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How to Write a Check

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Writing a personal check has almost become as obsolete as using a floppy disk or folding a paper map. In today’s digital age, whether you are buying milk or a pair of shoes, paying bills or giving back money you owe to a friend, you typically pay for it all using a debit card, credit card or a money app. They are faster and easier to use than writing out a paper check, and sometimes come with rewards.

However, there are certain circumstances where personal checks are preferred. “Some landlords ask for the rent to be paid by check and some people do not have access to apps or smartphones,” said Erin Lowry, author of “Broke Millennial Takes On Investing: A Beginner’s Guide to Leveling Up Your Money.”

“Most people also write a check when they are gifting money at a wedding or graduation, even though at those events you can still use apps like Venmo or PayPal.”

If you do not know how to write a check, or the last one that you wrote was back in 1992, here are the step-by-step instructions you need:

Date: Write the date that you wrote out the check. “You can also post date a check for it to be cashed at a later time,” said Kara Stevens, founder of The Frugal Feminista and author of “The Happy Finances Challenge.”

“Just make sure that no matter what date you write on the check, the funds are available [that day],” she said.

Pay to the order: On this line, write out the name of the person or business whom you are paying. For example, let’s say Aunt Mabel fronted you $50 for movie tickets, you would write out her full name, Mabel Smith, on this line. Paying for groceries at Walmart? Then write “Walmart” here. Sending your dentist a payment for your root canal? The dentist’s full and legal business name must be written out. Ask what it is if you are not sure.

In some situations, you may not want to put a name on this line. Instead, you can write the check out to “cash” so it can be cashed or deposited by anyone. It’s convenient, yes, but it comes with the risk that someone you didn’t intend to can find it and deposit or cash it.

Amount in numbers: In the box next to the dollar sign, write in the numeric amount of the check. For example, if you are paying back Aunt Mabel, you would write the amount as $50.00 or $50.—. How to write a check with cents? If the amount has dollars and cents, write it like this: $105.93.

Amount in words: On the long line in front of “dollars,” write out the dollar amount of the check in words and the cents as a fraction. For example, Aunt Mabel’s $50 would become “Fifty and 00/100.” The price of those cool shoes as dollars and cents would be written as “One hundred five and 93/100.”

Then, draw a line from the end of the fraction to the end of the line. “Drawing this line prevents someone from fraudulently changing the amount,” said Stevens.

Most importantly, the numbers in the box must match what’s written out in words. “When my husband and I got married in 2018, we received a check that had $100.00 written in the box, but ‘Two hundred and 00/100’ written out. We couldn’t cash it because of this discrepancy,” said Lowry.

Signature: Every check must be signed legibly by you. Some stores have machines that will automatically fill in everything on the check for you except your signature. Only do this at the store and watch that the check has been completely filled out. “Do not sign a blank check,” said Stevens. “Anyone can fill in their name and cash it.”

“Once you are done, record the date of the check as well as the check number, amount and who you wrote it out to in your checkbook register,” said Stevens, who said that to stay organized, you should write out your checks in numerical order.

Memo: Stevens said that the memo section is often overlooked, but should be used every time you write out a check. “Write a reminder for yourself here that you bought a gift for mom or repaid a friend,” she said. It’s not necessary to write out a memo, but over time, you may not remember what the check was for. Since banks no longer send copies of the check back to you once they are cashed or deposited, you can still see a picture of the check and your memo electronically.

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Voiding checks: When setting up a direct deposit or automatic bill payment, an employer or bank may need a voided check from you. To write a void check, simply write the word VOID in big capital letters across the entire face of the check. “It prevents someone else from cashing it,” said Stevens.

Account numbers: On the bottom of your checks, there are two sets of important numbers that you should memorize. The one on the left is your bank’s routing number and the number on the right is your personal checking account number. Knowing these numbers is important in case you lose your checks or must call the bank.

Stevens also suggests keeping your extra checks in a safe location inside your home. “If someone does break in, they can steal your checks and use them to take money from you,” she said. “Treat your checkbook as you would your credit or debit card.”

Keep in mind that when you write a personal check to pay for items, you may be asked to show identification.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Lisa Iannucci |

Lisa Iannucci is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lisa here

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Banking

Best Savings Accounts for Kids

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Piggy banks are fun for small change, but if you want to teach your kids important lessons about managing money and the power of compound interest, get them their own savings account. While your local bank branch probably offers more than one savings account product, you might consider looking online for one that’s designed with children in mind.

