Along with the plastic cards, you will probably receive a box of bank checks from your bank or credit union. The article is about what it is and why it is needed.
Checks remained in America and other countries from those distant times when there were no electronic banking and plastic cards. Nevertheless, there were banks and people kept their money in them. Bank checks were invented in order to pay in stores and other organizations. In fact, this is a receipt of the established form, according to which the person (or company) who wrote the check instructs his/her bank (who issued the checkbook) to pay the specified amount to the person indicated on the check as the recipient.
Checks are quite convenient in situations where you have to pay an amount of money to a person who is far from you and you do not want to tell him/her your bank card number. By writing a check and mailing it, you are transferring money and at the same time avoiding the hassle of sending cash. First, according to your check, only the person or organization whose name is indicated on the check can receive money. Secondly, the real transfer of money will take place in accordance with the rules of bank transactions when cashing a check – money cannot be lost anywhere. Thirdly, the fact of money transfer will be recorded in your bank statement and be documentary proof of payment for the goods or services.
Please note that there is another type of checks – cashier’s checks. They are issued by the bank. In this article, we are talking about checks issued by individuals, therefore they are called personal checks.
How to fill out a check
A check is a form made of special paper with anti-counterfeiting features. There are many design options for receipts, differing in the background image and other design elements, but all receipts have the same size and location of information fields (this simplifies their automatic processing). In the upper part, it contains the name and address of the owner of the check, the details of the issuing bank, and the serial number of the check.
Now we will learn how to write a check.
- Write the date using the format MM / DD / YYYY (two digits for the month and day, then four digits for the year). Usually, today’s date or the date of the transaction is written. Remember that a check can only be presented for payment for a limited time (for example, 90 days) from the date indicated on it;
- Indicate the recipient of your money. If this is a person – write his/her full name, if it’s an organization – write its exact name. A check without specifying the recipient is equivalent to cash – anyone can sign in and receive money on this check. Therefore, do not write bearer checks unless absolutely necessary;
- Write the amount in numbers, separating dollars from cents with a dot, for example, 1532.75. If the amount is an integer number of dollars, add two zeros after the period. A prerequisite: the number must start at the left edge of the light rectangle so that an attacker cannot correct your check by adding one or something worse at the beginning of the amount;
- Write the same amount in words. Start at the very beginning of the line and with a capital letter. Write the number of dollars, then put in the word and write the number of cents as XX / 100. In our example, the sum will be written as follows: One thousand five hundred thirty two and 75/100. Then draw a line to the word DOLLARS at the end of the line so that you cannot add anything. For those who are not very confident in their knowledge of English numbers, there is a small program that helps to write the number (up to one hundred thousand) in words. Enter the amount in the field on the next line and click the “Print” button. Just in case, we recommend checking the received text using the spelling checker service;
- In the FOR or MEMO field on some checks, you can specify brief information about the purpose of the payment. It is not processed by the bank and is only needed for the convenience of the recipient of the check, for example, your account number with the service provider or your invoice number. Usually, the account will indicate what to write on the check;
- Finally, put your signature on the check. But first, check all the fields and make sure that the check is completed correctly. After signing it, carefully separate the check along the perforation and give (send) it to the recipient of your money.
For the convenience of accounting for expenses, checks are usually issued with duplicates. For security reasons, the place for the signature on the duplicate is painted over with chaotic shading, and there are no account numbers and a transit bank number. In order not to spoil the duplicate of the next check when filling in the check, there are special holders for checks with a plastic tab. It must be placed under the duplicate of the check to be filled in, then the pressure of the pen will not go further.
Usually, you are also given a small notebook with special tables where you can mark issued and cashed checks, calculate the account balance, that is, keep track of the movement of funds on the account. All of this was inherited from the pre-electronic banking era when there were no online banking and other automated account management services.
How to cash a check
If you received a check, you need to present it for payment (deposit) in order to receive the money. You can do two things: cash the check when you get cash, or take the check to your bank and ask to be credited to your account. In the first case, you will most likely have to pay a commission. In the second case, the check deposit operation is usually performed free of charge.
First of all, after receiving the check, turn it over and sign it in the indicated place on the backside (the column with the inscription ENDORSE HERE along one of the short sides). Then, depending on your preferred check-cashing method, you can:
- Take the check personally to a bank or office for cashing checks (“Check Cashing”) – a commission will be charged at the office, banks will cash checks for free;
- Deposit the check using an ATM that supports this function – this must be the ATM of the bank where you have an account. Just log in with your debit card, then select DEPOSIT from the menu and follow the instructions on the screen;
- Send a check by mail to your bank (if the bank provides such a service).
For example, SF Fire Credit Union allows you to apply for check escrow through online banking, then print a paid envelope and mail the signed check. Usually, the check will be received and processed in 1-2 days.
Things you need to know
If you lose your check (or have it stolen) or change your mind about paying the check, you can pause check payments by using your online bank or by contacting a bank branch. However, if you submitted a check to pay for a product or service and then blocked it, the seller may charge you a service fee for processing an invalid check.
Most online banks not only display a record of the presentation of your check for payment, but you can also see an image (scan) of this check.