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Back to Basics: Guide to Using Checks

Learn how to write and cash checks, how to locate the bank routing number, and other key basics.


Video Transcript

Whether you are new to check writing or just need a refresher, here are the basics to know.

How to write a check

Write today’s date in the space in the upper right-hand corner. (Numbers only are OK.)

On the “Pay to the Order Of” line, clearly print the name of the person or business you’re writing the check to.

Write the numerical amount of the check in the small box.

On the “DOLLARS” line, write out the amount again, in words:

  • Cents are written as a fraction, such as 21/100 or no/100.
  • To prevent tampering: If space remains, draw a line to fill out the space.

Sign your name on the bottom right-hand line.

The “MEMO” or “FOR” line can include:

  • A reminder for you or your payee.
  • Any requested info.
  • Nothing (it’s OK to leave it blank).

If you make a mistake, write “VOID” across the check and start a new one.

Decoding the numbers at the bottom of a check

The bank routing number:

  • The 9-digit code in the bottom left-hand corner is specific to the bank where you have your checking account.
  • Any requested info.

Your bank account number.

The 4-digit check number:

  • It represents the check number that appears in the upper right-hand corner of your check.
  • It’s used to help keep track of check payments on your statement.

How to deposit a check

Step 1: Endorse

In the designated endorsement area on the back of the check, write:

  • Your signature.
  • “For deposit only” (to prevent anyone from cashing it).

Step 2: Deposit

  • You may be able to make a deposit electronically using your bank’s app.
  • You may also make a deposit at your bank’s branch or ATM.
    • The bank may require you to fill out a deposit slip, which you can get at your bank or find in the back of your book of checks.

Help prevent check fraud

  • Store your checkbook and extra checks in a secure location.
  • Dispose of unused and cashed checks properly by shredding.
  • Balance your checkbook and monitor your account regularly.
  • Notify your bank immediately of any suspicious activity.

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