How to Write a Check

There are just some times when you don’t have many other options other than writing a check. I think I’ve written a whole two checks this year. Since I’ve graduated from high school I haven’t even used a full book of checks.

So How Do You Write a Check Anyway?

There are six fields you will need to fill out and I have numbered them in the image below. Follow the instructions that follow the image to learn how to write a check!

blank check with fields labeled Follow Me on Pinterest

Fields Required to Write a Check

Check Field 1 – Date

write date on check step 1 Follow Me on Pinterest

Insert the date in this field. You can write it out pretty much however you want but you must include the month, date and year. Here are some examples of acceptable formats. October 21st, 2015, Oct 21, 2015, 10/21/2015, 10/21/15.

Field 2 – Pay To the Order Of

how to write a check how to fill out a check step 2 Follow Me on Pinterest

In this field you will write who the check is for. Make sure to use the appropriate name so that the person or business you are writing the check to can deposit or cash it. If you are writing a check to a person write their first and last name. If you are writing it out to a business write out whatever the business has asked you to fill in.

Field 3 – $ Box

$ box fill in dollar amount in numbers Follow Me on Pinterest

Here you write out the amount of the check in numbers. For instance you’d write “1,542.63″ without the quotes for a one thousand five hundred forty two dollar and sixty three cent check.

Since the dollar sign is already printed on the check you do not have to write another $. Make sure that you put a decimal place in the proper spot! If the check is over 3 digits you can use commas as well.

Field 4 – Blank Line with Dollars Written At the End

Write in Dollar Amount in Words Follow Me on Pinterest

Here you write out the amount of the check in words. In our example above you would write one thousand five hundred forty two and 63/100. Write out the dollar amount in words and then use a fraction to represent cents. As a quick tip I write a line through the rest of the empty space so people can’t easily add more words to the end to make the check worth more. This field will be used to determine the value of the check if there is a discrepancy between the numbers amount and the words amount.

Field 5 – For or Memo

For or Memo Field: write reminders Follow Me on Pinterest

Here you can write whatever you want for your own information if the bill you are paying doesn’t require something different. Some businesses like you to write your account number or an invoice number in the memo field so they can keep track of what you are paying for.

Most banks return scanned images of your checks with your bank statements or at least offer you some way to view an image of a check so this might help you remember what it was for.

Field 6 – Blank Line

Signature Line - Sign the Check Follow Me on Pinterest

This is where you sign the check. The check isn’t valid until you sign it so make sure you don’t forget this crucial part. Never sign a check until all other fields are filled in.

If you do sign a check and someone finds it they can write out a check to themselves for the whole balance of your bank account! That’d be no good.

Now You Know How to Write a Check

Completely Filled Out Check Follow Me on Pinterest

Completely Filled Out Check

Here is a final version of what your completed check should look like after you have filled it out. Make sure you use the facts applicable to your situation though. I don’t think I’d want to pay Wal-Mart for $1,542.63 of groceries!

Writing a check seems like a pain with the options you have for paying your bills today. Instead of writing checks I personally use things like online bill pay from the company that bills me or I pay directly from my bank’s website. I’ve also set up automatic drafts for my mortgage and car payment.

Did you know how to write a check before reading this? If you think someone you know could get help from this post please pass it along to a friend or bookmark it for future use.

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

Comments

  1. Your timing on this is great. In our being a landlord post today ( http://www.plantingourpennies.com/2012/08/15/whats-it-like-to-be-a-landlord/ ) I actually wrote about how al,ost none of our tenants know how to fill out a check properly when they first move in, so we have to teach them how to do it!
    Mrs PoP @ Planting our Pennies recently posted..Being a LandlordMy Profile

    • Unfortunately it is the reality that we live in. If I can help a couple people from having to be embarrassed of asking the question I will be happy. :)

  2. It worries me that people don’t know how to fill out a check. I do have a friend who is 24 and has never written a check, so I guess I can’t be too shocked.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Companies Should Embrace Work From HomeMy Profile

  3. That’s a really cute flower, Lance.

    I didn’t know how to write a check when I left for college years ago…this post would sure have come in handy then!
    Jason @ WSL recently posted..Recipe: Blean Bean Quinoa BurgersMy Profile

  4. Cute checks ;) Something I found helpful for rent checks has been writing “xxx (being the month) rent” on the memo line. This helps if you have a shady roomate or landlord. My landlord now gives out reciepts for the checks but I know that’s not always the case. When I was having some trouble with a roomate, I started writing out the month I was writing it for as they liked to say I hadn’t paid them if I paid in cash or with a check without that written out. When they cashed it, I would print out the scanned image of the check (both front and back)in case they came and said something about me not paying. Saved me a few times.
    bogofdebt recently posted..Spending Recap 8/6-8/12My Profile

