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How To Read A Check: Knowing What It All Means

Senior woman writing checks
Posted in Checking

Checks are a common way to receive funds and send funds to others. That’s why you want to understand both how to write a check correctly and how to read a check if you receive one. There are various parts of a check with pertinent information you want to know and decipher.

The below images and information will help you understand how to read a check, so you have clarity in using checks moving forward.

How To Read The Front Of A Check

BR Telco CU Check labels Front

 


  1. Personal information: On a check, you will find the check owner’s personal information, including the first and last name or business name, if applicable, street address, city, state, and zip code.
  2. Payee line: On the payee line, you will see the words “pay to the order of.” Here is where you will find the name of the person or company that is receiving the money. The recipient’s full name should be written, and only this person will be able to deposit the check.
  3. Date line: The date line is the date the check is written or the earliest date the check can be cashed or deposited. The full date should be written, including the month, date, and year.
  4. Check number: Each check will have a number that identifies it to help identify the check. This is helpful when tracking checks or balancing your checkbook.
  5. Bank’s fractional number: The fractional number is eight digits of the bank routing number. It is used to process checks manually.
  6. Dollar box: The dollar box is where the check amount is written in numbers. To prevent fraud, this number should be written so one can’t alter the numbers written in the box to increase the amount of the check.
  7. Signature line: The signature line is where the check issuer signs the check approving the payment. It isn’t allowed to be deposited or cashed unless there is a signature present. If there are discrepancies with the check, the signature can be compared to the one on file to determine whether fraud took place.
  8. Account number: Each check is attached to an account, and that account’s number is listed at the bottom of the check. It is included to identify the account the money is withdrawn from.
  9. ABA routing number: The bank’s routing number is listed at the bottom of the check. The routing number is used to identify the financial institution in which the account belongs.
  10. Memo line: The memo line is a space provided for the check issuer to add any notes regarding the purpose of the check, invoice/transaction numbers, or other recordkeeping information. It is optional for information to be written in this space.
  11. Amount of check: The amount of the check is the same number written in the dollar box, but it’s written in words instead of numbers. This is the part of the check that’s officially used to determine the amount. Again, you want this to be written so that no one can alter the amount written. It’s common practice for space before or after the words to be crossed through.

How To Read The Back Of A Check

The back of the check is often understood less by check issuers and recipients, but it is equally as important as the front of the check. After gaining an understanding of the front of the check, you want to understand the back of the check as well.

BR Telco CU Check labels Back


  1. Security box: The security box outlines the security featured used for the check. It’s designed to educate the check issuer and recipient and discourage one from completing check fraud.
  2. Security screen: The bank only uses this section. It is designed for them to list the events of the check processing. You might find the words “original document” or some other wording written lightly in this space.
  3. Endorsement area: This is where the recipient signs the check before it is deposited or cashed. It can be endorsed with only a signature, or you can add additional information such as “for deposit only.” Adding restrictions regarding the check usage will help you to reduce the presence of fraud if the check gets into the wrong hands.
  4. Mobile deposit: Many checks now have special endorsement checkboxes for Mobile Deposit. When depositing a check through Mobile Remote Deposit, a special endorsement, like checking the box and adding the Credit Union’s name, is required to be accepted. If there is no checkbox, most financial institutions require the words “For Mobile Deposit” to be written in the endorsement area along with your signature.

Whether you are the check recipient or check issuer, you need to understand the parts of a check and the purpose each one serves. In doing so, you will be more informed about writing, depositing, and cash checks in the future.

Learn about the benefits of using a checking account.

Benefits of a Checking Account