Writing a cheque is an easy, fill-in-the-blank process. Once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. But if you are filling out a cheque for the first time, you might feel most comfortable following these steps:
- Start with the date, which goes in a spot in the top right corner. Often, you’ll use the date when you’re writing the cheque. Cheques are only valid for six months, after which point they can no longer be cashed. You can also write a date in the future known as “post-dating” a cheque. The cheque can’t be cashed until that date.
- Write the name of the beneficiary, or who the cheque is for. This can be a person, an organization, or a business. It’s very important to fill in this section so that no one else can cash the cheque. The beneficiary’s name goes on the line that says “Pay to the order of.”
- Write the amount of money that the cheque is for. You need to do this in two ways. First, write the amount in numbers in the box under the date. Then, on the line under the beneficiary’s name, write out the dollar value of the cheque in words, like “one hundred” or “fifty-three.” You can use numbers over 100 for the cents, like “27/100.” Draw a horizontal line before or after the amounts in the box and on the line to take up any leftover space so that nobody can add extra numbers to make the amount larger.
- Write what the cheque is for under “memo.” This note isn’t required, but it can be helpful in case there’s an argument about what you’re paying for.
- Sign the cheque on the line in the bottom right corner.
Always use blue or black ink when you’re writing a cheque. Don’t use a pencil — someone could erase the information you wrote and add their own name and amount!
How to use cheques
If you are using a cheque to make a payment, fill it out by following the steps above. Then give it to the beneficiary by hand or send it by mail.
The beneficiary will deposit the cheque in their bank account. They can do this in person at their bank, at an ATM, or by using a banking app on their smartphone. At this point the cheque needs to clear; the bank needs to ensure that it’s legitimate and that you have enough funds in your account to make the payment. The clearing process typically takes a couple of days, but many banks will advance the money immediately so it shows up in the beneficiary’s account.
Sometimes, the bank may place a hold on the cheque. This might happen when the bank is unsure whether you have sufficient funds in your account to actually make the payment. A hold also protects the beneficiary from spending money that isn’t actually available in their account. In Canada, the maximum hold time is four business days.
If you don’t have enough money in your account to make the payment, the cheque will bounce. In this case, the funds will be removed from the recipient’s account and you’ll be charged a non-sufficient funds fee. You’ll also still need to make the payment, and depending on the beneficiary, you may be charged a late fee.
If you need to stop the cheque from being deposited after you’ve sent it, you can request a stop payment from your bank. You’ll need to give the bank all the information you wrote on the cheque, and most banks charge a fee for this service. Your request has to be processed before the cheque has been deposited, and if it’s not completed in time, you’ll need to contact the beneficiary to ask for a refund.
Alternatives to writing cheques
Cheques aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be, thanks to technological advances. Many people are becoming more comfortable with other payment methods such as online payments, credit cards, direct deposit, and money transfers via online banking. These methods are much quicker than mailing a cheque and require very little work on both ends. Plus, most of these alternatives offer a lower chance of fraud and more protection in case of any issues.
Tips for avoiding cheque fraud
Cheque fraud is, unfortunately, a possibility. Here are some tips to help you avoid cheque fraud:
- Make sure to write out your cheques properly and in full, not leaving any blank spaces.
- Keep your blank cheques in a safe and secure location.
- Keep an eye on your bank account statements and balances. If anything seems off, get in touch with your bank immediately.
- Shred any leftover cheques after you close a bank account.