Checking Account Basics

Ordering Your Checks

When you open an account, one of the first things you will do is to order your checks.  Frequently the bank will pay for your first set of basic checks or charge you just a minimum fee.  You can also order, for a fee, checks in different colors or ones with an interesting design.  There are also different styles of checkbooks, so see which one works best for you.

All checks will have your name on them; most will also have your address.  Telephone numbers are optional.  Most people don't put this one their check although some people like to, since most people/merchants who accept checks require this information (although perhaps you might want to withhold it on a printed check for security reasons), along with another form of identification (photo ID preferred or required).

When your checks arrive be sure to confirm that all the printed material is correct.  There will also be a separate book (depending on the style of checks you ordered) called the Check Transaction Register so you can record the information about each check, indicate deposits and withdrawals, fees and balances.  Whatever you do, you always need to know how much money is in your account so you don’t write a check for more than you have (this is called bouncing a check).  If you bounce a check, the person you made it out to will be very mad.  Second, your bank will probably charge you a hefty fee, probably $25 or more, for the bounced check.  The bank may or may not cover your account for the overdrawn amount until you make a deposit to cover the shortfall.  Some banks automatically enroll you in an over-draft protection plan.  You might write a check for $20, it bounced and you then owe the bank not only the $20 but an additional $25 fee for the bounced check.  You can refuse this service you if want.  Sometimes people make a deposit and then write a check.  If you deposit doesn't clear by the time the bank get your check, you are overdrawn.  Check with your bank to make sure your deposit has cleared before you write a check.  Sometimes a check can take 5-7 business days to clear.