New payment methods such as Venmo and Zelle increasingly inundate businesses and individuals, but the trusty old check remains a safe and reliable solution for many. The problem is more and more Americans have never learned how to fill out a check correctly.
To help, we’re breaking down the essential parts of a check and why they matter to complete your payments successfully.
What Is a Check?
A check is a financial instrument used to make and receive payments. A check tells a bank how much money to withdraw, from what account, and who to pay.
Types of Checks
While in the past, checks have mostly been printed on paper and filled out using black or blue ink, technology and the demands of modern business allow for the creation of new types of checks, including:
Electronic Checks (E-Checks)
Parts of a Check & How to Identify Them
While checks have fallen out of favor among consumers, they remain a critical tool for most small businesses. Knowing how to identify and fill out a check correctly is necessary to ensure payments are made correctly in a timely and professional manner. Below, we'll cover the essential elements of most paper checks. .
ZoomChecks offers pre-made templates that hit all the significant elements you'd want, but if you're using our service to customize your checks completely, you're going to want to keep the following in mind.
1. Personal Info (Upper Left)
You can find your personal information in the top upper left of the check. This information will include your name, address, and sometimes a phone number.
2. Date Line (Upper Right)
The date line usually appears in the top right area of a check. It should say "DATE," followed by an empty line where you can write that day's date. This date will serve as a timestamp for when you issued the check. Dates should include the month, day, and full four-digit year (MM/DD/YYYY).
If you write a future date, you're postdating a check. The receiving party will have to wait to cash it until the date in question. Some states have outlawed this practice, and it's generally understood that the issued date should reflect the day you issued the check.
3. Recipient's Name (Middle Left)
This part of the check holds the name of the individual or business you're writing the check to. It'll usually say "Pay to the Order of." For individuals, write out the recipient's full first and last name — the middle name shouldn't be necessary. For businesses or other organizations, be sure to write in their complete name.
4. Payment Amount (Middle Below Recipient Name)
Following the recipient's name will be a section to denote the check amount, usually in the middle of the check with the word "AMOUNT" or a money symbol, "$." The first section of a payment amount usually appears as an empty box, where you should write the amount numerically.
The second payment amount line should be spelled out, with the cents written out numerically with a slash or fraction over 100. For example, if the check amount is $125.46, the first box would have 125.46, and the second line would say "one hundred twenty-five and 46/100."
5. Bank Information (Bottom Left)
Pre-printed and electronic checks will include bank information such as the issuing bank's contact information and their name and logo. If you're creating your check from scratch, you may not have this on hand, in which case you should focus on making sure more critical information such as the routing and account numbers are included (see below).
6. Memo (Bottom Left)
It can be hard to keep track of things if you're writing many checks. The memo line is an optional part of the check, which allows the person writing the check to note what the payment was for. For example, you could write in "Payroll," "Utilities," "Office Supplies," etc.
7. Signature (Bottom Right)
The signature line is where you're going to put your John Hancock, except instead of declaring independence, the person writing the check is endorsing it. This is no less important, though, because, without the signature of an approved account owner, the check will be invalid and could cause unintended issues. The last thing anyone wants is a bounced check or bank chargebacks!
8. Routing Number (Bottom Left)
Along the bottom of your check, you will see several numbers. The first should be your routing number. This nine-digit number is linked to your bank or credit union.
This number is like an address tied to your specific U.S. bank that allows others to know where payment needs to be withdrawn from. Every U.S. bank has an American Bankers Association (ABA) routing number issued to them.
9. Account Number (Bottom Middle)
Following the routing number will be your account number. This is usually a 10- to 12-digit number that links to the account associated with the check. While the routing number helps locate the bank, the account number specifies the personal or business account money is withdrawn from.
10. Check Number (Bottom Right)
The third number across the bottom should be the check number. This number corresponds to a number in a series of printed checks. This number can help with accounting by keeping track of what you used each check for. The check number will also typically appear in the top right-hand corner of the check.
11. Back of the Check & Endorsement Line
Like the front of the check, the back also contains essential information. The back of the check will have to be signed by the check recipient before it can be cashed or deposited. Most checks will have a box on the back that reads, "Endorse Here."
Underneath the endorsement line or box will usually appear a version of this statement, "Do not write, stamp, or sign below this line." This should be kept blank and used for a bank's processing stamp.
Save Time & Money When Writing Checks for Your Business
Writing and managing checks does not have to be a chore. ZoomChecks allows you to create and print custom checks on demand for your small business. With no special software to download, or an expensive printer needed, we're revolutionizing how small businesses write checks.
Best of all, you can try it today for free. Just register your account, and we will give you seven days to try it out risk-free. No credit card information is required!