Endorse above this line

How to Endorse a Check

The way you choose to endorse a check depends on what you want to do with the cash associated with it. First, though, a general word of warning about check fraud. The reason why banks require you to endorse checks is to prevent fraud. Signing the back of a check helps to confirm your identity.

However, it is possible for criminals to intercept your check before it is processed, alter the endorsement, and thereby steal the money associated with it. Because of this, you should limit the time between endorsing it and having it processed. This gives criminals the smallest possible window in which to steal it.

You endorse a check by signing the back of it. On most checks there is a box at the top containing a stack of at least three lines that has the heading “Endorse Here,” and another, larger box beneath it with the heading "Do Not Write, Stamp, or Sign Below This Line." You should endorse the check in the top box.

Restrictive Endorsement

The most secure way to do this is called a “restrictive” endorsement. To make one, you should, in any order:

  • Write “For Deposit Only” on one line
  • Write the account number on another line
  • Sign your name on another line

There are other ways to endorse a check, but this is the most secure because it instructs your bank that funds should only be sent into the account you have specified. They can’t be given out as cash or deposited into any other account.

One slight problem with using this method is that the person who gave you the check might be able to see your bank account number because they might receive a copy of the canceled check via their own bank. If you are worried about them seeing your bank account number, it is possible to just write “For Deposit Only.” However, this is a less secure option.

In addition, even if you don’t write your account number on the check, your bank might stamp your account number on the back of it during processing, so the person who gave it to you will see your account number either way. The best option is to stick with the procedure above.

Wait until the last possible moment to endorse your check, so that it cannot be intercepted before it is processed. Doing this helps to guard against check fraud.

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How Do You Endorse a Check for Deposit Only?

Endorsing a check for deposit only, which restricts the ability to cash it, is also called a restrictive endorsement. This method is more secure than a blank endorsement because it limits what can be done with the check. To endorse a check for deposit only:

  1. Turn the check over so you can see the back.
  2. On the top lines, write “For deposit only to account number XXXXXXX.”
  3. Sign your name on the next line.

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Make sure you know where to sign the check – within the endorsement box. You’ll see a line on your check that says, “Do not sign, write, stamp below this line.” Anything you write should be above that line.

Mobile Deposits

Your bank might have additional requirements if you’re making a mobile deposit. You might need to write “For mobile deposit” instead of “For deposit” and check a box that indicates it’s a mobile deposit. Ask your bank or search its website for mobile deposit instructions. There might also be instructions in your mobile app.

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To make a mobile deposit:

  1. Open your banking app.
  2. Click on your bank’s mobile deposit option.
  3. Endorse your check per the app’s instructions.
  4. Take pictures of the front and back of your check.
  5. Confirm the pictures show a clear view of each side of your check.
  6. Enter any information required by the app, such as the amount of your check.
  7. Deposit the check.
  8. Follow your bank’s instructions for how long to keep the paper check.

Do You Have To Endorse a Check If You Write ‘for Deposit Only’?

It’s generally best to still endorse a check, even if you write “for deposit only.” Your endorsement enables your bank to confirm your signature. It’s an important security step that can prevent problems if there are any questions down the road.

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What Is a Third-Party Endorsement?

In this case, you are signing over a check made out to you to someone else. You first write “Pay to the order of” followed by the name of the person you wish to have the funds. Then you sign your name below that. A number of banks will no longer accept such an endorsement, so make sure in advance that your bank will. And even if it will, it may require you to be present for identification purposes when your third party cashes or deposits the check.

About the Author

Chris Seabury is an advocate for the ordinary investor. He has written about topics on personal finance, insurance, economics, current events, college planning, retirement, taxes and investing for Investopedia, Google and Yahoo. He is also the Administrator for Colorado Valley Wealth Management, which works with investors to help them realize their lifetime goals.

Who needs to endorse a check?

Typically, the person receiving the check will need to endorse it. Of course, the person writing the check will need to sign it too, but their signature will go on the front of the check.

But what if the check is made out to you and other recipients?

If this is the case, every payee will have to sign the back of the check to endorse it correctly.

For businesses, the only person who can endorse a check is the company’s owner, unless another employee has been authorized to manage the business finances.

Who Signs To Endorse?

In some cases, it's not clear who should sign the check. Again, the person receiving the check needs to endorse it. The person who initially wrote the check already signed on the front. (See front and back of check example.)

