How to Write a Check
Here’s a story my friend Caitlin told me a few years ago.
One day, Caitlin was enjoying a nice steamy cup of Starbucks while working on her work laptop as we all so often do.
Think you can guess what happened next? Let me paint the picture:
Yep. Just like many other stories you hear that describes coffee hanging out near your favorite electronic device, she spilled the coffee.
And I’m talking hard. Like between the keys hard. And nothing that an instant wipe down would fix.
The laptop fizzled out and so she let her boss know what happened.
He demanded she pay the company back for the repairs. The laptop was out of warranty which added to the chain of problems for her.
Caitlin’s boss didn’t know exactly how much it would cost to repair the device, and he told her that she’d have to wait until the repairer’s report came back.
It turned out that the results were going to be delayed, and she had to leave the office for a few days (her job involved a lot of traveling and meeting with different clients all over the country).
The manager kept on hounding her that once the report was returned, she would have to pay right away (awesome boss, right?).
To solve the problem, she figured it’d be much easier to write a blank check and leave it on her boss’s desk to fill in the amount for the repairs once the report came back.
Several days later, she got a notification that $500 was pulled from her account.
She thought it was a big repair fee, but she was happy enough because she figured the repairs were all paid for and she was in the clear.
When she returned to the office, she went to catch up with her boss to collect her newly repaired laptop.
Caitlin pretty quickly learned that her boss never saw any check on his desk, and so the company had laid down the money for the repairs.
She explained that she left the check and that the money was withdrawn. That’s when she realized that if her boss didn’t find the check, then someone else must have found it before him.
The mystery individual wrote it off as a “Cash” and cashed in $500.
Yep, long story short, Caitlin was out $500 plus she still had to fork out an extra $320 to cover the repairs.
While I’m sorry my friend got so unlucky, she now knows that she did the wrong thing in writing the blank check and leaving it unannounced.
I’m going to tell you how to fill out a check safely.
Follow the simple steps below and you’re far less likely to get scammed like Caitlin did.
The Six Golden Rules of Check Writing
- Write the current date
- State the payee
- Write the numeric amount
- Write the amount in words
- Add a memo
- Add your signature
Writing a check is not all that difficult.
You need to simply pay attention to what you’re writing, and how you write it. After that, with some care, it’ll become second nature.
1. Write the current date
Write the current date above the line on the top right corner. The line should be above or next to the word “Date.”
You can either write out the date in full (February 24, 2018) or use number format (02/24/2018).
In the United States this should be in the format of month/day/year.
2. State the payee
Next, you will have a line that should say “Pay to the Order of;” this is where you will write the name of the individual or the company that you plan on sending the check to.
If you’re not exactly sure of their name, do your research beforehand so you get it right. As this individual or company will be the only entity with authority to cash your check.
You can also opt to pay to Cash, but as convenient as it may sound, it’s also risky. “Cash” means that anyone can cash it, and in the event that it gets lost or stolen, you might just end up with a hole in your budget like Caitlin did in my story.
3. Write the numeric amount
Write the exact amount of money that you want to pay in the small box on the right. It usually has the dollar sign in front of it.
Be sure to use the exact amount. If you want to pay thirty dollars, write it as “30.00.”
4. Write the amount in words
This part of the check is particularly useful for you if you are a doctor. Or, you know, one of those guys whose written three could easily be mistaken for an eight.
Sure, the payee may not mind receiving an extra $40, but your bank account might feel the damage.
Here, you just want to simply rewrite the numeric amount precisely in word form, exactly how you would say it out loud.
5. Add a memo
This step is optional, but if you want, you can add a memo.
The memo is there so that you or the recipient know what the check is for. It’s just like the reference entry you use when you transfer money to someone via your bank online.
You may add things such as “For rent,” or you may write info that the recipient can use to process the payment.
6. Add your signature
Without a signature, your check won’t be valid. Don’t forget this step.
On the bottom right corner of the check, you will see a box or a line where you are to sign the check. Use the same signature and name that you used when you filed for the bank; otherwise, the check may be invalidated.
How to Void a Check
Here’s a great video to watch if you’ve made a mistake and you need to void your check:
Check Writing Tips
To prevent fraud or any other issues with your check, keep these tips in mind:
- Whenever you write a check, be sure to use a permanent pen instead of a pencil. Obviously, pencil can be erased, and it would make it easy for anyone to change the amount.
- Don’t sign blank checks. It’s much safer to just bring a pen with you rather than give someone full access to your account.
- Keep your signature consistent. This way, forging it will be more difficult, and you’ll be less likely to become a fraud victim.
- When writing the numeral amount of the sum, leave as little space between the dollar sign and the numerals as possible. It would be very easy for someone to sneak a one in front of an eight and turn “$ 8,000.00” into “$18,000.00.”
- Record the check after you write it. This will prevent you from spending the same money twice if the payee is late cashing it in.
This post is a great resource to read through if you think you may have been given a fake check.
When it comes right down to it, writing a check is not difficult at all.
You just have to make sure that everything goes in its designated box, and that it’s readable. And take a few safety precautions.
Happy check writing.