To aid in your search, we have chosen six savings accounts tailored for kids from a selection of nearly 100 kids’ savings options offered at banks and credit unions around the country. We based our selections on how well they met these five criteria:

  • Competitive annual percentage yield (APY): Accounts should demonstrate the rewards you can get by saving your money, and a competitive interest rate helps achieve that objective.
  • Low fees: Kids don’t need to lose their money to fees, so finding an account with zero fees was important.
  • Low minimum deposits: Most kids don’t have a large amount of money to save when they first open an account. Having a low minimum deposit requirement can help them get started quicker.
  • Broad geographical reach: Banks and credit unions need to be available to a large geographic market, with extra points for physical locations where kids can go and deposit cash and coins.
  • Great educational tools: Savings accounts that are geared to kids should have some educational tools to help them learn about what it takes to achieve financial success. Bonus points if the tools are fun, too.

 

Best overall savings account for kids: Capital One

Kids Savings Account from Capital One Capital One’s Kids Savings Account has all of the features you’d expect to see in a savings account for adults but with the additional feature of parental controls, which makes it a great overall solution for kids of all ages. The account earns 1.00% APY, has no monthly fees and can be opened with $0. You can set it up the account, and make your initial deposit at a later date.

The Kids Savings Account parental controls allows parents to sign into the account under their own usernames and passwords to help their children manage their funds. Parents always control transfers in and out of the account, offering good balance between independence for the young holder and parental oversight. Kids get to view their balance and watch their money grow.

Capital One lets you create an automatic savings plan linked with other accounts, so you can automatically transfer your child’s allowance into their Kids Savings Account. When it comes to geographical reach, Capital One has approximately 500 branch locations, as well as a great mobile banking app, which allows you to deposit checks and check balances.

Capital One Kids Savings Account
APY: 1.00%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Opening Balance: $0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

Member FDIC

Best savings account for college savings: Citizens Bank

CollegeSaver from Citizens Bank (RI) If you want to be rewarded for consistent savings, the Citizens Bank CollegeSaver account has a bonus you might consider. If you open the account before your child is six and make a deposit of at least $25 each month until your child turns 18, Citizens Bank will give you a $1,000 bonus (the current account APY is a low 0.05%). You can also open this account if your child is between 6 and 12 years of age, but the minimum monthly deposit will be $50 and opening deposit is $500.

If you were to open the account today with an initial deposit of $25 upon the birth of a child (and assume the current APY held for 18 years), and then deposit $25 a month for 18 years, your $5,400 investment would accrue $24.48 in interest. Add the bonus and you’ll end up with $6,449.48. The bank doesn’t put any stipulations on how the money can be spent, so you can use the balance for college or any other financial needs.

Citizens Bank CollegeSaver
APY: 0.05%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Opening Balance: $25 for children under six years old; $500 for children age six to 12

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citizens Bank (RI)’s secure website

Member FDIC

Best savings account for a young child: PNC Bank

S is for Savings from PNC Bank If you want to engage your child with educational tools, PNC’s S is for Savings account offers a lot. Granted, this account offers the lowest APY of the banks that made this list, but it makes up for it with its interactive online banking experience.

The Learning Center features Sesame Street characters that will help them learn basic money concepts. The site has fun activities you and your child can do together.

Features include the ability to set up automatic savings deposits that help them see the benefits of having a savings routine. Kids can work towards goals and learn about the three components of money: saving, sharing and spending. As your child gets older, you may choose to transfer their accumulated balance to a savings account at a bank that offers a higher interest rate.

PNC Bank’s S is for Savings
APY: 0.01%
Monthly Fees: $0 for account holders under 18
Minimum Opening Balance: $25

LEARN MORE Secured

on PNC Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Best savings account for teens: Alliant Credit Union

Kids Savings Account from Alliant Credit Union When your child turns 13, Alliant Credit Union considers them to be a young adult, offering their High-Rate Savings Account with a 2.10% APY and no monthly fees. For teens who want to set savings goals, the credit union allows them to set up supplemental accounts that can be earmarked for specific items, such as saving for a new car.

What makes this a great option for a teen is that Alliant also offers an interest-paying teen checking account for kids ages 13-17. The checking account earns an APY of 0.65%. The two accounts can be linked and both will earn your teen interest. Alliant also refunds up to $20 per month in ATM fees if the teen uses out-of-network machines.

To open an account at Alliant Credit Union, you must be a member. Membership is open to employees or former employees of partner businesses or organizations. Or you can join by making a $10 donation to the Foster Care to Success Foundation.

