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How to Read a Check in USA – 10 Important Details

Do you want to learn how to read a check in the United States? If YES, here are 10 important details you must note when reading a check. It seems like hardly anyone uses checks anymore. Once standard issue at banks all over the world, checks rarely make an appearance at stores.

Many bank account holders don’t even bother to order checks. With automated services, there are simply few opportunities to use a check. However, whether, you are cashing a check, making a payment, or setting up direct deposit, you need to know how to read a check.

10 Important Details to Note When Reading a Check in the United States

1. Personal Information

This tends to include every detail about the checking account owner. The funds will come out of that person’s account (or the business’ account, if the check came from a business like your employer or insurance company). Sometimes, a phone number appears here, but not all checks provide phone numbers.

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In addition, you might also find handwritten personal information in this area (a cashier might require a phone number or driver’s license number in order to validate a check).

2. Payee Line

This is where you see who the check is written to or who will receive the funds. It also includes a specific name of a person or business that is authorized to deposit the check or cash it. In some cases, the check might be payable to “Cash,” which entails that almost anybody can deposit or cash the check.

3. The Dollar Box

This is simply an unofficial note of how much the check is for. The check amount is written using numerals here, so you can easily glance and read how much the check is for.

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4. The Amount of the Check

Here is the official amount of the check. This number, written out using words, is more likely than the dollar box to reflect what the check writer actually intends to pay—so it is what you are legally entitled to as the payee. Nonetheless, you’ll only actually receive those funds if the check is legitimate and the check writer has sufficient funds available

5. Signature Line

This is the part that shows who signed the check. If there is no signature on a check you have received, contact the check writer—you may encounter issues depositing this check, and your bank might charge you additional fees if the check is not accepted as valid.

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In some cases (if you are reviewing transactions in your account; for example), you’ll see checks that don’t have a signature, but instead include a message saying “No Signature Required.” Note that those items are probably payments that you approved online or over the phone. But contact your bank immediately if you don’t recognize a payment.

This is the part that tells which bank or credit union the check writer has a checking account at, and where the funds will come from. Note that if you want to cash the check and receive the full amount, you will be required to visit that bank (or a local branch of that bank) to do so. You can also deposit the check or try to cash it at your own bank, but your bank might only pay out a portion of the check and place a hold on the rest of it.

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7. Memo Line

This is a space for any additional information a check writer wants to include. This is the potion used to explain what the payment is for (“November Rent”) or include reference information like an account number.

8. Date Line

This tells you when the check was written—and in most cases, that is exactly what you see. However, sometimes people “post – date” checks by writing in a date in the future. The date written on a check doesn’t necessarily tell you when you are allowed to deposit it or when banks will accept it. Also remember that if a check is post  –  dated, there is probably a reason for that, so it is a good idea to communicate with the check writer and find out what’s going on.

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9. ABA Routing Number

This is commonly known as the “address” used to find the check writer’s bank. If you are signing up for direct deposit or ACH payments, you’ll need this number. Nonetheless, it is more or less not helpful to know somebody else’s ABA number.

10. Bank Fractional Number

Note that this is another format of the “address” that banks might use when processing payments. This is generally not something you need to do anything with.

11. The Back of a Check

Whoever deposits or cashes a check normally signs (or “endorses”) on the back of the check. In addition, as banks process that payment, they also stamp information on the check, leaving a record of when and where the check was handled.

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12. Checking Account Number

This is the account number that the funds will come from. Also, it may come in handy if you are signing up for electronic payments out of your own account, but it is not something you need to know when you receive a check. Your bank and the check writer’s bank will use the ABA number and account number to process payments behind the scenes.

13. Check Number

This number identifies the exact check you are holding. In many cases, the ABA number and account number are the same on every check that a check writer uses. To reduce confusion, a check number also appears on each check to help you keep things straight.

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Note that if you receive multiple payments from the same check writer, it might be imperative to note the check number in your records. Likewise, it is a good idea to make a record of every check you write (including the check number) in your check register.