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How to Write a Check

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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.

Learn more

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.

Lisa Iannucci |

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

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How Regulation D Affects Your Savings Accounts

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you have a savings or money market account, you may have noticed that there’s a rule that goes with it — no more than six transfers or withdrawals per month from the account. It may feel oddly specific, but it’s true for all savings accounts at all banks and credit unions. Congratulations, you’ve experienced Regulation D.

What is Regulation D?

Regulation D refers to the Federal Reserve’s reserve requirements for depository institutions — or, more plainly, how much money a bank needs to hold in reserve as a percentage of the total amount of money it owes to its customers. So, for instance, currently banks must keep a minimum reserve of 3% of the total amount over $16.3 million and 10% of the total amount over $124.2 million.

Why is this important? “It’s designed to make sure that banks have an appropriate amount of money in reserve,” says Robert Föehl, J.D., executive-in-residence for business law and ethics at Ohio University’s College of Business. “It’s about making sure that banks are safe and sound.”

As part of these reserve requirements, banks must classify what types of deposit accounts they have and keep reserves accordingly. For accounts categorized as savings accounts, Regulation D limits bank customers to six transfers or withdrawals per month. This rule is in place, in part, because banks aren’t required to hold a reserve against savings accounts.

In general, transaction accounts, which include checking accounts, are considered riskier types of deposits. “You write a check; that check could bounce,” Föehl says. “There’s more risk to the financial institution to have transaction accounts than to have savings accounts.”

Savings accounts are considered safer for banks because — by definition — people aren’t using them for all of their financial business. If you’re writing all your checks on your savings account, it’s not really a savings account. “You can’t call something a savings account if it’s a transaction account,” Föehl says. “This is where the limit comes into play.”

Regulation D’s limits are also a way of encouraging people to save, says Mayra Rodríguez Valladares, a financial regulation consultant and trainer in New York City. “The downside is that if you wanted to withdraw more than six transactions a month you could incur some kind of penalty,” she says.

How does Regulation D work for customers?

If you go over your allowed six transfers or withdrawals, your bank may charge you a fee. If you do it regularly, they may convert your account to a checking account or even close your account entirely.

In general, any account that limits “convenient” transfers and withdrawals is considered a savings deposit account and would be covered by Regulation D. These include:

  • Savings accounts: Deposit accounts in which a customer earns interest on the money they deposit, which often have lower minimum deposits.
  • Money market accounts: Deposit accounts in which a customer earns interest on the money they deposit, and the interest is typically higher than a savings account.

These accounts also come with a “reservation of right” requirement, in which the bank reserves the right, at any time, to require seven days’ written notice of an intended withdrawal — but banks don’t typically do this in practice.

Transactions that are limited under Regulation D

Essentially, Regulation D caps transactions that are considered easy for you to initiate without having to drive to a bank or visit an ATM. That would include:

  • Preauthorized, automatic transactions — including those from a savings account for overdraft protection or for direct bill payments
  • Telephone transfers
  • Withdrawals initiated by fax, computer, email or the internet
  • Transfers made by check, debit card or another similar method made by the depositor and payable to third parties

How can I get around the limits of Regulation D?

You may bypass the six-withdrawal limit under certain conditions, including if you’re willing to travel to your local branch in person. “It’s getting to be less and less of a problem,” Valladares says. Transactions that don’t go against your limit include:

  • Transfers and withdrawals made in person at the bank
  • Withdrawals and transfers requested by mail
  • ATM withdrawals and transfers
  • Transfers and withdrawals initiated by telephone, where the withdrawal gets disbursed as a check and mailed to the depositor

How to avoid trouble with Regulation D

If you’re feeling hemmed in by the six-transaction limit of your savings accounts, there are a few ways to work around it:

  • Visit your bank branch or ATM. Transactions made at your local branch or from your bank’s ATM don’t go against your monthly limit — this is the simplest way to avoid trouble with Regulation D.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you’ll need a certain amount of money in a month, don’t drag it out over multiple transactions — get what you need in fewer trips. Withdraw more at a time.
  • Decline overdraft protection. Generally, overdraft protection works by dipping into your savings account if you write a check that your checking account can’t cover. That counts as one of your six transactions, but if you decline overdraft protection, it can’t happen.
  • Get a checking account. If you need more than six transfers or withdrawals, save yourself some trouble and get a checking account with unlimited transaction power.
  • Don’t pay bills from your savings or money market accounts. Your checking account makes the most sense for regular payment withdrawals. Reconsider setting up a direct debit from your savings account, which will count toward your six transactions.