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Savings:
APY: 2.10%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Opening Balance: $5

LEARN MORE Secured

on Alliant Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Best APY for a kid’s savings account: Spectrum Credit Union

MySavings from Spectrum Credit Union Spectrum Credit Union currently offers the highest interest rate on the market for a kid’s savings account, but only on a relatively limited balance. Spectrum’s MySavings account earns 7.00% APY on account balances up to $1,000, making for a rate that’s higher than many CDs. Balances over $1,000 earn the regular savings rate, which is 0.50%. A high interest rate can help get kids excited about savings as their balance will grow quicker.

Spectrum Credit Union currently has branches in six states, but deposits can be made nationwide through the Credit Union CO-OP Shared Network. Membership is open to anyone by joining the Contra Costa County Historical Society ($15 membership fee) or the Navy League of the United States ($25 annual membership fee).

Spectrum Credit Union MySavings
APY: 7.00% for the first $1,000; 0.50% on balances above $1,000
Monthly Fees: $0 for account holders under 18
Minimum Opening Balance: $0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Spectrum Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Best online tools for a kid’s savings account: Capital One

Kids Savings Account from Capital One Kids are digital natives, and that makes a kid’s savings account’s online banking features extra important. In addition to being our pick for best overall savings account for kids, the Capital One Kids Savings Account offers a great selection of online saving and budgeting tools that will keep kids engaged and informed.

One of the best features is the ability to create additional savings accounts and set a target goal for each account. For example, you child may set a goal for holiday gifts, another goal for a new bike or car and another goal for vacation money. They can even give each account a nickname, such as “My Wheels Fund.”

Capital One has a full suite of online tools for your child to track their progress and success, helping to keep them focused on their goals. Capital One also offers standard features on its mobile banking app, some of which are available for kids, including the ability to check their balance or make a mobile deposit.

Capital One Kids Savings Account
APY: 1.00%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Balance: $0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

Member FDIC

Why your kid should have a savings account

It’s never too early to start teaching your kids about money, and a savings account is a great tool to help accomplish this aim. According to the 9th Annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey by T. Rowe Price, 55% of parents said their child has a savings account, but just 23% of kids said that they talk to their parents frequently about money. Parents who discuss financial topics with their kids at least once a week are more likely to have kids who say they are smart about money than than those who do not have a discussion with their children.

Savings accounts show kids the value of saving at an early age. They get to watch their money grow as compound interest work its magic, and they can set short- and long-term goals for the money they save. The reward of achieving the goals will teach life lessons on patience and planning. Once you open an account for your kids, share money management tips with them, things like “paying yourself first” by saving a portion of gifts and allowances they receive instead of spending it all.

When you teach your child good money habits early on, you help set them up for success later in life. Putting your child on the path for financial responsibility and independence by choosing the best savings account for kids could be the greatest gift you can give them.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here

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Banking

Money Management Tips to Help You Save Successfully

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Increasing your savings is easier said than done. The National Endowment for Financial Education’s most recent annual consumer survey found that saving money is the biggest cause of financial stress for more than 51% of Americans. If you feel the same way about your savings, don’t despair. There’s a way to manage your money instead of letting it manage you.

Top 14 money management tips

Have enough income to cover your monthly expenses, but can’t seem to gain traction when it comes to building a college savings fund, saving for a down payment on a home or growing your retirement nest egg? Start by taking charge of your finances by using these simple, yet practical, money management tips.

1. Use a budgeting app

Tracking your spending on the go is easy when you use a budgeting and personal finance app, like Mint or YNAB. Simply download your app of choice and, if you want to, link it to your bank account. You can then input your fixed and variable expenses and monitor your spending with the swipe of a finger. Keeping your budget within arm’s reach also helps you to stay on top of your daily spending and stick to a monthly budget.

2. Trim unnecessary expenses

Examine your spending habits to determine where you can cut unnecessary spending. Food is a common expense that can be reduced with a little planning. A grocery shopping list can be your first line of defense against overspending, as it’s easier to make impulse buys at the grocery store when you don’t have a shopping list to guide your purchases.

3. Commit to a written savings goal

Establishing a clear savings goal can keep you motivated and put a stop to impulse buys. Make your goal SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. For example: “I will transfer $100 a month to my savings account so that by Month 20YY, I will have $800 to put toward a new television.” Post your written goal in visible locations to help reinforce your commitment to achieving it.

4. Live below your means

Spending more than you earn is a recipe for financial heartburn. When you have more bills than money with which to pay them, you could be subject to late fees and other financial penalties which make it harder to save. Cancel services you no longer need or can access at a lower cost. For example, nix the gym membership if you haven’t used it in five months or downgrade your cable package to only include the channels you actually watch.

