Checking Account Basics

How To Write A Check

Here is how to properly write a check.  If you make an error, you have to write a big CANCEL vertically across the check, rip it up and start all over again (remember to mark "Void" on your transaction register too, which is explained below).  The information you write on the check should be duplicated in your check transaction record.

  • Check Number:  The number of your check (upper right hand corner, also one of the numbers on the bottom of the check).  It is a good idea when you pay a bill to write the check number, date, and amount you paid on the invoice (bill) for your records.
  • Date:  Make sure you put in the correct date.  Month/day/year.  Banks won’t take a check dated in the future.
  • Pay To The Order Of (or Payable to):  Make sure you have the complete and accurate name of the person or company to whom you are writing the check.  No nicknames!  If you call your friend Bobby, but his legal name is Robert and that is what is on his checking account, you need to write Robert.
  • $ (Dollar amount Numeric):  Put the dollar amount of the check in numbers.  Start writing the numbers close to the printed dollar sign.  It has to be legible.  Put in the decimal point for cents ($50.25).  If you leave too much room, $ 50.25, a dishonest person might add a digit before the first digit 5… like $150.25).
  • Dollars (amount written in words):  This is where you write amount the amount of the check in words for the whole dollars (Fifty dollars), and a fractional figure (25/100) for amounts less than a dollar.  This is how that bank confirms the amount in case your hand writing is not legible.  Also, draw a straight line to fill up the remaining space on the line ending with the world "Dollars", like this:
  • Fifty Dollars and 25/100---------------Dollars.
  • Signature Line:  The line on the far right is for your signature.  Use the exact name you used when you opened your account.  You filled out a signature card which your bank keeps in case there’s a question about your signature.  If you are in a different branch, the bank may ask your own branch to transmit a copy of your signature card to make sure you are who you say you are and the signature matches.
  • Memo:  Usually a space on the bottom left, opposite the signature line.  Use this line to put your account number if you are paying a bill, or any other information that may help the person processing your payment to identify your account.
  • Numbering at the Bottom:  This is like a bar code on merchandise, it lets banks and clearing houses know how to handle the transaction.  There are three groups of numbers at the bottom of each check separate with a:  (need symbol at bottom of check bold vertical dash with bold squared colon).  Some banks put these numbers in different order.  My bank puts the routing number first, the account number second and the check number third (some banks put the check number between the routing and account number):
  • Bank Routing Transit Number (or ABA) This is a nine digit number that banks in the United States use to identify the financial institution (bank) on which the check is drawn.  This code is used by the Federal Reserve Bank to process the check; the Fedwire to transfer funds to another account; and the Automated Clearing House to process direct deposits and other automated transfers.
If you ever need to send money using a wire transfer
(which can take less than ½ hour), versus a check, you will need
to provide:
  • Your banks’ Routing Transit Number
  • Your Checking Account Number
  • Your Check Number

If you want to find out more or get a bank’s routing number go to: or

  • Bank Name:  Some banks only print their name on your checks; others also include the bank’s address, especially the smaller banks.
Beware of making a check out to cash.  Anyone can cash this check.  If someone steals your purse/wallet and finds a check made out to cash, they can just go to their bank and redeem it.  It is a much better practice to write out the person’s name or business.  If you want money, write a check out to yourself.