  5. It’s not surprising that lots of people don’t know how to write a check. In today’s society it seems that rent is about the only place where checks are standard practice. I know I had to google how to properly fill it out at some point. Personally I hope landlords eventually get with the times and start accepting other forms of payment more. I guess that could lead to more credit card debt problems though.
    Modest Money recently posted..Advanced Keyword Strategy For Your BlogMy Profile

    • They should at least be able to take electronic checks somehow. I had an apartment complex that would take CC if we paid $10. My card gave me $30 in rewards per rent check (I split it w/ 2 other roommates) so it was a no brainer for me.

  6. I think I take it for granted that everyone knows how to write a check! There are families that do not have bank accounts so they probably do not know how to write a check. For the last 3-4 years, I have been using online banking where I only enter what I want to pay and when it should be received.
    krantcents recently posted..It is Only a Game!My Profile

  7. We still use checks? Haha! I’m so glad we can deposit checks from home with a scanner or remotely with our phones. At first I was concerned about the security of it but after doing some research learned that it’s secure and actually safer than going into the bank. I had to teach my 17 year old brother how to use a check. He didn’t understand the concept of it until he had his own. I wonder how much longer we’ll be using them. Most of the world has moved on.
    John recently posted..Michael Phelps | Is He the Greatest Olympian of All Time?My Profile

  8. Yes, I know how to write a check but I hate it. I just wrote one for my children’s preschool and I asked the teacher if we can pay online. Writing a check is a PITA, really. You wait for the payee to cash the check in and your account shows you have more money until they do.

  9. Someone would think that this post is too elementary. But in today’s world who really writes a check? HAHA! We pay bills online and transfer money to our friends.

    But, there are incidents when you have to write a check–rent, paying a friend back, splitting the household expenses with someone and so you need to write them a check for your half, etc.
    Ornella @ Moneylicious recently posted..How to Negotiate a Lower Interest Rate on Your Credit CardsMy Profile

  10. Have you seen those shows that illustrate how the system really works? All that really matters is the little box. The reporter on the show filled in $11.75 in the box, but wrote out “One Million Dollars” on the line. Then he signed the check Mickey Mouse. The money came out of his bank account (not the mouse’s) and for $11.75.
    AverageJoe recently posted..My Favorite Quirky College Saving StrategyMy Profile

    • It might be all that matters for the automated process but if you contest it what would win? I would hope the words would and the fake signature would invalidate the check.

  11. It’s sad you had to write this post, but totally necessary until they’re completely gone. I’ve never seen this in detail. I RARELY write checks anymore, but I am glad it’s not a foreign language to me.
    Jacob @ iheartbudgets recently posted..How To Save Money: Billing Mistakes (Part 3)My Profile

  12. Oh yeah, this has a good SEO visit chance, just get this somehow on first page, you’ll get tons of traffic. Interesting post idea.
    SB @ One Cent at a Time recently posted..Getting the Most From UnPaid Volunteer Work ExperienceMy Profile

  13. Checks need to go the way of the cassette tape. Living in a small town, I probably have to write more checks than most people. Hate them. Nothing worse than being in line at the grocery and the person in front of you writes a check. Get a debit card already! Wow, didn’t know I was so hostile toward checks. Guess I needed to vent.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Sad/Happy Debt StoryMy Profile

  14. You are probably right. Many people nowadays don’t know how to write checks. They aren’t as popular as they once were. Like you we have most things automated but there are a few things we still need to write checks for. I don’t mind.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..Build Your Home Food Storage Without Breaking the BankMy Profile

  15. I thought this was ridiculous at first, but then I guess lots of people these days really don’t do checks anymore. And for younger people, they may never have done checks before, so actually, this is quite handy! :)
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..Justice is Served Up to a RestaurantMy Profile

  16. I still enjoy writing checks. It makes me feel connected to all the money I’m spending.
    Brent Pittman recently posted..How to Get a Spouse on Board the Financial TrainMy Profile

  17. Terrific How To instructions! Great for pre-teens getting their first bank accounts. Do you know if we still have to endorse a check? With all the scanning and ATM quick deposits, I sometimes forget. Thanks for the public service announcement!
    Buck Inspire recently posted..Shake Off Stock Tilt Phil HellmuthMy Profile

