What Are the Components of a Check?

Understand how to read checks.
Image Credit: AR Images/iStock/Getty Images

Your main focus when writing or cashing a check may be the information fields that show who is being paid and how much the check is for, however there are many different components on a check that you may not usually notice. As well as dealing with payment details, these components give identifying information about the person writing the check, the account and the bank.

Your and Your Bank’s Information

The depositor of a check is also known as the maker of a check. If the checks belong to you, this component will have your name and address and perhaps also your driver's license or telephone number as well. This information is usually found in a small block at the top, left-hand corner of the check. The financial institution's information is usually found on the same side of the page, but closer to the bottom, just above the "Memo" line, and tells where the cash is being drawn from and may also have the bank's address and telephone number.

Check Number

The number on the top right-hand corner of the check and at the bottom left side of the check is the check number. Checks come in sequential numbers to help people with personal bookkeeping and help banks track checks cashed from an account.

Date

The date line is located on the upper part of the check, on the right-hand side, and is labeled "Date." This tells the person receiving a check when the check was written. This date is also the earliest the check can be cashed, if a future date is written on it.

Pay-to and Amount Fields

This area is the line below the date and tells the bank who the person or institution cashing the check is. However, checks can also be made out to "cash" or "bearer" rather than to a person or organization. There are two fields for amounts. A line below the pay-to field allows you to write the amount of the check in words, while a small box to the right of the pay-to field allows you to write the same amount numerically.

Memo and Signature

The memo line is the last line on the bottom of the check on the left side. You can use this to explain the intended use of the money. For instance, you may write in an account number or put a message like "Happy Birthday" on this line. The signature line is to the right of this line. This is where the account holder signs to validate the check.

Routing and Account Number

The long string of numbers along the bottom of the check are the routing and bank account number. The routing number is the first string closest to the left and represents the bank where the money is held. The second string to the right of that is the bank account number.

Endorsement Lines

You'll find these on the back of the check. The recipient of the check must sign on the lines to be able to cash the check. Banks will compare this signature to the signature on a form of ID presented when cashing the check to ensure that the person who signed the check is the one cashing it. The big, white space below that is for bank use, so it should not be written on.

references