writing a check

How To Endorse A Check: A Step-By-Step Guide

Emma Tomsich6-minute read
November 18, 2021

Whether for a birthday, holiday or other special occasion, you’ve probably received a check from a family friend or loved one. While many people have moved on to mobile payments like Venmo and PayPal, some still prefer checks when gifting money.

Before you’re able to access your newly gifted funds, you’ll need to learn how to endorse a check.

Learning how to write a check and how to endorse a check are critical steps toward financial literacy. Here’s everything you need to know about endorsing a check.

What Does It Mean To Endorse A Check?

When a payee receives a check, they typically must sign it on the back before they are able to use the money or deposit it into their bank account. This process of signing a check is known as “endorsing” it.

Once a payee endorses a check, they can cash it, deposit the funds into a checking or savings bank account, or even give the check and the money it represents to someone else.

Endorsing a check is a simple process that can protect your financial and banking security.

When done correctly, endorsements can make using checks easy. However, if done wrong, endorsements can make using checks much more difficult.

To simplify your check-using experience and make you more comfortable writing or receiving checks, you should first know that different types of checks require different types of endorsements.

We’ll explain the differences between signing and endorsing a check, while also breaking down what types of checks there are. Finally, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to endorse a check.

Signing A Check Vs. Endorsing A Check

Signing is a simplified version of endorsing a check. Signing requires signature only, as the name implies. Endorsing may require more steps depending on the type of check and the place of deposit. Endorsing a check helps prevent fraud by proving that the payee, or signer, is the legal owner of the funds represented by the check. It’s always best to endorse your check at the bank at the time of deposit.

When endorsing a check, make sure that you follow the instructions on the back of the check. Typically, most checks will have a box on the back with a stack of at least three lines with a header reading “Endorse Here.” Below that box, there is usually another header reading “Do Not Write, Stamp, or Sign Below This Line.” On these lines, you will write your signature and any notes or restrictions you might have. We’ll talk more about this later.

Types Of Check Endorsements

Now, we’ll review the most common types of check endorsements, their key characteristics and how they work.

Blank Endorsement

A blank endorsement is the most common way of endorsing a check, but it’s also the least secure. A blank endorsement doesn’t mean that the endorsement should be left blank. Instead, a blank endorsement only requires the payee’s signature, with no further information or instructions. After the payee signs their name on the back of the check, they are able to instruct the bank teller to deposit or cash the check.

In the age of mobile banking, many people use a blank check endorsement when they deposit a check via mobile deposit. To add more protection and security to a blank endorsement, sign the back of the check just before you deposit it. This will limit fraud and interception by criminals.

Restrictive Endorsement

Restrictive endorsement is the most secure way to endorse a check. To make a restrictive endorsement, write “For Deposit Only” on one line of the check. You will also need to write your account number on one line and sign your signature on one line.

Restrictive endorsements are highly protected because they ensure the check can only be deposited into one specific bank account and not cashed or deposited into another account.

Despite being the most secure method of endorsement, there is one issue that may come with a restrictive endorsement. Because the payee’s account number is listed on the check, the person who gave them the check may be able to see that number during processing or if they receive a copy of the canceled check via their own bank.

If you are worried about your bank account number being visible, you can write “For Deposit Only” and not include a specific number. However, this method is less secure, because the check could be deposited into any account.

When depositing a restrictive check, do whatever you feel comfortable with, and remember to protect against fraud by waiting until the time of deposit before endorsing the check.

Special Endorsement

A special endorsement, also known as an endorsement in full, allows you to give the funds from the check to a third party who can then endorse it and cash or deposit it. To make a special endorsement or third-party check, write “Pay to the order of” followed by the name of the person you wish to receive the funds and then sign your name on the line below.

After passing the special endorsement onto the third party, that person will then sign their name beneath yours before they are able to cash or deposit the check.

Because this is an insecure way to send money from person to person, some banks might not accept the check. Before creating a third-party check, make sure the check writer’s and the payee’s banks will both accept the endorsement. In addition, it might be a good idea for the check writer and the payee to go to the bank together and provide proof of identification. If you are both unable to be present at once, it may be more secure to deposit the funds first then transfer them to the third party through mobile transfer or another method.

Qualified Endorsement

A qualified endorsement transfers check ownership to the payee, and limits the endorser’s liability. If the check is compromised, the endorser is not responsible for paying the payee. To make a qualified endorsement, write “without recourse” on the back of the check and then sign your name on the line below.

Endorsing A Check: 5 Steps For Success

Endorsing a check can be easy when you know exactly what to do. Follow these 5 steps to ensure you have a properly endorsed your check.

Step 1: Verify That The Information Is Correct

Before you can endorse the check, you need to make sure that your bank will accept the check. A valid check has a line at the bottom with a bank routing number and a bank account number. If the front of the check does not have this information, the bank will not be able to process the check.

Once you confirm that the check is valid, double check for errors. Make sure that all the information on the front of the check is correct and that there are no spelling errors.

Step 2: Look For The Endorsement Area On The Back Of Your Check

Next, flip over the front of the check and look for the endorsement area on the back. As previously mentioned, you can identify the endorsement area by a box at the top of the check with a stack of three to five lines and a header reading “Endorse Here.” Below that box, there is usually another header reading “Do Not Write, Stamp, or Sign Below This Line.”

Step 3: Sign Your Name

After identifying the endorsement area, sign your name on one of the lines, as prompted on your check. If the front of the check is made out to two names separated by the word “and” make sure both signatures appear on the check. If the front of the check is made out to two names separated by the word “or” either name can sign the back of the check.

Step 4: Check Boxes And Add Notes As Prompted

Now is the time to check boxes and add notes, if necessary. As previously mentioned, there are many notes you can add to the back of a check. If you wish to deposit the check via mobile banking, write “For mobile deposit.” Sometimes on newer checks there’s a box to check instead for mobile deposit. If you want to create a restrictive endorsement or a special endorsement, write “For Deposit Only” and then your bank account number, or “Pay to the order of” followed by the name of the person you wish to receive the funds.

Step 5: Cash Or Deposit The Check Immediately

Once you complete the first four steps, you can finally deposit or cash your check! But remember to do so immediately to protect against fraud and interception.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, you can confidently endorse a check now. As you continue gaining financial literacy, learn more about how to find the best checking account to write your checks out of and deposit checks into.

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Emma Tomsich

Emma Tomsich is a student at Marquette University studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations. She has a passion for writing, and hopes to one day own her own business. In her free time, Emma likes to travel, shop, run and drink coffee.