How To Fill Out A Check – Banking Basics

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This is a person handing out a check.

Learning how to fill out a check might seem like a distant blast from the past. Do you even remember the last time you wrote a check? I understand if you can’t because most people use online payments for nearly everything nowadays. Still, writing a check remains a common practice in some countries, especially in the United States.

Perhaps you might need it in case you have to transact with certain businesses. Alternatively, you might encounter an emergency where you cannot use online payments. You never know when seemingly mundane skills may come in handy. Fortunately, I wrote this guide to help folks like you write a check!

We will have to talk about the parts of the check before we discuss filling one out. Then, we will go through the steps on how to write a check. After that, I’ll explain why some parts of the world still use checks even when there are so many online methods available. I will also elaborate on the downsides of using checks, so you’ll see why most people stopped using them.

Parts of a check

This is a check.

  1. Account holder info – It’s pre-filled with information regarding the person who wrote the check.
  2. Date of issue – This is the month, day, and year when a person wrote a check. In most countries, you cannot cash out a check a few days after this date while others allow post-dated checks.
  3. Check number – You’ll often see this written twice on a check. It shows a code that typically has 3-4 numbers, helping people track their checks. Checkbooks arrange these slips according to the check number.
  4. Fractional number – Banks have fractional routing numbers that you’ll find on checks. Its first two digits represent the region where the bank is located. That pair is followed by the 5th to 8th digits in the routing number, then the first and fourth digits.
  5. Payee – This is the person or institution that will receive the check. The Payee section may appear as the “pay to” or “pay to the order of” field.
  6. Numeric Check Amount – This is where you write the dollar amount of the check as digits.
  7. Written Check Amount – This is where you write the numeric check amount again but in words. You must write out the dollar and cents, but you may fill out the latter as numerals. For example, instead of writing $1,000.50, you should write “one thousand dollars and 50 cents.”
  8. Bank information – Otherwise known as the drawee information, this shows the financial institution that will be the source of the check’s funds.
  9. Memo line – This part only reminds the payee of why they wrote the check. You don’t have to fill out this section, but it helps you keep track of multiple checks. If you’re paying bills, you’ll have to write to the specific company that should receive your payment.
  10. MICR line – The acronym stands for magnetic ink character recognition code (MICR). It’s the seemingly random line of numerals at the bottom left of the check. In the 1960s, it facilitated clearing and sorting the slips.
  11. Routing Transit Number – This is otherwise known as the routing number or the ABA (American Bankers Association) number. It was made of 9 digits, and it helped determine the financial institution that the account holder is using.
  12. Account number – This is the personal 10 to 12 digit number of the person writing the check. It also tells you the source of the check’s funds.
  13. Signature line – This is where the payee will sign the check.

Read More: Credit Builder Credit Cards 101 Guide

Steps on how to fill out a check

This is a person learning how to fill out a check.

Now that you know the parts of a check, it’s time to learn how to fill one out. You don’t have to closely follow the steps, but it will help you save time in completing this form.

You can’t just delete mistakes because you’ll be writing with a pen. If you made any mistakes, you’ll have to write “void”, discard it, then write a new one. These steps may help reduce errors:

  1. Write the current date on the date of issue.
  2. Next, write the name of the person or institution who will receive the slip in the Payee section. Make sure you spell the names correctly. More importantly, write as legibly as you can in print letters instead of cursive, so it’s easier to read.
  3. After that, write the numeric check amount, including the dollar and cents.
  4. Then, fill out the written check amount in block letters.
  5. Verify that the information you’ve written down is accurate. Confirm that everything is spelled correctly too.
  6. Once you’re sure that the details are correct, sign the check. Most of these slips have a line at the bottom where your signature is supposed to be.
  7. Before you deposit the check, you might want to add details in the Memo Line. You may place additional information such as the purpose of your deposit. People usually need to fill in this part when the check is for paying bills.
  8. You may want to record your submission on a check register. This will help you keep track of all the money you’ve sent.

Why do people still use checks nowadays?

This is a person learning how to fill out a check.

Nowadays, people can order virtually any product or service using the internet. That’s why some people may find it hard to believe that others still use checks for payments.

This is a common practice in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, 7% of Americans still don’t use the internet as of early 2021.

These people include the elderly and those with low household incomes. In some cases, it’s the only way for an American to pay certain bills.

Some US companies charge an additional processing fee for using credit cards to pay bills, but they won’t charge a cent for checks. People may still pay taxes by sending checks to the IRS.

Various establishments and individuals still accept checks as a mode of payment, such as small businesses and some landlords. As I said, it may come in handy during an emergency.

We’ve been used to handling transactions via online services, but electricity supply and internet access aren’t always reliable. If not, you might find yourself unable to use these services.

Learning how to fill out a check could give you an offline way to send funds. You may compare this to first aid skills. Once the need arises, you’ll know what to do.

Why don’t most people use checks anymore?

The biggest reason why most people don’t use checks nowadays is that they’re unsafe. When you fill out a check, you’re putting a lot of sensitive information on a piece of paper.

You could lose that slip while you’re filling it out, or someone could sneak a peek at the details. If those bits of information fall into the wrong hands, they could empty your bank account!

What’s more, the Federal Reserve’s regulations make it easier to restore stolen funds from electronic checks. You don’t get similar protections when using paper checks.

People have been using checks for decades, so they eventually came up with various ways to commit check fraud. In other words, it’s much easier to get scammed when using checks.

If you do need to use a check, you must proceed with caution. Follow these steps to make sure your fund and sensitive information are safe from prying eyes:

  • Keep a record of all the checks you’ve written. As I’ve said, use a check register.
  • Place your checkbook in a safe and secure place.
  • Submit letters containing paper checks at the post office, so you’re sure that only federal workers will be handling them.
  • Use a fraud-resistant pen when writing the details. Some people know how to erase regular ink, so they could use your signed check for themselves.

Final thoughts

You now know how to fill out a check, but this will likely be for emergencies only. After all, it’s much easier and safer to use online methods.

For example, you could just enter your checking account details when paying for online purchases. If you want to avoid debt, you might want to use a debit card instead.

Still, you have to be careful about your banking information. Never let anyone else handle your cards, and keep others from seeing their details.