In the era of credit cards, debit cards, and online bill paying, writing a check is fast becoming a lost art. If you find yourself needing to write a check but aren’t sure where to begin, here’s how to use a check to pay for purchases or services, or to transfer funds:
- Understand check etiquette. Always fill out your checks using pen, not pencil. Make everything legible, not scribbled. If your checkbook comes with carbon copies behind each check, make sure that you separate it with a rigid piece of paper or plastic each time you write the check, or the information you write will go through to all the other check copies in the book.
- Fill out the date. You can use any format (mm/dd/yy, mm/dd/yyyy, or Month, day, year are all acceptable choices). The ‘date’ box is usually on the upper right corner of the check, above where you fill out the amount of the check, and to the right of your name and address.
- Fill out the person’s name. This is written on the top line of the two long lines running the width of the check. It should be labeled either “pay to the order of” or “payable to.” Before filling this section in, make sure you have the correct business or personal name for the check.
- Fill in the numerical box. This small box will start with a dollar sign. Simply fill it in with the amount of your check, such as 25.00. You should write only numbers and a decimal in this box, no words.
- Write out the amount of the check. Now, write out the same amount using words. This will go on the long line directly underneath the line with the person’s name. Start all the way to the left of this line, so that scammers will be unable to write in an extra digit, turning your $25 check into a $325 check. First, write the whole dollar amount in words. Then use a fractional amount over 100 for the number of cents, and draw a straight line to fill up any remaining space on the line. For example, twenty-five and 00/100-------- is the same as $25.00 written in the numerical box.
- Sign the check. Now sign on the signature line, at the lower right of the check. Always sign your check the same way. If you’d like, write a note on the ‘memo’ section in the lower left corner to signify what the check is for (such as ‘rent’ or ‘groceries.’)
- Write it in your ledger. If your checkbook does not have copies between each check, there should be a check ledger at the front of the book. Copy down the check number, date, payee, and amount quickly, before you forget it. This will aide you in balancing your checkbook later, and can be used to remind yourself of the details of the check you wrote.
When you get your first checkbook, you may have no idea how to write a check. Once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly straightforward. It can take some practice before you remember exactly how to fill out each line.