Using Checks

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Paying with a check

If you have a US checking account you're allowed to pay people and institution (for example, your University, but also utility bills) by check. It's indeed a way more common payment option in the US than in other countries, for example in most European countries. On the contrary, wire transfer is almost unknown in the US.


Front of a sample check - Click to enlarge


Your copy of the check - Click to enlarge

To pay by check you need to know the exact name of the person or institution that you want to give the money too. For example, if you're paying campus expenses (housing, etc.) at Univeristy of California, the payee is UC Regents (double check at every payment because only the name you write can receive the money).

Here are the instruction to fill in a check, for example a Bank of America check. Other banks shouldn't differ.
This name has to be written clearly in the Pay to the order of field.
In the $ field you have to write the check amount, in dollars, with the two decimal digits. For example 123.45 or 67.00.
You have to write the amount another time in the long field followed by dollars. Here you have to write the amount in letters, spelling it completely (only writing the cents in number). For example one hundred and twenty tre / 45 or //sixty seven / 00 //.

There is another field that is the For field. Here you can write a short note that helps the payee to understand what is the check for. For example you may be asked to write your student no. here.
Last thing, you have to put the date and the signature. Remember that

  • at the date you write the check you must have that amount of money on you account
  • you cannot write a date different from today, especially in the future.

That's it, you can give the check to the payee.

It's not a good idea to show the check to a lot of people, because your account and routing number are printed on the check and this information is private.
Your routing number is the number usually between the two check_routingsign.gif signs, while the account number usually comes before the check_accountnosign.gif sign. These two numbers identify your checking account.
On the checks there is also a check number to enumerate them.

When you write your check, keep it on the top of the block and tear it only when you are done writing it. This way, what you write is automatically carbon copied. This way you can keep a sort of receipt of the check you write. Remember to put a piece of cardboard, or some sheets, or to press not too firmly when you write your check, otherwise the same thing get copied on multiple "receipts"" below. It's not a big problem, it never gets copied on another check.

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