corner of the check, write the date in month/day/year format.

  • Avoid postdating, or putting a future date on the check. Once you’ve signed a check, the bank can cash it, even if you wrote a future date.

Step 2: Write the name of the recipient

Write the legal name of the person or company receiving the check.

Step 3: Write the amount in numbers

Write the amount you’re paying in plain ole numbers.

Step 4: Write the amount in words

Write out the same amount, but this time use words.

Note: If you have cents, then write those in a fractional format (i.e., 50 cents = 50/100).

Step 5: Write what the check is for

In the optional memo line, briefly write what the check is for. It’s always a good idea to fill this part out to jog your memory later on.

Step 6: Sign your name

The check isn’t legal until you sign your name, so this is an important step!

FAQ

What should I do if I make a mistake?

To avoid confusion, write VOID in large letters across the entire check. Start again on a fresh check, and be extra careful this time.

What is a post-dated check?

A post-dated check means the date written on the check is not today’s date, it’s a date in the future. This is usually intended to keep the recipient from cashing the check until there’s enough money in the account to cover it (i.e., payday). Be extremely cautious of this practice. Once you sign it, banks can cash your check, regardless of the date, and they often do. Try and avoid this practice.

Can I write a check to “cash”?

Yes, but it can be risky. A check written to “cash,” instead of a recipient’s legal name or company, can be cashed or deposited by whoever is holding it. Your parents’ generation would do this if they were unsure of the recipient’s legal name, or as a simple way to withdraw money. Many banks are leery of checks written to cash, because of the potential for fraud.

What is a cashier’s check?

The funds from a cashier’s check are guaranteed by the bank (while a personal check is only good if the account has enough money to cover the check). When the bank teller prints the cashier’s check, the funds are withdrawn from your account so the recipient is sure the check won’t bounce. The bank usually charges a small fee for this service.

What to remember

Check writing can be a little confusing if you’re not used to it. It’s always important to balance your account, so you aren’t spending money that really isn’t there. There are online tools available to help keep you organized; however, if you want to keep it old school, most checkbooks come with a small ledger, where you can keep track of the checks you’ve written.

More information

We are committed to helping you reach your potential by providing personalized solutions. Our dedicated colleagues can help you find the right product to help you reach your goals. To learn more about joint checking accounts, please call 1-877-360-2472, visit us online, or Ask a Citizen at your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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