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.

Kate Ashford
Kate Ashford |

Kate Ashford is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate at [email protected]

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I Lost My Debit Card, What Should I Do?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

You’ve dug through your purse, rifled through your drawers and turned the house upside down — but no matter where you look, you can’t find your debit card. What do you do now?

Whether you have a lost debit card, or you suspect it could have been stolen, here are the immediate steps you should take to protect yourself.

Log into your account online as soon as possible

Check your account balance immediately and go over your purchase history for any transactions you don’t recognize, even if they are in small amounts. Take note of any purchases you know are fraudulent or unauthorized, and write down all the details.

You might even be able to disable or lock your lost debit card via your bank’s app or website, said Kris Alban, executive vice president of iGrad, a San Diego-based financial literacy company.

“Bank of America, Wells Fargo and a few other banks offer this feature, making it possible to shut down the card yourself within seconds of theft or loss,” he said.

Call your bank and notify them about the lost debit card

Let your bank know that you have a lost debit card, and inform them of any suspicious transactions you’ve noted from checking your account online.

Below is a handy alphabetical table of contact phone numbers for major U.S. banks, depending on whether you’re calling from the U.S. or from abroad. If you can’t find your bank below, check their website for their toll-free customer service number.

BankFrom the U.S.From abroad
Bank of America800-432-1000+1 315-724-4022
Capital One800-655-2265+1 804-967-1000
Chase800-935-9935+1 713-262-3300
Citibank800-274-6660+1 813-604-3000
PNC Bank888-762-2265+1 412-803-7711
US Bank800-872-2567+1 503-401-9991
Wells Fargo800-869-3557Check number to call here

Decide whether you want to cancel the lost debit card outright and get a replacement, or simply put a temporary hold just in case it turns up somewhere in between your sofa cushions. There may be a fee for the replacement card or to have it rushed to you in case you need it right away.

Whatever the course of action, make sure to keep track of your conversation by asking for the confirmation number for your case and the name and employee ID of the person you speak to. Keep this information somewhere safe and easily accessible.

Understand your rights under the law

According to Alban, the sooner you report your lost debit card, the more likely it is you’ll recover any funds that were stolen.

“While debit cards don’t have the same protections as credit cards, there are federal laws that protect you,” he said.

Federal law stipulates the following:

  • If you contact your financial institution within two business days of the discovery of the missing card, if fraudulent charges have already been made, the most you’ll be responsible for is $50.
  • If you wait longer than two days to report a lost debit card, your liability increases to $500.
  • If you don’t inform your card issuer for more than 60 days after receiving your next statement, you’ll be responsible for all unauthorized charges.

Thanks to the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, you are not responsible for any charges incurred on your card after you’ve notified your bank of its loss.

Cancel any recurring or scheduled debit transactions

Make alternative arrangements to pay your bills, so you don’t get hit with late fees or get your electricity suddenly cut off without warning. Update your suppliers as needed with your new bank card information once you receive it.

Follow up with your bank in writing, if required

Some banks may ask you to provide written confirmation of any disputed transactions on you account; make sure you follow up in writing within 10 business days.

In most cases, your bank or card issuer has 10 business days to investigate the issue. If they need more time, they need to issue a temporary credit to your account of the disputed amount — minus $50, maximum — while they continue to investigate. They have to correct any errors within one business day after determining them and must report their findings to you within three business days.

Implement a plan of action to ensure it doesn’t happen again

Some measures you can put in place for your added security include changing the PIN number to your card and asking your bank to alert you when purchases are made over a certain amount.

Ensure your bank can get ahold of you in case of an emergency, and that you also have their toll-free number handy if you need to contact them again in a hurry.

To avoid an embarrassing situation where you find yourself unable to pay, consider getting a backup credit card for emergencies.

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.

Barbara Balfour
Barbara Balfour |

Barbara Balfour is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Barbara here

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