5. Pay off debt

Eliminating debt may allow you to save more money. By bringing your balances to zero as quickly as possible, you’ll save on future interest charges. To potentially save money now, consider refinancing your debt to a lower interest rate or transferring your debt to a credit card with a lower interest rate.

Once your credit cards and loans are paid in full, you’ll have additional funds to contribute toward your financial goals. Use the same amount you were paying your creditors each month and deposit those funds into your savings account.

6. Build an emergency fund

Financial experts recommend stashing three to six months of living expenses in a liquid high yield deposit account in case of an unexpected job loss or another financial emergency. If this sounds overwhelming, start with a smaller goal of $500 for your emergency fund.

You can grow your emergency fund account by setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your emergency savings account each pay period. To grow your emergency fund faster, consider cutting unnecessary expenses, selling unused items around your home, depositing your tax refund or starting a side job.

Without an emergency fund, you risk paying for your next dental emergency or major car repair with your credit card or a personal loan, which can keep you in a debt cycle that’s hard to escape.

7. Increase your income

As long as you save the money instead of spending it, increasing your income with a side hustle, part-time job or more hours at the office is one of the quickest ways to reach your savings goal.

Before adding additional work to your already busy schedule, determine how many hours you have available along with how many months or years you’ll need to commit to the side hustle. When searching for side jobs, be wary of jobs that require an initial outlay of money to get started.

8. Plan for a regular review

Block out time on your calendar to evaluate your progress toward your savings goals. Consider establishing a monthly or bi-weekly financial review. Asking yourself if you’re still on track or if you’re able to contribute more towards your objectives is key to meeting your goals. A quick assessment of your savings plan can also help identify areas where you may still need to reduce expenses.

9. Never pay full price

Online and mobile coupons make it easy to save on groceries, clothing and big-ticket items like televisions and computers. When saving money is convenient, you’re more likely to stick to your savings plan. Do you do most of your shopping online? Install browser extensions that give you cash back when you shop through their online portals. Is mobile shopping more your thing? Download your choice of mobile app that offers cash back, gift cards and notifications of online and in-store deals.

10. Eat out less

Brown bag lunches and meal planning are smart money management strategies that can save you thousands of dollars annually, but sometimes you’ll want to treat yourself. To keep your spending under control, be selective about when and where you eat out. Make a list of local happy hours, upcoming culinary events and prix fixe restaurants to reinvent what it means to eat out on a budget.

11. Bank your financial windfalls

While it may be tempting to go on a shopping spree, upgrade your ride or take a weeklong vacation in the Caribbean when you get a financial windfall, that might leave you with a financial hangover. Once the thrill has subsided, you’re no closer to your savings goal. Instead, be strategic with any unexpected funds that come your way. Commit to adding at least half of these funds to your savings account.

12. Make savings automatic

Contact your financial institution to sign up for electronic funds transfer. This allows you to designate a set dollar amount for transfer from one account to another before you spend it on something else. For example, set $50 to automatically transfer from your checking account to your savings account on the fifth of each month.

If you have multiple savings goals, use a money savings app connected to your bank account to help to make auto transfers goal-specific.

13. Entertain your options

Movie buffs and avid readers rejoice! Free and low-cost services are available that allow you to binge-watch or read the latest big hit without busting your budget.

Movie rewards programs are available across the country. These programs allow you to earn points based on the amount you spend. Points can then be redeemed for additional movie tickets or concession items. Movie clubs allow fans to consume at least one movie per month at a discounted rate in addition to concession discounts.

The public library is an often overlooked resource for endless media entertainment. Look beyond the hardcover and paperback books, and you’ll find CDs, DVDs and magazines. Many libraries now provide a portion of their catalog online, which means you can access e-books, audiobooks, movies and music on your device of choice — for free.

14. Become rate savvy

Online search tools can reduce the time it takes to locate financial institutions offering the best returns on savings deposits. Use the Maximize Your Bank Savings tool from DepositAccounts, another LendingTree company, to help you identify the best place to park your funds to meet a specific goal. The higher the annual percentage yield (APY) the account pays on deposits, the faster your money can grow. Generally, certificates of deposit (CDs) limit withdrawals but offer higher APYs over savings accounts.

Next steps

A consistent savings habit is necessary to reach both short-term and long-term financial goals. If you’re intentional with your money, you’ll see the results. Recognize each achievement for what it is — documented proof that you’re in control of your financial future. Open a dedicated savings account today, and you might only be a few months away from achieving your first savings goal.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Tracy Scott
Tracy Scott |

Tracy Scott is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Tracy here