Never written a check? This easy step-by-step guide shows how to do it.

How to fill out a check

1. Enter the date

Business man prepare writing a check
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Directly below the check number in the top right-hand corner of a check, you'll see a blank for the date.

Most likely, you'll want to write the date when you're filling out the check. But if you don't want the check to be cashed right away, you'll put in a future date. That makes the check invalid until that day arrives.

Follow the month-date-year format when entering the date. In other words, the date should appear as "August 5, 2020" or "08/05/2020."

2. Enter the recipient's name

Business man prepare writing a check
Icatnews / Shutterstock

The language "Pay to the order of" may seem a little strange or formal. It simply means you enter the name of the person or entity that will be receiving and cashing the check.

Checks can be issued to individuals or businesses, and the rules are a little different for each.

For individuals, write out both first and last names: "John Smith." For businesses, make sure that you use the full, formal name of the business: "Johnson Heating & Air Conditioning Inc."

Making a check out to "Cash" means you're allowing anyone to cash the check. This option should be used only in rare instances, because it's obviously not very secure.

3. Enter the amount in number form

A Check is signed paying bills in ballpoint pen on the desk pay promise
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In the little box to the right of the recipient's name, enter the numerals for the amount you want to pay.

Make sure you accurately enter the amount, down to the penny.

4. Enter the amount in word form

The line below the recipient's name is where you enter the amount a second time, in word form. That means $50 becomes "Fifty" and $436 becomes "Four-hundred thirty-six."

You enter the cents as a fraction: 25/100, 50/100, 82/100, and so on.

Don't write in the word "dollars" because that will already be printed on the check. So, if the amount is $2,176.83, you would write in "Two-thousand one-hundred seventy-six and 83/100."

5. Write what the check is for

The memo section at the bottom of the check is optional, but it helps to explain the purpose of the check.

For example, if you're paying a certain invoice, you might write "For Invoice 1010." If you're paying your rent, you might say "October 2018 Rent."

6. Sign the check


The last, but possibly most important, step is to sign the check.

An unsigned check is invalid and cannot be cashed. So don't ever forget to scribble your name on the line as you finish.

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman


Doug Whiteman is the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

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