How to Write a Check: A Step-by-Step Guide

First Republic Bank
November 29, 2022

  • The main steps to writing a personal check include dating the check, adding the recipient’s name, writing the dollar amount two different ways and signing the check.
  • You may also want to include a memo on the check to indicate the purpose of the check.
  • It’s important to record the deposit, which you can do either with a carbon copy of the check or in a check register.

While paper checks may not be as common as they once were, check writing is still a beneficial skill when alternative payment methods aren’t available.

Understanding how to write a check is important to help you manage your personal finances. This step-by-step guide to filling out a personal check will help you master the check-writing process.

What to know before you get started

Writing a check will pull money from your checking account or another specified bank account to which the check is attached.

For a regular personal check, money will be pulled from the associated bank account when the recipient deposits the funds. These are the essential elements of a paper check:

  • The account holder’s name and address are located on the top-left-hand corner of the check.
  • Both the check number and date are located on the top-right-hand corner of the check.
  • The middle of the check includes space for the payee (recipient name), numeric dollar amount and dollar amount to be written out in words.
  • The optional memo (purpose) of the check is located on the bottom-left-hand corner of the check.
  • The signature line is located on the bottom-right-hand corner of the check.
  • The routing number and account number are printed along the very bottom of the check.

Understanding this information can help you accurately record and deposit payments and make sure your check will clear once you’ve written it. It’s important to note that the appearance of some of these details may vary among different kinds of checks, but all of this information is necessary for writing a check.

How to fill out a check: Six steps

Once you can locate essential parts of a paper check, you’re ready to begin filling it out. There are six steps to writing out a standard bank check.

Step 1: Fill out the date

Locate the line for the date on the top-right-hand corner of the check. Generally, you’ll want to put the current date on the check line, so it can be cashed immediately by the recipient. Alternatively, you can postdate a check, which means adding a future date, which limits the check from clearing until the date listed on the check. Not all financial institutions honor or accept postdated checks, however, so you may want to check with your bank before writing one.

Step 2: Add the recipient’s name

The check recipient's name (also known as the "payee name") should be entered on the center of the check, indicated by the text “pay to the order of.” You can make out a check to an individual, using their full name or the name of a business. You should make sure the payee’s name is spelled correctly or the check may not clear.

Step 3: Write the dollar amount in numbers

In a small box on the right-hand side of the check, write out the payment amount in numerals. You will need to write the dollar and cent amount of the deposit. In some instances, you will also need to include the dollar sign if it’s not on your check already.

Step 4: Write the dollar amount in words

You will also need to write out the dollar and cent amount in words to confirm the amount of the check and to prevent tampering and fraud. For example, if the check amount is $105.00, you’ll want to write out “one hundred five dollars only.” Make sure the amount you put in the small box matches the amount you describe using words.

How Do You Write Cents on a Check?
Writing cents on a check in words can be done in one of two specific ways. In the case of a check for $105.50, you can either write “one hundred five dollars and fifty cents” or “one hundred five dollars and 55/100” to show the cents value.

Step 5: Add your signature

The bottom-right-hand corner of the check includes a signature line, which is where you sign the check. A check needs the signature of the payer who holds the account, since it is used as verification when processing the transfer of funds.

Step 6: Write the memo

The bottom-left-hand corner of the check includes a line for a memo, where you can add a note to specify what the check is for. It's optional to include a memo, but you might find it helpful, both for the payee and your own records. 

What to do after writing a check

You’ll generally want to record your payment after writing a check, which is important for your financial records. This can be done by saving the carbon copy of the check for personal records. Alternatively, you can also record the payment in your check register, located on the back of your checkbook. This can help you keep a running tally of your bank account balance once the check amount is deducted. This can also be a good approach if there is no carbon copy option available.

Tips to keep in mind when filling out a check

Keep in mind a few other tips when writing a check. 

  • Write in pen: Writing in pen ensures no one can tamper with your check, including changing the check amount.
  • Don’t sign a blank check: A signed blank check enables the payee to fill out any amount they want, so don't sign a check until the check amount is written in pen.
  • Write in print instead of cursive: Writing check details in print helps make sure they are clearly legible. You can still sign your signature in cursive, however.
  • Review for spelling or numerical errors: Make sure you have checked that the check amount is correct, the amount in words matches the amount in numbers and the payee’s name is spelled correctly.

Check writing FAQs

Below you will find commonly asked questions and answers regarding the check-writing process.

How do you void a check?

If you make an error while writing out a check, the process to void a check is simple. You'll write “VOID” across the face of the check in pen. Avoid covering the account number and routing number at the bottom of the check. Safely dispose of the voided check by shredding it or using scissors to cut the paper into tiny pieces. To prevent fraud, make sure to cut lengthwise through your name and account number and dispose of the pieces in different trash bags. After disposing of the paper, you’ll have to start the check-writing process over again with a new check.

Can you write a check to yourself?

Yes, you can write a check to yourself. Instead of putting another payee’s name on the check, you will write your own name. A common use of writing a check to yourself is for transferring funds between accounts or banks.

What does it mean to endorse a check?

To cash or deposit a check, you’ll need to endorse a check. To do so, you will sign your signature in pen on the back of the check, in the designated field that says "Endorse here.". If you are depositing the check via mobile banking, you may write “for mobile deposit only” below your signature in the endorsement field, for an additional layer of security.


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