How to Endorse a Check

Milana Budisavljevic, Preferred Banking Office Manager, First Republic Bank
October 19, 2021

When it comes to endorsing a check, most people flip a check over, scribble their signature and sit back to wait for the money to hit their checking account. But, there’s actually more to endorsing a check than simply providing your signature on the back, especially if you’re endorsing a check through a bank’s mobile app.

Because of the increased reliance on mobile payments, as well as debit and credit transactions, younger people may not have much experience with cashing checks. But, endorsing a check the right way is not only easy, it also adds an extra layer of security to the transaction. 

How to endorse a check the right way

Endorsing a check the right way only takes a few quick, simple steps. It’s important not to overlook any of them. Skipping a step or endorsing a check in the wrong way could jeopardize its acceptance by your bank. Here’s what you need to do in order to endorse a check:

  1. Inspect the check to make sure it’s made out to the correct amount, isn’t dated for the future and doesn’t say “VOID” anywhere. Any of these elements could prevent you from getting paid the amount you’re expecting.
  2. Make sure there is no other writing on the check or any stains that could obscure lettering or other information.
  3. Ensure that the check has been signed by a person named on the account. Failure to have a check signed by the account holder could cause it to be rejected.
  4. Flip the check over to find the endorsement section. Each check typically has an endorsement section on one end of the check or the other.
  5. Provide your signature within the endorsement section.
  6. If you are depositing your check through a banking app, there may be a box to check indicating the check is being deposited online. If the box is missing, write “For Mobile Deposit Only” underneath the endorsement section.
  7. Use blue or black ink only. The use of markers, crayons, pencils, or other ink colors may result in the check not being deposited successfully.

You may also want to ensure you’re signing your name in reflection of how it’s presented on the front of the check. The check endorser must also be the person to whom the check is made out, thus ensuring that the right person deposits the payment. 

There may be other steps required depending on your bank, how you’re depositing the check or other qualifiers. 

Blank check endorsement

A blank check endorsement is, perhaps contradictory to its name, when you sign a check with just your signature. A blank check endorsement can happen when you deposit a check through an ATM or in-person at a bank. This endorsement includes signing your name in the endorsement section of the check. Then, when arriving at the bank, you inform the teller whether you want to cash the check or deposit it. Some mobile banking apps may accept blank endorsements, but that's rare.

Restrictive check endorsement

You can use a restrictive check endorsement to limit how the check deposit is used. The most typical restrictive endorsement is "For Deposit Only," which restricts the ability to cash a check over the counter or endorse it to another party. It is often written as "For Deposit Only to [Bank Account Number]." This prevents the person receiving the check from passing it along to another person for deposit into their bank account.

Special check endorsement

A special check endorsement makes it possible for the recipient to give it to someone else for payment, rather than having to deposit the check and then withdraw funds to pay a debt. For example, a person can write “Pay to the order of” and another party’s name, thus enabling them to have the money deposited by a third party directly.

Mobile check endorsement

Mobile check deposits often come with their own rules regarding how checks can be accepted for deposit. Typically this includes writing “For Mobile Deposit Only” underneath your signature. Modern checks may also come with a check box that you can mark that signifies the check is only being deposited through an app, rather than in-person or through the mail.

Business check endorsement

If a check is made payable to a business, the check must be signed on behalf of the business by an authorized person. Sign the business's name exactly as it appears on the pay-to line. Include the company's name in your title (Partner, Accountant, etc.).

FBO (for the benefit of) check endorsement

FBO checks can be deposited by someone other than the person to whom the check is made. The most common example of this type of endorsement is when an institution or custodian is depositing a check on someone else’s behalf. For example, if a parent were to endorse a check for their child, both they and their child’s name would appear on the pay-to line, and the parent would sign their name, write FBO in the memo section, followed by the name of the person for whom they are signing.

When to endorse a check

To help ensure the safety of your money and information, wait to endorse a check until you’re ready to complete the transaction. This can help prevent fraud or other misuse of the signature line on the check itself. People often wait until they are at the bank, or when they open their app to make a mobile deposit, before signing.

Ideally, people should endorse a check whenever they deposit one, depending on the circumstances under which they’re using the check. But at the very least, consider endorsing your check under these circumstances:

  • If you’re pulling money out for immediate use
  • When you’re cashing a check
  • When you want to deposit funds into a checking or savings account
  • When you sign a check over to someone else

Benefits of endorsing a check

Although it’s not always critical to endorse a check, doing so does come with its safety and efficiency advantages. It’s also a good habit to get into, particularly if you’re endorsing checks often or cash checks frequently. 

When you endorse your checks, you’re adding a layer of security into the transaction. Putting your signature on the check helps reduce the likelihood that someone can forge your name. Plus, many mobile banking apps require you to endorse your check, making it a must if you want to use the ones with this requirement. 

You may not need to know the ins and outs of endorsing a check, but knowing when and how to do so is handy. The risk of financial fraud is always changing, which makes it essential to be as safe as possible with any details that relate to how you bank.

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