Money·4 min read

Yes, Checks Are Still a Thing. Here's How to Fill One Out.

accessibility, check example
Design: theSkimm
December 9, 2022

Let's be real: When was the last time you actually wrote a check? If you can't remember — or if the answer is 'never' — we hear you. But just because you can use your phone to transfer funds (see: CashApp and Venmo) doesn't mean you'll never need to use a checkbook. And in the cases that you do, whether it’s for a security deposit, a gift, or a tuition payment, you're going to need to know how to write a check. Here's how it's done.

First things first. Where can I get a check?

A good starting point is your bank or credit union. They’ll order the checks from a third party and mail them to you. Which will cost you around $20 or more. Sound steep? You can always cut out the middleman and save a few coins by taking the non-bank route through stores like Sam’s Club, Costco, and Walmart. Tons of e-commerce websites like and Vistaprint sell checks, too. 

Can you tell me how to fill out a check?

Here’s a breakdown of everything you’ll need to know to write a check:

accessibility, sections of a check
Design: theSkimm


Usually found at the top right-hand corner. Here’s where you’ll write the date you’re filling out the check. Sometimes, the person you’re paying may agree to take the money a few days later. In those cases, you’d write the date they agreed to cash the check (aka a postdated check).


Look out for ‘Pay to the order of.’ Which is usually toward the top of the check. This is where you’ll put the name of the person or business you’re paying. Important note: Print the info clearly and correctly. Otherwise, the bank might reject the payment. 

Check amount

You’ll need to write the payment amount twice, in two different formats:

  • Numeric: Start with the box to the right of the payee line. Write the amount in numbers. Pro tip: Try to minimize empty space (that can leave room for the amount to be altered). 

  • Written: Below the payee line, spell out the dollar amount of the check. Cents should be written as a fraction. Example: If the check is for $1,234.56, the amount would be written as: One thousand two hundred and thirty-four dollars and 56/100.


Feel free to add what the payment is for. But know: this won’t impact how the check is processed. Think of it like the emoji you'd leave on a Venmo payment for a friend.


Sign the check on the blank line at the bottom right of the check. Without your signature, the check isn’t valid. 

What about the numbers on a check?

Each one of the numbers on a check is important, too.

  • Account number: The account where the money to cover the check will come from. 

  • Routing number: The number used to identify your bank. Hint: It typically starts with a zero. 

  • Check number: You probably figured this out yourself, but this is the number of the specific check you’re writing. They’re listed in numerical order in checkbooks. Mostly for recordkeeping or tracking stolen checks.

Do checks expire?

Yes. Personal checks and payroll checks are usually valid for up to 180 days after they’re written. Some business checks, which are written from a business account, are usually noted as void after 90 days. But most banks honor the 180-day rule. 


Checks may not be the most popular way to pay in the 21st century, but they’re not history yet. Sometimes checks are the only option. And at first glance, you might feel like you’re looking at a math test. Our line-by-line guide is the easiest way to go.

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