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How to Write a Check — A Quick Step-by-Step Guide

Hattie Burgher  |  October 15, 2018

The antiquated paper check will be a mystery no more: It's time to become a check-writing master.

Despite popular belief, Venmo, Zelle and PayPal are not the only ways you can send money to people. Back in the day, most people clung to their checkbooks like we cling to our smartphones — they wrote physical paper checks to pay for groceries, rent and utilities. And yes, people still do use them to pay for those things, just not as often. I write a check every month to my landlord for rent — a capability that’s foreign to most people. Because checks aren’t as extinct as you may have thought they were, here’s how to write one.

The Date

First things first — write the date on the line in the upper right-hand corner of your check, and use ink. There should be a blank line next to the word “date.” Since a check is considered a legal document, always write the date of the day you signed your check.

Name of Recipient

On the empty space next to “Pay to the order of,” fill in the name of the person or company you are paying. If you aren’t sure who you should be making the check out to, it’s important that you find out. Sometimes when people don’t know who to make it out to, they write “Cash” on the line — this is risky because that means anyone can cash the check. Make sure to include the payee’s first and last name (no nicknames) and if it’s a company, write out the full name (no acronyms).

Amount in Numbers

To the right of the dollar sign, either on a line or in a box, write out the exact amount in numeric form you wish to pay. This box is sometimes called the “courtesy box” because the number is not used to determine the amount of your check, it’s just for convenience. Which brings me to the next step …

Amount in Words

Below the “Pay to the Order of” line, there will be a blank space where you will write out the amount of the check in words. The number you write out on this line will be the legal amount of your check — if your numeric and word amount differ, then the number in words will take precedence. A good tip is to use all capital letters since those are harder to alter. Another helpful tip to avoid anyone adding more money to the amount is to write out the number (“Thirty dollars”) then add a line running from the end of the word to the end of the space.

Your Signature

In the bottom right-hand corner there will be another blank space where you will sign your name. This is really important, because without your signature, the check is invalid.\

The Memo

Finally, in the bottom left-hand corner of your check will be the word “For” or “Memo” with an empty line next to it. If you want to you can fill this out, but it isn’t required. If you or the recipient want to remember what the check is for, then it’s helpful to fill this part out. You can write things like  “For rent,” “Happy Birthday” or “Cable.”

You did it!

The antiquated check is a mystery no more.

Looking for more judgment-free financial facts? See “10 FAQS about Money.”

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