Checks may be less common than they once were, but they are still widely used in the digital world. Paper checks are an inexpensive yet effective tool for moving money. Chances are you don’t write a check very often, and some of you may have never done it before. Yet, writing a check is easy. The following information will explain step by step how to do it, and some other things you should know to avoid making mistakes.
Before Writing a Check
Since writing a check can be cumbersome, and it’s on the decline, make sure it’s something you really need to do before beginning. It’s not the quickest way to move money, and you may have other options to make life easier for you. Here are some alternatives to writing a check:
Use a Debit Card
If you’re looking to spend money, it may be easier to use a debit card. The money spent will come from the same account, but happen electronically. This will prevent you from using up your check reserve, and you’ll have an electronic record of the transaction that includes the date of payment, amount, and name of the payee.
Pay Bills Online
Paying bills online or telling your bank to automatically send payments each month is a huge time saver. This will cut out the need for you to write a check, buy postage, and worry about putting it in the mail.
Set up Auto Payments
For bills that are recurring such as utilities and insurance, setting up auto payments is the easiest system. Most banks do not charge for this service, and it cuts down on things you need to remember to pay. You’ll just need to make sure your account always has enough money to cover the payments.
Making sure your account always has sufficient funds is important regardless of which way you choose to pay. This is especially true for writing checks, as too many “bounced” checks can result not only in fees from your financial institution, but also potential legal issues.
How to Write a Check Step-by-Step
Here are the steps you need to follow to complete the perfect check:
- The Current Date: This will go at the top-right corner. Most of the time you will use the current day’s date, as it helps you and the payee keep accurate records. While you can postdate a check, it doesn’t always work how you expect.
- The Payee: Locate the line that reads “Pay to the order of,” and write the name of the business or person you are paying. If you are unsure, it’s a great idea to ask who you should make the check out to. This information needs to be accurate.
- The Amount in Numeric Form: You’ll see a small box on the right side of the check. This is where you will enter the numeric version of your payment. For example, if you are paying $25 – you’ll begin at the left-hand side of the box and write 25.00.
- The Amount Spelled Out: To avoid confusion and fraud, you must also write out the amount in word form. There is a line under “pay to the order of” where this information goes. So, your text will look like this – Twenty-five Dollars and 00/100. Try to use all capital letters as they are harder to change.
- Signature: The check is not legal tender until you’ve signed it on the line at the bottom right. Always use the same name and signature style that you use at your bank.
- The Memo Line: This line can be left blank, or you can use it to write a note. If left blank, it will not affect how the bank processes the check. Though this line is typically used to remind yourself why you wrote the check. For example, let’s say you send your mother a check for her birthday, the memo line could say “Happy Birthday”. Additionally, when using checks to pay bills, the memo line is a great place to include the account number, as this helps the accounts receivable clerk know which account to apply the payment to.
Record the Payment in Your Register
After you write a check, it’s important to make a record of it in your check register. Adopting this practice will help with:
- Tracking your spending to avoid bounced checks
- Understanding where your money goes
- Detecting identity theft or fraud in your account
When you receive checks you should also receive check registers. If you did not, you can either ask for some at your bank or use a spreadsheet or pen and paper to create your own.
The most important information to take off each check is:
- Check number
- Date the check was written
- Transaction description
- Payment amount
Keeping up on your register is the easiest way to balance your checking account. This practice helps you compare your transactions with what the bank shows, to ensure you are on the same page. The register will allow you to find mistakes and notice when someone has failed to deposit a check you’ve written to them.
Your register is also a great tool to give you an instant view of how much money you actually have. Keep in mind that once a check is written, you should consider it gone – this is imperative to prevent overdrafts.
In the end, writing checks is easy if you make sure to fill out all the appropriate information. Just be sure that a paper check is the best form of payment for what you want to do. Sometimes it’s much easier to make an online payment, than it is to deal with mailing a check and waiting for the company or person to cash it.