Small business owner writing a check.

How To Write A Check In 6 Steps

Sarah Li Cain6-minute read
December 11, 2021

Yes, people still write and take checks. Sure, there are plenty of more convenient payments available but learning how to write a check is still an important skill to have. Some retailers (and even your landlord) may prefer to accept this type of payment for larger purchases, especially if you don’t or can’t pay in cash.

6 Steps To Writing Your First Check

There are five vital pieces of information banks need when carrying out a funds transfer. You’ll include each of these pieces of information on your check. Remember, any marks made on your check should be permanent.

Step 1: Write the Date

You can put in today’s date or postdate your check, which means you set it to be active at a later date. Postdating comes in handy if you’re not sure you’ll have enough money in your account until a certain day. Postdating can also be beneficial if you’re sending a check before the due date.

Step 2: Write The Payee’s Name

Write out the full legal name of the person or business receiving the check on the line labeled “Pay To The Order Of.” Avoid using nicknames, as this could give the payee a hassle when the legal name on their driver’s license or business entity doesn’t exactly match the name written on the check.

Step 3: Write Payment Amount

Write out the amount that you’d like to send the payee numerically next to the dollar sign. Write the dollar amount as close to the dollar sign as possible to prevent someone from adding numbers and altering the amount.

Step 4: Write Dollar Amount In Words

On the line under the “Pay To The Order Of” area, write out the dollar amount of your payment in words. Then, write the number of cents in number format over 100 as a fraction. Be sure to draw a line in the space remaining before the word “dollars” to make sure nobody can add anything to what you have written.

Step 5: Sign the Check

Everyone has a unique signature – handwritten ones are still legally binding. A check is not valid without a signature.

Step 6 (Optional): Write a Memo

The memo line can still be worth filling out. You can use it to make a note about what the check is for or you can write a special note to the recipient on a gift check like “Happy Birthday” or “Congrats Grad!”

You can also consider filling in your account number on the memo line if it’s not already included. It’s a great way to make sure your check is properly processed.

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Different Parts Of A Check

Understanding the different parts of a check is helpful for you to see details about your account, as well as learning how to fill one out properly.

Here’s what you’ll typically find on a paper check:

  • Your personal details: In the top left-hand corner, you’ll find the account owner’s name and their address.
  • Bank information: On the bottom of the check, you should be able to find the routing number and account number.
  • Check number: This number is used to track transactions, usually found at the top and bottom of the check.
  • Date: Here’s where you write the transaction date.
  • Payee: This section is where you write who the check is paid out to.
  • Payment amount: There are two sections where you can write out the amount numerically and in written form.
  • Signature line: Here’s where the payer signs the check.
  • Memo line: This optional section is where you can write details about the payment.

How To Void A Check

Voiding a check is important because you want to be sure someone doesn’t take it and makes a deposit without your permission. Whether you wrote the check out by mistake or realize you needed to make changes, voiding a check ensures you’re saying nobody can use it.

It’s simple to void a check. Here’s how:

  • Use a pen (blue or black is preferrable)
  • Write the word “VOID” in large letters on the front of the check, or in smaller letters on different parts such as the signature line, amount line, date line and payee line.
  • Note the check number in your register in case of any discrepancies or consider making a copy for your records.

How To Record A Payment In Your Check Register

A check register is a booklet that comes with your checkbook where you can record details of checks you filled out. Information includes the amount of the check, who it was written out to, the check number and the reason for the check. It’s a smart idea to keep track of the checks you write should you need to refer to them later.

Balancing Your Checkbook

Learning how to balance a checkbook is important so you can ensure there’s enough money in your checking account at all times when payees deposit these checks. If your check bounces (meaning if there’s not enough money in your checking account to cover the check), you could be charged a fee by your bank.

Here’s how to balance a checkbook:

  • Write the opening balance amount, or the amount you currently have in your checking account
  • Write the amount of the check you just wrote out.
  • Subtract this amount from your opening balance

That’s it! Make sure to update your checking account balance each time you write a check so you have accurate numbers.

Security For Check Writing

The truth is, identity theft can happen even if you’re writing a check. Luckily banks have included several features in addition to action steps you can take to ensure no unauthorized entity can tamper with your account.

Check Security Features

Some security features of paper checks include:

  • Watermarks
  • Padlock icon (indicates enhanced security features are in place)
  • Termochromatic ink
  • Anti-copy features (such as the word “void” showing up on copied checks)
  • Chemically reactive paper
  • Holograms 

Tips For Writing A Secure Check

If money holds value, there will be people looking to scam the unsuspecting out of their hard-earned funds. When it comes to writing checks, there are actions you can take to lower your chances of being a victim of fraud.

Use A Pen

As previously mentioned, you should write your check as permanently as you possibly can. Writing in pencil makes it too easy for someone to change important values and names, making you highly susceptible to fraud.

Write a Line Through Blank Spaces

A best practice is to draw a line through any unused line space on your check. That way, nobody can add numbers or alter the intended amount of the check.

Take Care When Endorsing A Check

It’s always best to endorse your check at the bank at the time of deposit. It’s much easier for someone to steal funds from a check that’s already endorsed with a genuine signature. Don’t sign a blank check – if someone gets a hold of it, they’ll be able to cash out money from your bank account.

When depositing a check online, write “For Mobile Deposit Only” on the back of your check. This will prevent someone from taking your already-deposited check and trying to cash it somewhere else. Don’t forget to destroy your old checks once they’ve been cleared.

Types Of Checks

There are many different types of checks, the most common being the following:

Cashier’s check: Used commonly for large purchases, the value of a cashier’s check is guaranteed by the bank. It’s drawn against a bank’s funds rather than an individual person’s or business’s funds. Cashier’s checks are known to be more secure than personal checks since they’re already made out to the payee.

Certified check: A certified check is drawn against an individual person’s account, but is still guaranteed by the bank. The bank might put your funds on hold until the check is cleared.

Money order: A money order is similar to a check but you purchase it through a third-party company where it’ll withdraw funds from your bank. Like cashier’s checks, the funds are guaranteed. However, money orders typically have lower limits. Since money orders are already made out to the check recipient, money orders have a higher resistance to fraud.

Personal check: Personal checks are taken directly out of an individual’s account and typically take a couple of days to clear. Unlike the above types, the funds aren’t guaranteed and the recipient will request the withdrawal when it deposits the check.

Alternatives To Writing A Check

Relying on paper checks limits where you can purchase goods and services from many retailers, especially ones online. Instead, you can consider the following digital alternatives:

Pay Bills Online

Using bill pay is safer because there is no chance of a paper check leaving your hands and being used for ill intent. Instead, you must authorize every transaction and you can trace the payment.

Sign Up For Autopay

Signing up for autopay ensures that you’ve authorized a transaction to one person or retailer and it’ll go to the same place each time. You don’t need to worry about mailing a check and wondering if it’ll get there.

Utilize A Credit Card Or Debit Card

Using a credit card or debit card protects you against fraudulent transactions. You can also check all your transactions easily in one place on your bank or credit card statement. If there are any discrepancies, you can notify the card issuer or bank immediately to get it rectified.

The Bottom Line

Checks are still an important form of payment, even if they’re not as popular as they were before. If you follow the steps to writing a check and take measures to ensure your check is secure, you can prevent fraud.

Want to learn more about personal finances? Find other helpful guides in our Learning Center on topics such as opening a bank account.

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Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain is a freelance personal finance, credit and real estate writer who works with Fintech startups and Fortune 500 financial services companies to educate consumers through her writing. She’s also a candidate for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation and the host of Beyond The Dollar, where she and her guests have deep and honest conversations on how money affects our well-being.