How to Write a Check in 5 Easy Steps

How to Write a Check in 5 Easy Steps
Point Editorial

General pointers 

First things first: Write neatly. Regardless of whether you’re penning a check, filling out a form at the bank, or even copying an address onto an envelope, using neat handwriting is arguably one of the most important things to remember. Not only will this save you trouble, but it will save time for both the bank and check recipient.

This means no bolded letters, no cursive, and no extravagant loops or flourishes. Just clear print. Also, it is best to write in pen instead of pencil, as pencil lead is erasable. 

If you make a mistake while writing out your check, no need to fret. Simply write “void” on the paper and begin a new one. 

Numbers on a check 

Imprinted at the bottom of every check are three distinct sets of digits: the routing number, account number, and check number. While these numeric sets don’t strictly influence writing or receiving a check, it is still important to be aware of what they represent should any questions or the odd complication arise in such an exchange.

The routing number, also known as transit numbers, is the first grouping of nine digits on the bottom left-hand side of the check. The routing number refers to the location of the bank where you opened your account.

The second cluster of numbers is the account number. These are specific to your bank account only, and they will only appear on personalized checks that pertain to your account.

Thirdly, the check number is the last and the shortest grouping of numbers. These digits are mainly inconsequential, aside from helping you keep track of the number of checks you’re writing.

How to Fill Out a Check 

Moving on to the fundamentals, outlined below are five straightforward steps to filling out a check.

Step one: Write the current date. This should go in the top right-hand corner so that the recipient knows when the issuer wrote the check.

Step two: Write the recipient's name. On the line next to where it says, "Pay to the order of," write the recipient's name. If you're uncertain about spelling, always ask.

You can also make the check out to "cash." You'll find more information on how to do this below.

Step three: Write the payment amount. The check's issuer must spell out the monetary value of the check with both words and numbers. On the line provided below the recipient's name, write out the amount. If it includes cents, then put the numerical amount of cents over 100 as if it were a fraction, like this: "X/100." For example, if the amount is $308.52, then you would write: "Three hundred eight dollars and 52/100." The numerical dollar amount goes in the box near the upper right-hand corner next to the "$," also called the dollar sign.

Step four: Write a memo. Though this section isn't mandatory, filling it out is always helpful. The more information, the better and more straightforward the process will be for all parties involved. Usually located in the bottom left-hand corner, the check's issuer can use the memo box to describe the motive for writing the check, be it for certain services such as roof repairs or a haircut, an employee's salary, rent, etc.

Step five: Sign the check. Last but certainly not least, sign your name on the line provided in the bottom right-hand corner. Note: signatures are usually in cursive. If a check doesn't have a signature included, it is considered invalid.

When writing a check, it is important to sign it at the very end, after you've filled out every other space. Why? Blank checks – or a check that's already signed but has no monetary amount – are highly vulnerable to theft.

Additional FAQs 

Can I write a check to myself?  

Yes, you can write a check to yourself, though most people don’t. Checks are just another way of transferring money, so writing a check to yourself simply means that, should you deposit it later, the money on the check would go into your bank account faster than waiting for the bank to complete the transaction. 

The process for writing a self-addressed check is identical to the process described above, except you would write out your name in the “pay to the order of” area. 

Can I write a check out for cash?

As mentioned earlier, yes, you can make a check out to “cash,” but always be extra careful if you do. Should you lose or misplace it, anyone can deposit it. 

What do I do if the amount on the check is even?

If the check amount is even, you would write "0/100" for the cents or "even" instead. So, for example, if the amount is $308.00, you'd write "three hundred eight and 0/100' or "three hundred eight even." 

Also, when filling out the checking amount, it is best to begin writing as far to the left side of the page as you can to prevent someone from adding another number to increase, and therefore falsify, the value of the check.  

What do I do after filling out a check? 

You've successfully completed your check, so now what? Keeping a record of each check you've written is a smart habit to establish, especially if you write checks frequently. You can do this using a check register or a checkbook; here, you can write down the date you wrote the check, why you wrote it, how much it was worth, and any other notes or details you may find important if and when you revisit your records at a later date. Maintaining a list is a great way to ensure your thoughts and actions stay organized. 

Like any money-centric tool, check writing has its pros and cons. If you're not comfortable or you wish to take further precautions, owning a debit or credit card is also a wise step to take when it comes to handling money. With either of these cards, you can transfer your money electronically. In the instance that you lose or misplace your card, no one will have your specific PIN, or personal identification number, so a stranger cannot access or spend money from your account. You can also cancel the cards altogether.

If that sounds like a viable option for you, Point Card can help you get started. Not only will you be in control of your hard-earned money, but you’ll receive exclusive perks by being a member of Point. Benefits include unlimited cash-back on purchases, bonus points on subscriptions, food delivery, and rideshare, car rental and phone insurance, and travel benefits. Point Card is a great way to become familiar with the world of finance and helps you feel empowered to navigate this realm on your own.

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