There are several reasons that you may need to write a check.  For instance, some businesses will give you a discount for writing a check instead of swiping a card. This is because they will save money by not having to pay a processing fee.

So if you are going to fill out a check, making sure you are doing it the right way is key if you don’t want there to be a hassle. To help you with this, here are six simple steps on how to write out a check properly.

6 Steps for Writing a Check

First, notice that there are numbered fields on the check. Throughout this tutorial, we will talk about each numbered field and its purpose so that you can use the proper check format.

Check example

1. Date the check

Any format of date is acceptable.  For example, April 1, 2017, 4/1/17, or any other format.  However, consistency is key as it helps you to more easily recognize a check that may have been stolen from your account. For instance, if you always date your checks in this format: 1 April 2017, a forged check will easily be identifiable if the check date is written in a different format.

Check with date

2. Pay to the order of

This is where you write down to whom the check is made payable to. In the case of this tutorial that would be Target. It is important to write neatly when filling out your check and to include the first and last name, or entire business name, of the payee (the person or business to whom the check is being written to).

Check with payee info

3. Write the amount that you wish to pay in numbers

Again, it’s important to be neat and precise here.  Make a clear distinction between dollars and cents with a decimal point or by underlining the cents number, in order to avoid confusion about the designated amount. This confirms the amount in written form so that there is no confusion on how much should be paid. So in this example, that would be $20.21.

Check with dollar amount

4. Hand-write the dollar amount using words

Neatness counts here as well, because banks will, on occasion, double check the written amount should they be unable to read the numbers in the amount box.  Write out the dollar amount of the check clearly, as shown in the box below. For this check example, that would be Twenty dollars and 21/100.

Check with written amount

5. Memo

People don’t often use the memo line when writing a check, but it can be important when it comes to a potential payment dispute.  Whenever paying a bill, we suggest writing the account number in the memo line.  Or, if the check is to pay rent, write “April 2017 rent” in the memo line.

Using the memo line when writing a check helps secure your checking account and protect you against possible payment disputes.  It also can be used to help track your spending so you can know how much money you’re spending in each budget area. In this example, that would be Clothes.

Check with memo field filled in

6. Sign the check

This is possibly the most vital part of the check writing process. Companies won’t accept checks without a valid signature, and since each person’s signature is unique, the signature on your check has the capability of protecting you from potential check-writing forgers.

Be sure when writing a check to make your signature neat and write it as you normally would on any other formal document. See Your signature goes here box in the example below.

Check with signature field

Your check should look similar to this when completed:

Completed Check

There are three more pieces of information that you should be aware of when it comes to the format of a check.

Routing number

This is specific to your banking institution and can be found on the bottom left of the check. This is also used for when you give your employer information to receive direct deposit as well as setting up automatic payments.

Account number

This is self-explanatory, however, just know that you can find this number directly to the right of your routing number.

Check number

Your check book is set up in a numerical sequence, so if you write a lot of checks over the years it makes it easier to go back and confirm payments and ‘check’ disputes.

Now that you know the basics of writing a check, you can be prepared for when there aren’t other payment options such as cash or automatic payment.