Many young people these days have probably completely forgotten about checks. In the last 5 years, I think I’ve written about a dozen checks. With debit and credit cards, bank transfers, ACH and wire transfers, PayPal, and other mediums, it doesn’t seem like we use personal checks all that often anymore, unless you run a business or choose to get your paycheck via actual check. To avoid any confusion, embarrassment, or financial mistakes, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a check.
How To Fill Out A Check
There are six fields you will need to fill out: the date, who the check will be made out to, the dollar amount written in numbers, the dollar amount written in words, the “memo” so you know what the check was for, and finally your signature.
Field 1 – Date
It is important to know when a check is written for record-keeping purposes and maintaining your budget. When writing the date, you must include the month, day and year. You can choose from a number of acceptable formats, such as MM/DD/YYYY, MM/DD/YY, or actually write out the Month, Day, and Year. For simplicity and speed, I suggest sticking to the most abbreviated version of MM/DD/YY.
Field 2 – “Pay To The Order Of”
The “Pay To The Order Of” section references who the check is for. Make sure to spell the business or person’s name properly or they will not be able to deposit or cash the check. For individuals, include their first and last name. Furthermore, be sure to ask businesses what name they want on the check since some companies are subsidiaries or have DBAs (“Doing Business As”), and their bank accounts are under a parent company’s name.
Field 3 – Dollar Box
In the box on the right, you will fill out the dollar amount in numbers. Be very careful and accurate when writing in the dollar amount to avoid overpaying or underpaying. Use commas for every 3 digits and make sure to put the decimal point in the right place.
Field 4 – Blank Line
On the line below “Pay To The Order Of”, you will write out the amount of the check in words. For instance, if your check is written out for $1,234.56, this line will have “One Thousand Two Hundred Thirty Four and 56/100”. Afterwards, I strike a line through the rest of the empty space to prevent anyone from adding more words or increasing the dollar amount on the check. This line verifies the dollar amount of the check and ensures there are no discrepancies.
Field 5 – For or Memo
The “For” or “Memo” section of a check is for your own reference information. You are not required to fill in this field, but it can be used for record-keeping purposes to remind you what the check was for or what bill you paid off. Some businesses will ask you to write your account number or the invoice number in the memo field to make sure there are no mix-ups in regards to what account and bill you are paying.
Field 6 – Your Signature
Like a credit card receipt, your signature on a check is required to authenticate and authorize the transaction. A check is not valid unless it is signed and you should never sign one until all the information on the check is completely filled out. Otherwise, you may just be signing over a blank check or one that can be adjusted for a higher amount. If there are any discrepancies with your bank, such as cases of fraud or identity theft, a forged signature may be the only way to prove you didn’t write and authorize the check.
How To Write Checks
After you’ve completely filled out all 6 fields, below is a copy of what your check should look like. I always like to review a check once or twice before submitting it. Like any financial issue, doing it right the first time and avoiding problems in the future will save you a ton of effort and headache in the long-run. How to fill out a check is a simple and easy process. Take it slow the first few times you write a check to sidestep any delays in processing your payment, and afterwards, you’ll be an expert.