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Banking 101 | Checking Account

How to Read a Check

November 18th, 2022 | 8 min. read

How to Read a Check

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I know what you're thinking... who uses checks anymore?  Since you're not required to fill out a check at the store to purchase items or send in a check to pay for rent or monthly mortgage anymore, why are personal checks still important?

bubble-checkbookBut, knowing how to read a check is still a good skill to have plus checks are still widely used. Today, checks are an additional option used to pay for gifts, transfer money, or pay a bill. In case you're at a business that doesn't accept cash payments, you can write out a check instead of having to carry large amounts of cash with you. (Not to mention, checks are a safer option than cash!)  

 

So... if you're thinking about using a check or just need a refresher, here's how to write and read a check. I'll also share some best practices used when handling a physical check so you're in the know. 

 

here's what we'll cover


what is a check?

When someone writes a check, they are essentially creating a legal document that promises to pay the amount of money written on the check from their checking account. The check is then given to the recipient, who can take it to their bank and exchange it for cash. If the recipient does not have a checking account, they can still cash the check by paying a small fee. Checks are a convenient way to pay for goods and services, and they are also a relatively safe form of payment since they can be canceled if they are lost or stolen.

what is a check used for? 

  Checks are typically used for one-time payments, such as: 

  • Utility bills
  • Rent
  • Grocery shopping
  • Paying money to friends or family (the old-school version of Venmo!)

When you write a check, you need to have enough money in your checking account to cover the amount of the check plus any fees that may apply. Once you write and sign a check, it becomes legal tender, which means that the recipient can use it to pay their own debts or expenses.

Some advantages of using checks instead of cash or credit cards include: 

  • Checks leave a paper trail that can be helpful for tracking expenses.
  • Checks can be more secure than cash since they can be canceled if they are lost or stolen.
  • Some businesses may offer discounts for paying with a check instead of cash or credit.

Overall, checks can be a convenient and affordable way to make payments, as long as you have the funds available in your checking account. 

how to fill out a check?

Using the following images, here's how to properly read and fill out a check.

*This image is for demonstrative purposes only

1. DATE

2. PAY TO THE ORDER OF/ PAYEE

3. DOLLAR AMOUNT IN NUMBER FORM

4. DOLLAR AMOUNT IN WORD FORM

5. SIGNATURE LINE

6. MEMO (FOR) SECTION

7. THE CHECK NUMBER

8. ROUTING & ACCOUNT NUMBERS

 

Here's what the check should look like when it's completed.

*This image is for demonstrative purposes only

 

what's on the back of the check 

You'll notice the text "Endorse Here" on the back of a check.  As the receiver of a check, you need to sign your name in order for the check to be cashable. 

how to read a check (1)

*This image is for demonstrative purposes only

what to do after you write the check?

Grab your checkbook register and notate the transaction you just made!

A checkbook is a critical tool for managing personal finances. By keeping track of all deposits and withdrawals, it helps to ensure that spending stays within budget. This is especially important in today's age of online banking, where it can be easy to forget about small transactions.

With a balanced checkbook, individuals can get a clear picture of their financial situation and make informed decisions about spending. In addition, a checkbook can help to quickly identify any errors made by banks or businesses. Ultimately, a balanced checkbook is an essential part of responsible financial management.

Here's an example of a check register, using the information from the check written out to Whole Food Market to complete the check register.   

check register cropped

*This image is for demonstrative purposes only

Make sure you insert the check number, date, description of the transaction made, and the payment or deposit amount along with the balance onto the check register. You're going to copy this info so you can reference back to it later.

In the event you've made other previous transactions, your check register should list your other transactions in case the transaction has not been posted to your account yet. 

Want your own check register, we have a free check register template just for you. 

Download This Free Check Register 

 

what are some best Practices when writing a check?
  • To ensure that your check is not lost or stolen, it is important to keep track of your checkbook.
  • Keep a list of all the checks you have written in your checkbook register so you can reconcile your account when your monthly statement arrives.
  • Write legibly and use ink so that the check cannot be altered.
  • Always date your check correctly and do not post-date it.
  • The "Pay to the order of/Payee" section should also be clearly written to avoid any confusion.
  • The amount of the check should be written both in numbers and words on the designated line.
  • Once you have completed writing your check, sign it in the bottom right-hand corner using your normal signature. This signature should be consistent across all your checks so that businesses can confirm your identity.
  • When making deposits or withdrawals from an ATM, use restrictive endorsements such as "For Deposit Only" to ensure that your check is properly handled.
  • After each transaction involving a check, update your records and destroy any voided or unused checks for security purposes.

 

WHAT IF I MESSED UP SOMETHING ON THE CHECK?bubble-writing-out-a-check
  • If you make a mistake on the check, draw a line through the error and initial it so that it cannot be changed. You should then write VOID across the face of the check and tear it up.
  • If you accidentally write a check for more than you intended, void the entire check and write a new one for the correct amount.
  • Just like when you get a new debit or credit card, make sure to cut up the check into small pieces before throwing it away.

 

HOW LONG SHOULD I HOLD ON TO A CHECK?

Unlike depositing a check at the teller line, you’ll still have the check on hand if you use Mobile Banking. A good rule of thumb is to keep the check for 7 – 10 days after depositing to ensure the funds went into your account. Make sure you store the check in a safe space since it has important financial information about the check writer.

By following these simple steps, you can help prevent fraud and safeguard your finances.

 

ready to balance your checking account?

Have you ever heard of balancing your checkbook? This is absolutely the same thing, we're just referring to it as your checking account!

Balancing your checking account gives you the ability to quickly catch anything wrong with your money. You would know the date, the amount, and probably the merchant that took the amount if fraud were to occur.  What do you have to lose? You'll know how to manage your checking account responsibly.  How to Balance Your Checking Account

 

If you need further assistance, our Customer Service Representatives are here for you here and ready to assist! You can get in touch with us herecall us at 704.375.0183, or visit any of our branches.  

Yanna

Yanna

As the Content Specialist and author of the Learning & Guidance Center, Yanna enjoys motivating others by uncovering all that's possible in the world of finance. From financial tips and tricks to ultimate guides and comparison charts, she is obsessed with finding ways to help readers excel in their journey towards financial freedom.

LEARNING & GUIDANCE

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