How to Write a Check

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you fill out a personal check

Checks may not be as common as they once were, but they can still be useful, if not required, at times. So, if you need to write a check and find yourself wondering how to properly fill out each field, use this guide to ensure you’re checking all of the right boxes.

Filling Out Your Check

Want to avoid delayed payments and potential late fees? It’s important that your check is filled out accurately and without mistakes. Filling one out improperly might hold up the payment process.

Here’s how to write a check properly:

1. Date:

Make sure your check is dated correctly. In most instances, that means listing today’s date. Backdating a check is generally considered an illegal practice. And while postdating a check (listing a future date) might be legal in some states and in certain instances, a check can typically be deposited before the date listed on the check—even if that results in a bounced check or overdraft.

2. Recipient:

The recipient is the business or person to whom you’re writing a check. This field normally begins with “pay to the order of.” Make sure this field is filled out correctly. Spelling a name wrong or leaving off part of a name could result in your check being returned.

3. Dollar Amount:

There are two places where you need to list the dollar amount of your check. The first location is to the right of the recipient’s name. It typically begins with a dollar sign and is a small box for numbers only. The second location is directly below the recipient’s name. This larger field often ends with the word “dollars,” and the amount should be spelled out in words in this location.

When writing the amount, list the dollars and cents in both fields. Use a decimal point in the small box, and write cents as a fraction in the larger field. So, if your check amount is $100, write “100.00” in the small box and “one hundred and 00/100” in the larger field.

In both fields, write the amount as far to the left as you can, and draw a line through any remaining space to the right of the amount listed to ensure the entire field is full. This can help prevent someone from adding more money to your check amount.

4. Memo:

Filling in the memo line of a check might not be required, but it can be helpful to write what the check is for in this field. If the check is payment for a specific month’s rent or a particular service you’ve received, you can list that in the memo field.

5. Signature:

One of the most important parts of a check is your signature. Without it, your check is invalid, meaning it can’t be cashed.

Fixing an Error

Mistakes happen. And if you happen to make an error when writing your check, you may want to write “VOID” across the entire check and start over with a new check.

Knowing Your Balance

While there are digital tools available to help with balancing your checkbook online, it’s not a bad idea to keep a paper copy as well. Every time you write a check, update your balance book. You can compare this handwritten balance to your online balance to ensure there aren’t any discrepancies and to help avoid bounced checks or overdrafts.

Keeping Track of Your Checkbook

Payments by check might not be as popular as they used to be, but it’s not a bad idea to have a checkbook handy should you need it. Just make sure to keep it in a safe place, as a lost checkbook can lead to unwanted problems. If you ever lose your checkbook, it might be a good idea to contact your bank immediately so they can help you protect your account.

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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