How Check-Savvy Are You? Basics to Keep in Mind

Wendy Blaeser August 30th, 2018
Deluxe, Payments

“Dear Gen Z, the small, rectangular piece of paper your parents are writing on and putting in an envelope is called a check.”

Tongue-in-cheek? Yes and no. Many in this new generation, and in some respects, millennials, too, have never written a check. With many retailers no longer accepting checks as payment, digital payments now commonplace for everything from credit card bills to utilities to monthly rent, and cash transfers as simple as pushing a button on an app, there has been little reason for these young people to even see a checkbook, let alone use one.

There’s a problem with that. Aside from a zombie apocalypse disabling the digital infrastructure and leaving a whole generation wondering how to pay their bills (or exist at all) without an app, these Gen Z kids are entering the workforce. People in the financial services industry, where checks are still alive and kicking, are going to have to do some very basic training for the Gen Z kids who choose to get into the financial workplace. Customers will need help ordering checks, and the back of the house will need to process check payments, so Gen Z needs to know more than they know about it now.

Here’s a quiz for your Gen Z employees, and anyone else who might be rusty on all things check related:

What’s the most important line on a check?

  • The date
  • The “Pay to the Order of” line
  • The amount
  • The signature

Answer: They’re all important and need to be filled out correctly.

What if the date on the check is in the future? 

  • The bank won’t cash it or take it for deposit
  • It might go through, especially if it is deposited at an ATM
  • It depends on the bank’s policy

Answer: All of the above. So it’s best to write the correct date on the check. If you’re post-dating it for someone to cash on or after the date you put on the check, know they might cash it sooner and it might go through.

I can leave the Memo line blank

  • True
  • False

Answer: True. It’s just a reminder for you or your payee, or if your payee requests your phone number or other information.

What is a routing number?

  • The 9-digit code on the bottom left-hand corner of your check
  • The number to the right of that 9-digit code

Answer: A routing number is the 9-digit code on the bottom left-hand corner of a check. It is usually identified with the bank where you opened your account, and it proves the bank maintains an account with the Federal Reserve. Smaller banks usually just have one routing number for all accounts, but larger banks can have several routing numbers associated with them. The number to the right of the routing number, usually eight to 10 digits, is the account number, which identifies individual accounts.

How do I endorse a check?

  • Sign your name on the back of the check
  • Write “for deposit only” under your signature
  • Add your account number

Answer: Sign your name on the back of the check and, if it’s your preference, you can write “for deposit only” under your signature. But your account number is unnecessary. Some banks require “for deposit only” to help eliminate or reduce check fraud, but others don’t require it. Either way, it is a good general practice.

If you found this blog very basic, congrats, you are likely over 35 and grew up in a time when checks were the lifeblood of our payment system. Share this with other younger co-workers and even your customers. For those of you that learned something new, you are the reason we put this together. Hopefully, it was a helpful resource for the next time you need to make a paper payment. Please share this with your peers and refer back to this blog next time you write or receive a check.

At Deluxe, we’re the experts on all things check. From creating the first personal checkbook more than a century ago to evolving into e-checks and other digital payments, we’re here to help.

This content is accurate at the time of publication and may not be updated.