Upon receiving a check, it must be endorsed for you to access the money contained within it. When you endorse a check you essentially sign the back of it and signify if you’re signing the check to have it deposited or cashed by a bank or third-party.
The endorsement of a check enables banks and people to specify which method of deposit is being used. It’s important to understand how to properly endorse a check to prevent potential problems or fraud with your deposits.
How to Correctly Endorse a Check
The proper way to endorse a check will depend on how the check was written, and what you’re trying to do with it. Here are some general guidelines on how to endorse most checks:
- Do not sign the check until you’re ready to cash or deposit the check
- Turn it over so you see the back of the check
- Look for the words near the top that say “Endorse Here”
- Sign your name to the top line
This process is referred to as a “blank endorsement”. You should never sign a check until you are going to deposit or cash it because once it’s signed, anyone (in theory) could cash it. Though credit unions and banks will usually only deposit or cash checks presented by the account holder, it’s best to always take the safe route.
Signing a Check over to Someone Else
You may not know this, but once someone has written you a check you can sign it over to someone else to deposit or cash it. Just keep in mind that there are correct ways to sign a check over to a third party.
This process is known as a “special endorsement”, and here’s how it’s done:
- Turn the check over so you see the back of it
- On the first deposit line, write “Pay to the order of [third parties name]”
- On the next line you’ll sign your name
Just keep in mind that this process can be risky for banks. The truth is someone could find a check that’s signed and complete the special endorsement information. This is the reason that some credit unions and banks will not accept checks with this type of endorsement.
Endorsing a Check for Deposit Only
When you endorse a check that specifies deposit only, it restricts your ability to cash it. This is known as a “restrictive endorsement”. This is one of the most secure endorsements because it limits what can be done with the check.
Here’s the correct way to endorse a check for deposit only:
- Turn the check over so you are viewing the back of it
- On the top line, write “For deposit only to account number 00000000”
- Sign your name on the line under
Be sure to sign within the endorsement area. Every check has a line that says “Do not sign, write, or stamp below this line.” It’s important that everything you write remains above that line.
Check with your bank before completing a mobile deposit, as some have additional requirements. Small changes such as writing “for mobile deposit” or “for deposit only at [name of bank]” rather than simply “for deposit”. Also look to see if your check has a box that indicates your completing a mobile deposit. You can either call your bank, check their website, or look in the mobile app for specific instructions.
Here are some guidelines for a mobile deposit:
- Open your online banking mobile application
- Choose your bank’s option for ‘mobile deposit’
- Endorse your check by following your bank’s instructions
- Take a photo of the front and back of the check
- Ensure the photos are clear and show a clear view of both sides of the check
- Enter the information requested by the app. Commonly it includes the amount of the check
- Click on ‘complete deposit’
- Place the check somewhere safe, as most banks instruct you to keep for a specified period of time
Does a Check Have to be Endorsed if you Write “For Deposit Only”?
Generally, you still want to endorse a check even when writing “for deposit only”. The endorsement is what enables the bank to check your signature. It serves as a security step that can prevent future questions or problems.
Do you Have to Sign a Check to Deposit it?
The answer is sometimes. There are certain banks that will accept checks that haven’t been signed. However, this will vary by bank. Some banks may even limit the dollar amount they’ll accept without an endorsement. You may also find that they’ll hold the funds for longer than they normally would. This is to ensure the check clears. Hence, for your own security, it’s a great idea to always endorse checks.
What Should You do if You Forget to Endorse a Check?
If you forget to endorse a check that you deposited, don’t freak out. It’s definitely not the end of the world. What happens next will depend on the check’s origin and the policies of your bank. The bank may endorse it for you, or they may reject the deposit until you go sign it and deposit again. If you realize you forgot to endorse a check, just contact your bank and ask them what to do.
In the end, endorsing a check is easy. Just be sure you decide what you will do with the check and take the correct steps to prevent any issues.