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Learn How to Write Checks in this Back to Basics Article

written by: Deidra Alexander•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 7/16/2012

Checks are not as commonly accepted as they used to be, but they are still standard parts of the money system, and situations may arise where you will need pay by check. This concise article shows you how to write checks to manage your money, protect your identity, and control your account.

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    In a world where plastic is accepted at nearly any place where you can spend money, it is still very good to know how to write checks since many banks offer both debit cards and checkbooks for their customers. Checks are great to use when paying a private party or in situations in which you would rather write out a check instead of using cash or a credit card.

    There are a few features of a check that are extremely useful to recognize and use. Systematic guidance with descriptions of each part of the check imparts confidence when you are next up in line to pay.

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    Your Checkbook

    Checks come in a set or book. You can use the standard print design the bank issues or have some custom printed at extra cost using all of your information. No matter which you choose, all checks carry these basic components.

    Payee Name and Address

    Using the information given by you when you signed up for an account, the financial institution (i.e. bank or credit union) you do business with has preprinted your name, full address, and phone number in the top left-hand section of your checks. People you write checks to use this information to contact you in case of a problem (insufficient funds--you do not have enough money in the account to cover the transaction) and as identification.

    Some banks print your ID number (driver’s license number) in this section as well.

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    Date and Check Number

    The date section of the check is straightforward yet it is important to include all parts of the date for future verification and tracking purposes.

    The check number also helps with tracking transactions on your account. By using a check number, you can quickly locate the information you need.

    Pay to the Order

    This is where you make the check out to an individual, a store, an organization, or make it out to cash.

    When you make a check out to cash you are essentially writing a check to yourself. The amount that the check is written for is what the cashier will return to you after processing.

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    The Amount of Payment

    This is the place to fill in the total in digits. It is very crucial to not to leave any space for a fraudulent person who may get their hands on your check and fill in an extra digit in this box. Write as large as possible and start at the very left of the box.

    Dollar Amount of the Check

    Write the total in words here instead of digits when it comes to dollars (the word “dollars" is already at the end of the line so you do not have to write it). For cents, you will use a fractionated number to represent that portion. Again, it is best to write as large as you can and draw a line out all the way to “dollars" so that defrauders cannot add in extra details that you do not intend to be there.

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    Memo

    Add any notes on the check's Memo line for the person receiving it. You can name who the check is for, what it is meant for, and creditor account information.

    Routing and Account Numbers

    The routing number is used to identify your financial institution. With the routing number, it is easier to sort, package and otherwise create a line leading to all checks printed and moved through the money system.

    The account number came about when you started business with your financial institution and is associated with all of your transactions therein. Have it handy whenever you contact your credit union or when you contact a store about things such as a purchase or payment made by you.

    Signature

    Include your name to match that which is printed at the top of the check. Make sure that your handwriting is as readable as possible.