Checks Payable to Multiple People

If a check is payable to you and somebody else, how should you endorse it? Does everybody need to sign, or just one of you? It depends on how the check is written: If the word "and" appears between names, everybody needs to sign.

Checks to Your Business

If you run a business and accept checks, endorsing is slightly different. The check is payable to the business—not to you, the individual who owns the business—so you need to sign on behalf of the business. Anybody else who endorses these checks needs to be authorized to handle funds for the company.

FBO Checks

A check made payable to one party for the benefit of (FBO) another must be endorsed by the first payee. For example, the check might be made payable to a retirement account custodian for a rollover transaction. The custodian will handle the check, and you generally would not need to endorse it.

How to Endorse a Check for a Minor

Ideally, when writing a check to a minor, you should write the name of the parent who will be depositing or cashing the check on the "Pay to the Order of" line, and then write the child's name with the letters FBO on the memo line. FBO means "For the Benefit of." Writing a check this way makes it easy for the parent to take care of the check for the child without any problems. 

But not all checks for minors get written out this way. In that case, here is what you'll want to do. 

Step One: Flip the check over to the back. 

Step Two: In the endorsement area write the child's name with a hyphen and the word "minor" to indicate they are a child. 

Step Three: Then, write your name with a hyphen that indicates your relationship with the child, like mother, father, parent, or guardian. 

Step Four: Finally, sign your name to finish endorsing the check. 

When is the best time to endorse a check?

Ideally, you should wait to endorse a check until just before you deposit it. That's the best way to prevent someone from fraudulently depositing a check made out to you. If you do endorse it early, be sure to add a restriction such as "for deposit only" under your signature.

What Does Endorsing a Check Mean?

When you are writing a check for someone you have to sign your name on the signature line on the front of the check, in order for the check to be useable. If that signature is missing, then the check receiver won't be able to cash or deposit that check. Your signature is needed to give the check receiver permission to take out those funds from your own account. 

Check endorsements work in much the same way. The receiver of the check must validate they are in fact the check receiver by signing their own signature on the back of the check and providing the bank teller or cashier with their ID. This ensures that the check is being cashed or deposited by the correct person. 

Check endorsements also give the bank permission to finish processing the check transaction and get your funds to you. It gives the bank permission to deal with the check sender's account and your account in order to transfer funds from the sender's account to the receiver's account. 

Because endorsing a check is how you authorize the finalization of the check transaction between you and the check sender, you should wait to endorse the check at the bank teller's counter. This will help keep thieves from being able to cash the check because the proper person (you) hasn't endorsed it yet. 

If you are endorsing a check for an electronic deposit then the check will remain in your possession even after you've endorsed it. To keep the check secure, keep others from trying to cash it again, and remind you that you've already taken care of that check, write the word "VOID" in all caps across the front of the check as soon as the electronic deposit goes through. 

Match Name on Check

The name in the endorsement must match the payee (“Pay to the Order Of…”) name on the front of the check.

Spelling Error in Name

If someone gives you a check and they’ve spelled your name incorrectly, endorse the back of the check with the incorrect spelling, and then sign your name with the correct spelling on the back of the check.

Multiple Payees

If a check is made out to multiple people, look for “and” or “or” in the pay-to line. If the check is made out to “John and Jane Smith,” then John and Jane must both endorse the check. If the check is made out to “John or Jane Smith,” then John OR Jane can endorse the check. This is commonly seen when people give a check inside a wedding card. Check the pay-to line to make sure you’re endorsing the check correctly.

Keep your receipt

Keep your receipt, which contains a tracking number. This number can tell you if the right person cashed your money order. And in case it is lost or stolen, you can use the tracking number to help you replace it. There may be a processing fee for replacing money orders. Your receipt can also help you cancel the money order should your plans change.

Endorsing a check via mobile

You can also endorse a check using your mobile phone if you’d prefer.

The best way to do this is to follow the instructions provided by your bank’s app, as they may vary from one another. You will typically be required to take a photo of the check.

Usually, if you endorse a check via mobile, you will have to do a restrictive endorsement. Be sure to write ‘For mobile deposit only’ in the endorsement area, so that the bank knows what type of endorsement it is.

If you don’t include a phrase to this effect, a bank can reject the endorsement attempt.

It’s important if you’re doing a mobile endorsement to check that all the details are correct before you hit ‘send.’

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