Spending

We Asked People to Fill Out a Personal Check—Here's Where They Went Wrong

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When was the last time you wrote out a paper check? For plenty of people, it's been a while: “How to fill out a personal check” is one of the most frequently Googled money questions.

To test the check-writing savvy of ordinary people, Grow took to the streets of New York City with a giant check. We asked participants to fill it out as if they were paying $1,500 in rent to their landlord. Overall, participants did well, though they made small mistakes: Common errors included leaving too much room in the numerical box and incorrectly indicating cents (in this example, there were no cents).

Check out our video below to see how they fared.

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How to write a check

By Federal Reserve estimates, the use of checks drops 3% each year, as more people pay bills online and send money to each other via apps. But it’s still useful to know how to write a paper check, says Steve Kenneally, senior vice president of payments at the American Bankers Association. Checks are commonly used for big transactions like renting an apartment or buying a car.

“We will eliminate the paper check eventually, but 'eventually' will be a long time down the road,” says Kenneally.

So there's good reason to make sure you're filling out a check properly, especially since even small mistakes—like misspellings, missing fields, or illegible writing—can be reason enough for a bank to reject your deposit, and that can trigger fees.

How to fill out a personal check

Follow these six steps to make sure you're correctly filling out a personal check:

Euralis Weekes

1. Record the date

The first step is to write down the date following the format of month/day/year.

2. Name the check receiver

Clearly write the name of the person or business receiving the money on the line stating "Pay to the order of."

3. Write the amount numerically

Use the outlined box to state, in digits, how much the check is for. Make sure to be as close to the dollar sign as possible to prevent anyone from adding in numbers—turning your $50 check into a $550 one, for example.

4. Spell out the amount

On the line below the recipient's name, write out the value of the check in words. To indicate an amount without cents, for example, $500, you can write: "Five hundred dollars and 0/100 or xx/100." If it's not a round dollar figure, say $500.30, write it as "Five hundred dollars and 30/100."

5. Sign the check

Sign your name using the line on the bottom right side of the check.

6. Include what the check is for

On the bottom left side of the check you'll see "memo" followed by a line. This optional step can be used to indicate exactly what the check is for, if that's not clear from Step 2.

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