Every day, millions of us write checks to pay for our purchases. The issue is that many of us are often just making our best guess when it comes to filling out the various sections of a check. So which parts of checks should you be paying attention to and which bit of information goes where?
When writing a check, it is critical to understand the parts of the check and what information is included in each piece.
This guide will teach you about all of the different elements that make up a check and which details should be noted on each one. We’ll also cover how to identify and fill out checks like a pro.
Why is it important to know different parts of the check?
When you write a check, make sure to include all of the necessary information so that your payment can be processed correctly. The source of the check doesn’t even matter because the parts of a personal check are not all that different from the parts of a business check.
If any of this information is incorrect or left blank on your check, it may bounce. Some parts of the check will always be filled out, while others may vary depending on your specific situation.
While the details of each section may not be necessary to everyone, some areas must always be filled out before a check can be processed. This includes the following:
- The name of the person or business for which you’re writing this check
- The address of the person or company for which you’re writing this check
- The date on which the check is written
What is a check and which part of a check is the most important?
A check is a written document that instructs the payer to pay the payee.
Checks are processed by banks and can be deposited electronically or with paper checks, which can be delivered in person, mailed, or picked up at designated bank locations.
A check is a payment instrument, and each component serves a specific purpose. Understanding the various parts will allow you to fill out checks like a pro and avoid mistakes.
The following will outline all of the parts of a bank check, as well as how to correctly fill out each section to avoid any confusion about who owes money and for how much:
- Name: This is your name as it appears on the check
- Address: This is your address
- Amount due: This is how much money the check is worth (usually written in words)
- Dollar box: This is the dollar sign ($)
- Date: A space for when the check was written and mailed out
- Memo line: You can write a note here if there’s anything important about this particular transaction
- Payee information: This identifies who or what you are paying
- Signature line: This is where you sign your name
- Routing number: This indicates which bank processed the transaction and helps identify who has possession of your account at that institution (this can also be found on most checks)
- Account number: This identifies an individual’s checking account with a particular financial institution
- The endorsement line: This is where the person receiving the check writes their signature or initials to indicate they received it
- Check number: if you’re wondering how to read check numbers, this is where you should look. A check number is a unique number identifying a particular check
The name is where you will put your personal details on the check for identification purposes. This should be filled out by hand with either blue or black ink to stand out from all other information on the check. The following guidelines will help you fill out your name correctly and avoid confusion:
- Uppercase letters should be used for the first name
- Depending on personal preference, middle initials can be placed after an apostrophe or a period
- Unless a person is a professional or uses initials instead of their last name, their last name is always written in capital letters
The address is usually printed on the check by the bank, but this can also be filled out manually.
This section is used to ensure that the payment goes to the correct location and person, so it must be written correctly for your check not to bounce back or cause any other problems. The following instructions will help you fill out an address correctly:
- The state name should always begin with a capital letter.
- A comma should follow the street address
- A city name must always start with a capital letter, and the state abbreviation is written after it (for example, Austin, TX)
- The zip code should come next in numerical form—no letters or hyphens here (the first five digits of your social security number can also be used as a zip code)
The amount due is the sum of money paid for something—whether it’s a personal or business transaction, this number needs to be filled in correctly to avoid confusion and ensure that you receive the correct funds.
The following guidelines will help you fill out an amount due correctly:
- The amount is always filled in numerically
- If the price has a decimal point, it should be written as an “and” (for example, $50.34 would be written as “fifty and 34/100”) — without this conjunction, your payment might not go through properly
- Words like “pence,” “cents,” and “%” are never used to write down prices. A dollar sign (or fraction) should be written in place of them
The date is where you will write the month, day, and year of the transaction. This section should also be filled out by hand and always use the month as its starting point. The following guidelines will help you fill out this section correctly:
- The date is written numerically
- If it’s a single-digit number, leading zeroes should be used (for example, 03/01/2023)
- The year is always written in four digits (for example, 2023)
What does memo mean on a check
The memo line is used for any additional information that might be needed about the transaction. This space can be used to write the name of a business or person being paid, an order number for online purchases, or any other relevant details that might be necessary.
This section should also be filled out by hand with blue ink, which stands out from all additional information on the check. The following guidelines will help you fill out this space correctly:
- The memo line is written in uppercase letters
- If the memo line requires more than one sentence, it should be separated by commas or periods (no colons)—each additional word must start with a capital letter
This is used to record information about the person or entity to whom you are making a payment.
If this section is not completed correctly, your payment may be rejected and returned, resulting in additional fees for you. Hence, you must fill out this space as completely as possible.
The following guidelines will help fill out this space correctly:
- The name of the payee should be listed first
- Their address (if relevant) follows next—remember that spaces between multiple lines are counted as separate words, so try to keep your handwriting neat and legible
- A PO box or email is often used if a physical location cannot be found for the payee
The signature line is used to write your name on a check. This section should be filled out by hand, and the following guidelines will help you fill it out correctly:
- The signature is written in black ink
- If your first name has two or more parts (for example, Mary Elizabeth), each part should be separated by a dash (-)—the end of the line can also serve as this separator if it’s easier to write that way
- You must always sign every check you make out, even if you write out a small amount of money
The endorsement line
The endorsement line is used to write down the name of who will be receiving or depositing the check.
This line is usually on the back of the check, but some banks will put it on the front for extra security. This section should be filled out by hand, and the following guidelines will help you fill it out correctly:
- This section must ALWAYS include your printed name (first, last)
- The number of this check is always written below that—if there are multiple numbers listed, each one should be separated by a slash mark (/)
- If you are endorsing this check over to another person, their printed name should be listed next––followed by the date they will receive it and then finally their address on where to send it to
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