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How to write out a personal check and not look like an idiot

Updated on May 30, 2015

Writing a check is simple

How can you not know how to write a check? Haven't you ever watched the Price is Right? Ok, so these are the things that some people might say to you if you admitted to them that you have no idea how to write a check. 20 years ago not knowing this skill was inexcusable, but in the modern age of credit cards it seems check-writing has become forgotten. There are still many reasons why a person might need to write a personal check, and I'm here to show you how and save you some embarrassment.

Writing a check

First of all, you need a checkbook. Most banks, especially credit unions, offer free checking if you have an account with them. Your checking account and your savings accounts will be separate, which means the money isn't mixed together. They have to do this because savings accounts have a higher interest rate but the funds are not always immediately available to you. You can draw funds from your checking account from anywhere. Many banks also give you a debit card that draws funds from your checking account.

Now that you have your checkbook out and are preparing to write a check, flip it to the first available check. Don't rip the check out yet. There should be a carbon form behind each check that will record a tracing of each check you write. We are going to fill out every empty line on this check. Start with the date in the upper right hand corner. Don't write a date in the future unless you don't want the check cashed until that date. Banks generally won't accept a check that is dated in the future, so save your story about Doc Brown and the flying Delorean.

Now we've got the Pay to the Order of line. On this line you fill out the name of the person or company you are writing the check to. If you're sending a personal check to another person, this is easy. If you're paying for a bill to a company, make sure to follow their instructions so you fill out the check to the right name.

Now we've got a box on the right with a "$" symbol and a box next to it. Inside the box you write the amount the check is for. You can express cents as a fraction of 100. For instance, if you are writing a check for $22.50 you'll just write is at 22 50/100 or 22 50/00. The fraction should be written small so it's not confused with the larger dollar amount (you don't want them to think this is a check for $2,250).

The line below this will have one long line with "Dollars" written at the end. It'll look something like this: _______________________________Dollars. In this line you write out in words the dollar amount of the check. Using our example above, you write "Twenty-two and 50/100" or "Twenty-two and 50/00". This helps the cashier at the bank figure out the amount of the check if the number in the box is unclear.

In the lower left hand corner we have a line that is labeled "For" or "Memo". This line is not mandatory, but I suggest you use it. Write in what the check is for. For instance, write "John's Birthday" if the check was sent to your nephew John for his birthday. You'll be able to see this on the carbon copy behind the check and it will help you when you try to balance your finances later.

In the lower right we have another line with no label. You MUST sign your name on this line. If you forget to sign a check, the bank shouldn't cash it.

Balancing your checkbook

I'm going to go into details on balancing your checkbook, but there is space at the end of each checkbook to record the checks you've written. Also you should be keeping track of money deposited in your checking account. This information is important because you don't want to overdraft on your account. The bank will charge you a fee and the business you write the check to will likely also charge you a fee. It can get quite expensive. Keep your checking account balance positive! Even if you have enough money in your savings account to cover the check, you'll still get the fine. That's one way banks make money.


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  • Sa`ge profile image

    Sa`ge 7 years ago from Barefoot Island

    I had one month that went bad, two checks crossed and i never in my life ever did that and i freaked out. :(

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 7 years ago

    You know DB- I've written so many checks that my behind couldn't cash that I'm afraid that train has sailed!