Paper checks haven't quite become fossilized yet, even if you can't remember the last time – if ever – you wrote one. It's far more common to pay bills online or make purchases with the swipe of a card, but a time might come when neither option is available. To further complicate things, you might be asked to make payment in an even dollar amount, such as $50 instead of $49.95. What to do?
Writing a check might be one of the simpler things you'll ever do because every box and line is labeled, but you still have to know how to enter information there.
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The Number Box
Look at the upper right corner of your check and you'll see the check number and a date line below that. Then you'll see an elongated box with a dollar sign next to it below the date line and to the right of a line that says, "Pay to the order of." This is the number box, and it's where you'll enter in digits the amount of the check you're writing.
Fifty dollars would appear as "50.00." Zero cents would be designated with two zeros. Including the decimal point is very important because you're effectively writing a check for $5,000 without it. You don't have to write in the dollar sign because that's already printed on the check.
The Dollars Line
Now you're going to enter the amount of the check in words, too, just to be absolutely clear how much money you're paying. A long line runs across the check from side to side below the "pay to the order" line and the number box. It should be anchored by the word "dollars" on the right side. This is the dollars line, and you'll again enter the amount of the check here.
The word "dollars" is already printed here, too, so you don't have to repeat it. Write in "Fifty and —" on the left side, then draw a line all the way across the check right after the word "and." You'll want to leave only enough space on the right side to enter more numbers for your zero cents notation, and you should enter this as a fraction. Writing "00/100" – zero out of a possible 100 cents – is recommended.
Other Options for the Dollar Line
The checkbook police probably won't be coming after you with handcuffs if you want to get a little more creative. You can enter "NO/100" instead of "00/100" if you want to be emphatic, or "XX/100." You can even write out "zero cents" after the line rather than use a fraction.
It’s All About Caution
The point of all this is to ensure that no one can easily change the amount on your check, such as from $50 to $500 or even $50,000. In fact, some institutions recommend entering zero cents as "NO/100" rather than "00/100" because zeros can easily be converted to other numbers, such as eights, sixes or nines.
Drawing a line between the dollar amount and the cents amount on the dollars line prevents anyone from adding more words to indicate a higher dollar amount.
And you'll definitely want to put a name on that "Pay to the order of" line as well. If you simply write the check to "cash," anyone who has possession of the check can cash it. The same goes for signing a check before you've filled in the name of the person or company you're paying or clearly stating the amount. Anyone who gets their hands on it can make it out however they like if you don't fill in all the boxes and lines yourself. And, of course, you'll want to keep that checkbook in a safe place, too.