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Banking

How to Write a Check

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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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Banking

How Much Will My Stimulus Check Be? Calculate Your Payment

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.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to batter the economy — prompting the stock market to plummet and unemployment claims to spike — the U.S. federal government is throwing taxpayers a life raft, in the form of stimulus checks.

Congress has passed a $2 trillion relief bill that aims to provide emergency assistance to individuals, families and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including one-time payments made to individuals. The amount of money you can expect to see from Uncle Sam, though, is based on a number of factors, ranging from how much money you make to how many children you have.

Who qualifies for a stimulus check?

Under the relief bill — dubbed the CARES Act — most adults who have a valid Social Security number will be able to qualify for a stimulus check, with the size of that check based on your 2019 or 2018 tax return.

You must file a simple tax return if you don’t usually file a return: You also qualify for a stimulus check if you receive Social Security benefits for disability, retirement or Supplemental Security Income, according to the AARP. If you typically do not file a tax return because you receive Social Security benefits or have a low income, however, you will need to file a simple tax return to receive your cash payment.

You must fall below income thresholds: The bulk of those who do not qualify for a stimulus check will likely be high-earners: Under the CARES Act, if you’re an individual with no children who earns over $99,000 or are a married couple that filed jointly and are making more than $198,000, you are not eligible to receive a stimulus check.

You cannot be claimed as a dependent of someone else: Additionally, in order to receive a stimulus check, you cannot be claimed as a dependent of someone else. That’s noteworthy, and may mean that millions of dependents who are not children under the age of 17 could end up missing out on relief checks. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, filers only receive an additional $500 for each child under 17, which could be problematic for people who support dependents like the elderly, adults with disabilities and college students.

You must have a valid Social Security number: To receive a rebate check, each member of the household (including children) is also required to have a valid Social Security number. Per the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, this may mean that households of certain immigrant families with children who are U.S. citizens could still be denied a stimulus check.

How much are the stimulus checks?

The amount of your stimulus check is based off of your adjusted gross income, as well as how many children under the age of 17 you have. Here’s how the one-time, non-taxable payments break down:

  • Up to $1,200 per adult
  • Up to $2,400 for couples filing joint returns
  • $500 per child under the age of 17

However, the checks start to decrease by $5 for every additional $100 of income beyond the following income thresholds:

  • $75,000 for individuals
  • $112,500 for head of households (typically single parents)
  • $150,000 for couples who filed a joint return

Certain individuals with higher adjustable gross incomes aren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check at all. The checks completely phase out at the following income thresholds:

  • $99,000 for individuals with no children
  • $198,000 for married couples with no children

How does the government determine how much I get?

The government will determine the size of your cash payment based on the adjusted gross income (or your total gross income minus certain deductions, such as 401(k) contributions) and information reported on your 2019 tax return. For those who have not filed a 2019 tax return, tax returns from 2018 may be used instead to determine your check amount.

If you don’t typically file taxes and have no income – and instead rely on Social Security benefits – you are still eligible to receive a stimulus check. However, in an update on March 30, the IRS stated that those who “typically do not file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment.” This includes low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return. They will not owe tax.

When will I get my stimulus check?

According to the CARES Act, the cash payments should be made as “rapidly as possible.” On March 30, the IRS announced that the distribution of the payments will begin within the next three weeks.

It’s also worth noting that if you have signed up for direct deposit with the IRS and have chosen to have your tax refunds deposited electronically — as opposed to receiving your tax refunds by mail as a paper check — you will likely receive your stimulus check faster, too.

Still, experts have been critical of that timeline, and have instead said the payment process could take months, not weeks. In 2009, for example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) took three months to send out checks to households as a cushion during the Great Recession.

How will I receive my stimulus check?

You can expect your stimulus check from the IRS to be either directly deposited into your bank account or mailed to you, based on the method in which you requested to receive your tax refund. However, the IRS also announced that in the coming weeks, the Treasury Department plans to open a web-based portal in which people can share their banking information with the IRS, enabling them to receive their payments via direct deposit as opposed to waiting for a check in the mail.

If you have filed your 2019 or 2018 taxes, there is no action needed from you, and the IRS will issue your payment automatically. In fact, the IRS is actually asking consumers not to contact them about the stimulus checks, stating it will make details available on its website.

Determine how much you will get from your stimulus check

To find out how much you can expect to receive from your stimulus check, reference the table below.