  18. Does anyone write checks anymore :). I learned to write a check at age 13, before internet banking. I’m happier banking online, but I admit to writing a check once in awhile. REally creative article.
    Barbara Friedberg recently posted..SAVE MONEY & TIME WITH SMALL YARDMy Profile

  19. I stared at this post for about a few minutes to figure whether you were being serious or just sarcastic, then I realized that some people really need to look this stuff up.
    Marissa @ Thirty Six Months recently posted..BlogHer 12 NYC recap.My Profile

  20. This comes up a lot but it still blows my mind that many people aren’t taught this in school? We had a whole 2 week budget lesson in Home Ec where we had to write out checks to pay bills and earned money by doing home work and made an actual monthly budget. Writing checks, balancing the check book, all of that stuff was covered. For as small our public school was I’m pretty grateful of some of the things they had on their curriculum.
    Leslie recently posted..Are Goals Necessary to Succeed?My Profile

    • You’re lucky you had that in school. Most schools don’t seem to have it which is a bit sad if you ask me. Way to prepare people for life!

  21. Lila Matai says:

    what if theres no cents ..only dollars,so what fractions of the no cents pls..

  22. YOU SPENT $1500 AT WALMART!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
    funancials recently posted..Interesting Thought for the Weekend: Don’t Cry For Me ArgentinaMy Profile

  23. I am a cashier at Target and am truly amazed that anyone complains about check writers holding up check out lines.

    Cash payers often take longer rummaging through wallets/purses and sometimes debating which items to give back due to insufficient cash. So do debit card users who forget pin numbers or otherwise cannot make the machine work. So do those cobbling multiple debit/credit cards together to find enough remaining debit/credit balance.

    For the top prize, it is between WIC transactions and extreme couponing. There are very often lengthy, contentious debates about which items a WIC check or coupon allows.

    If everything except the amount is filled out in advance, a check transaction at Target does not take very long. The customer fills out the amount at the end and the cashier feeds the check into a machine which decides with seconds whether to accept the check (asking for ID if the machine prompts). It may take a little longer than a smooth debit/credit transaction, but a fraction of the time as the relatively common (at least at the Target I work at) scenarios described above.

    • Do you find most people have checks prefilled or do most write the whole check out when checking out?

      • I find that by the time I read the total, the majority have all except the amount filled out and have ID ready. I certainly did the one time I wrote a check at a store due to having misplaced my debit card. But even one woman who only pulled out her checkbook after I read the total, wrote slowly, wrote the check for only the dollar portion, and dug change out of her purse for the rest took much less time than many extreme couponers or WIC users.

        At my store in California, no more than 1% of sales are paid for by check, but far more than 1% of sales involve one of the scenarios I described earlier and often involve much more severe delays.

        Thus, one should not expect instantaneous checkout and it makes no sense whatsoever to focus frustration on the small number of check writers.

  24. Very thorough. Nice. It’s a good walk through to those who don’t know how to write a check or maybe for those who will write it for the first time.
    KC @ genxfinance recently posted..How to Kick Your Bad Money HabitsMy Profile

  25. I just came out of Bank of America. Im 20 and sad to say I have just written my first check ever. I ordered a check book, but I needed one today, so I used one of my sample ones from when I first opened my account. I asked the bank teller to explain to me how to write a check, and I would have followed his directions had it not been for my annoying tendency to double check everything. Thank goodness I found this website, that teller is an idiot.

  26. Love this! I’m a bank teller and see mis-filled-out checks constantly. And in response to Average Joe, the bank should have returned the reporters check for two reasons. 1. They should have seen the incorrect signature and 2. the written amount, not the numbers is the actual “legal” amount the bank goes off of. I have given checks back to customers who thought they had a check for say $2500 but “twenty five and 00/100 dollars” was the written amount. Obviously they wanted their $2500 ;)
    Christine recently posted..iOS 7: A ReviewMy Profile

  27. I wish I could figure out a way to not have 30 grand in student loans take over my life while I have a child to take care of on one income. I was always told the best thing for me to do was go to college as a single mother!! NOPE i’ll be spending half my monthly income on debit I needed while I was in school. And we will never leave KANSAS!! LOL
    Your so lucky!!!
    Thanks for this site, I used it to help a foreign student understand how to write checks. She was very pleased!
    Amy D.

    • Glad I could help with the foreign student! As far as your student loans go, that stinks that you’re in that situation. Just try to keep your head up and pay extra on those loans whenever possible so they’ll disappear as fast as they can. Once they’re gone, hopefully you’ll be free again!

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