Most financial transactions today are handled with credit or debit cards, but sometimes it is necessary to write a check. According to the Federal Reserve, the number of checks written by Americans since 2000 has decreased by 50 percent. Meanwhile, electronic and card payments have tripled over the same period. This page will teach you how to write a check.
Before you can write a check, you have to establish a checking account in a bank or credit union. The bank will provide you with blank checks that you can use to pay your bills. Here are some guidelines for writing checks.
Checks that are not filled out correctly may not be cashed by your bank. It is very important for the amount written in numbers and the amount spelled out to be the same. If they differ by a small amount, the bank may pay the amount as spelled out, but more than likely the check will "bounce" and will not be paid. Remember that in financial documents the number 1450 is not "fourteen fifty", but "one thousand four hundred and fifty". "Fourteen fifty" means $14.50. Checks with the wrong date will not be cashed. This happens a lot in January when people use the old year out of habit.
Your bank will charge you a penalty for "overdrafts", that is, checks written when your account has insufficient funds. In addition, the person or company to whom you wrote the bad check may charge you a fee, so you are penalized twice. Most overdrafts are caused by careless bookkeeping. Record the amounts of your checks so that you know how much money you have in your account.
If you send checks by mail, make sure to send them well in advance of the due date so that the check arrives on time. For important transactions, like the payment of taxes, the checks should be sent by Certified Mail which gives you a receipt that can be used as proof that you mailed the check. When writing checks for taxes, you may also need to write your Social Security number on the check so that you get credit for the payment.
Expired Checks and Uncashed Checks
Many cashier checks and commercial checks include the statement "Void after 6 months" or "Void if not cashed within 90 days". Make sure that you cash or deposit any checks that you receive as soon as possible. If you paid with a check and it has not been cashed within a month, you should contact the party to whom you sent the check to make sure that the check was not lost in the mail. If your debt is not credited in time, you may end up paying late fees or penalties. If one of your checks has not cleared for several months, you may need to ask your bank to stop payment on the check while you investigate the reason why your check has not been cashed. A fee may apply.