What you should do with your stimulus check

As many Americans face furlough or unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a recent survey by MagnifyMoney found that most people intend to use their stimulus checks on necessities, like paying bills and buying groceries.

Many experts recommend keeping the money you receive from your rebate liquid, like in an emergency savings account, which should have enough funds to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

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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ACH Transfers: Explained

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.

ACH transfers in action
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You may have come across the term ACH when looking at different banking options or making certain banking transactions.

ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, which is a network and processing system that financial institutions use to transmit funds electronically between banks and credit unions. ACH transfers help to cut down on costs and processing times.

ACH transfers can include depositing funds directly to your account (transfers in, or credits to you), or transferring money out of your account to make payments (debits to you). For example, when your employer deposits your paycheck to your bank instead of handing you a paper check, that is an ACH transfer. Other direct deposits made by ACH transfer can include income tax refunds or other types of refunds. ACH direct payments (transfers out) often are used when you pay credit card or retailers’ bills (either one-off or recurring).

How long does it take for an ACH transfer to process?

ACH debit and credit transactions tend to process pretty fast. The National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) has operating rules that specifically require ACH credits — when you receive money — to settle within one-to-two business days. ACH debits — when you pay money — will settle the next business day. In most cases, all ACH transfers are settled within the same business day. But that doesn’t mean that money will land in your bank account that quickly. It could take as long as a few days, depending on your bank or credit union’s rules and regulations.

ACH money transfers — rules and fine print

Most financial institutions don’t charge a fee for incoming or outgoing ACH transfers. However, you are limited to six withdrawals per month for a savings account based on the Regulation D rule. So, if you go over that limit, your bank or credit union may charge you what’s known as an excess transaction fee.

Another fee you may encounter is a non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee — when you don’t have enough funds to cover the amount you’re transferring. Whether this fee is charged at all, and its amount, depends on the financial institution, so it’s best to check with yours.

Also depending on the financial institution, the limits on transfer amounts will differ. NACHA imposes a $25,000 daily limit on individual transactions. In other words, if you make multiple transactions, each one is limited to $25,000 in a single day. If you go over that amount, then your transfer will be processed the next day.

Wire transfers vs. ACH transfers

Both wire and an ACH transfers involve one financial institution sending funds to another one. Although both are electronic transfers, wire transfers use a different network, called Fedwire, and can involve transfers within the U.S. or internationally. Wire transfers are sent directly from one physical place to another, whereas ACH transfers are sent through a network.

In addition to making a wire transfer at a bank, you may make it at a nonbank provider — companies specifically designed to help you send money domestically or abroad. These companies may not require you to give your bank information. Instead you’ll need the receiver’s name, your personal details and the cash upfront that you intend to send. With an ACH transfer, on the other hand, don’t have this option.

Free and fast ways to transfer money

ACH transfers aren’t the only way to send or receive money. There are many other options that allow you to get almost instant access to funds with no fees involved. Two of these are cited below.

Zelle

Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment service where users can receive, send or request money to and from other bank accounts by using either an email address or phone number. This works even if the sender and receiver use different banks. Zelle claims that it can send money within minutes for no fee.

Many banks already offer Zelle via their existing online platform or mobile banking app. So, you may access it that way. However, if your bank does not have Zelle embedded in its system, then you may download Zelle’s own mobile app, create an account and use it to send and receive money.

Popmoney

Similar to Zelle, Popmoney is is a payment service that may be available at your bank (via their mobile or online banking services) for free. All you need is the recipient’s email address or phone number and you can send money. If you decide to use the service via PopMoney’s website, you’ll be charged $0.95 per transaction. There is also a monthly limit of $5,000 if transfering from a bank account and $1,000 if doing so with a debit card. If you’re using PopMoney via your financial institution, you’ll need to check with them to see what their limits are.

Tips for sending money safely

When sending money online, you want to be sure that you’re sending the money to the right person and that your own personal details are protected. Sounds obvious, but for example, double check your Wi-Fi connection to make sure that it’s secured. Of course you don’t want hackers to steal your sensitive information.

You’ll also want to ensure that you are sending money to a reputable place. NACHA created a booklet to help consumers spot scams and fraudulent behavior, such as merchant impersonations — that is, when someone pretends to be a company and states that you owe money on a purchase or a bill.

If you find fraudulent activity in your account, notify your bank as soon as possible. Sometimes you can reverse your ACH transfer if you accidentally sent the wrong amount or you suspect that there’s been an error.

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.