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How to Sign Over a Check

Andrew Secker, Private Banker, First Republic Bank
May 16, 2022

  • Signing over a check means taking a check made out to you and redirecting the funds to another recipient.
  • The process for how to sign over a check to someone includes confirming the recipient’s bank will accept a signed over check and endorsing it properly if so.
  • Alternatives do exist to signing over a check, in case a recipient’s bank doesn’t accept a third-party check or if you desire to skip the physical check altogether.

You can provide someone with funds in many ways, such as giving cash, writing a check or even signing over a check. Although signing over a check to someone isn’t always a popular option, you may encounter it, so you’ll want to know the process in case you do.

Signing over a check means taking a physical check written out to you and designating the funds over to another individual. Even if you don’t frequently do so, it’s helpful to know how to sign over a check properly and the reasons you might. 

When you might need to sign over a check

In a few instances, you might choose to (or need to) sign over a check. These are some of the most common:

  • You want to transfer the funds to someone else, such as for a payment or for a gift
  • You need to change the recipient of the check (e.g., if the check is made out to you instead of the primary account holder where the check is going to be deposited)
  • You’re unable to cash the check yourself and need someone else’s help (e.g., if you can’t use mobile banking or physically get to your bank branch for cashing a check in person)
Alternatives to Signing Over a Check

Signing over a check isn't always the best option, and you may want to consider a different approach, depending on your unique situation. These alternatives include:

  • Using a check-cashing service (note: this often comes with fees)
  • Using a different payment method, such as direct deposit, cash or other online money-transfer tools that don't require a physical check
  • Opening a new checking account at a bank or switching to a bank that you can physically visit or offers a mobile deposit option

Steps to signing over a check

The process of changing a check’s recipient is relatively simple. To protect your financial information, you should, of course, make sure you're doing it accurately.

Step 1: Determine whom to sign the check over to

You may receive a check written out to you but choose to sign the check over to someone else, be it an individual, group of people or company. First, you must determine whether the recipient is willing to accept the signed-over check.

Step 2: Confirm the recipient’s bank will accept the check

The recipient of your signed-over check must be able to receive the check. They must make sure their bank, credit union, financial institution or other check-cashing service they plan to use accepts signed-over checks before initiating the process. While many banks will accept signed-over checks, some don’t, because signed-over checks can have an increased risk of fraud, even if the check is signed over correctly.

Either you or the individual to whom you’re signing over the check should call ahead or check online, if possible, to ask what regulations apply (and discuss alternatives in the event it is not accepted).

Step 3: Sign the back of the check

The next step is signing (endorsing) your full name on the back of the check in blue or black pen. After all, the payer is making the check out to you as the payee, thus giving you exclusive access to those funds.

On the back of the check, you’ll see a signature line at the top, which is where you’ll put your name. The front of the check will include the check number, amount, payer’s checking account and routing information, as well as their signature.

Step 4: Include “pay to the order of” and write the recipient’s name

The most important part of the process is actually signing over the endorsed check to the new recipient. Clearly, in black or blue pen, you should write: “Pay to the Order of:” followed by the new recipient’s name. This should be done below your signature, still within the endorsement area on the back of the check.

This step tells the bank you are officially endorsing the transfer of funds to the new recipient.

What's a Third-Party Check? 
Signing over a check makes it a "third-party check." This is a term used for any check that's not initially made payable to the end recipient and instead is endorsed over from the initial payee.

Step 5: Give the recipient the check to cash

Once the check is signed over, you can pass the check over to the new recipient. The new recipient is now responsible for depositing or cashing the check.

For added reassurance, you can go with the new recipient to the bank. The financial institution may require further proof of identity, so you or the new check recipient may want to call ahead to confirm the requirements.

Additionally, if the bank allows it, the new check recipient can use mobile deposit to deposit the signed-over check to save any additional hassle.

Avoiding check scams

When signing over checks, you'll want to make safety a consideration in order to avoid check-cashing scams. Physical checks, a common type of check, can be vulnerable to financial scams, since this paper form of payment displays a lot of important information, such as your name, address, bank account number, routing number, signature and other details. 

To prevent a check from being signed over fraudulently, you can also consider endorsing it with the note “for deposit only” to ensure you are the only individual able to deposit the check.

If a paper check falls into the wrong hands, you may be subject to check fraud. You may consider using other types of checks or forms of payment that are more secure. This can help protect your credit score, credit health and other aspects of your personal finances.

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