What You Need To Know About the Back of a Check

What Is Mobile Check Deposit?

Mobile check deposit is a mobile banking tool that allows you to deposit checks to your bank account using your mobile device. Instead of depositing checks at the ATM, your bank’s drive-through window or with a teller inside the lobby, you can add them to your account from wherever you happen to be, whether that’s at home, at work or on vacation.

The types of checks you may be able to add to your account using mobile check deposit include personal checks, business checks, cashier’s checks and government-issued checks. This includes tax refunds and stimulus checks, such as those provided by the CARES Act. Your bank or credit union may or may not allow you to use mobile check deposits for foreign checks, third-party checks, money orders or traveler’s checks, so confirm your financial institution’s policies first.

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Is a Signature Required on the Back of a Check?

If you're receiving instead of writing the check, you may, in many cases, get away with depositing it without a signature if the check was made payable to you. However, it is safest to sign the check. Without a signature, the check might be sent back to the issuer, resulting in fees and delays in getting your money. Even if your bank deposits a check without a signature on the back and you see the money added to your account, that check might get rejected a week or two later.

With personal checks, you’ll have a better chance of skipping the signature, but don’t be surprised if the bank hounds you for a signature on business checks or large checks.

The same is true if you’re making a mobile check deposit. Some checks include a checkbox to indicate that you’re using a remote deposit service, while some banks instruct you to write something about mobile deposits on your check. You might be able to get away with ignoring those instructions, but it’s best to ask your bank for guidance. If you don’t meet your particular banks’ requirements, you may face delays in getting your money.

Tips for Using Mobile Check Deposit

If you think mobile check deposit could be a valuable banking feature, there are a few things to consider when using it.

Know Mobile Check Deposit Limits

First, review your bank’s mobile check deposit limit policies so you’ll know how much you can deposit. Banks can impose limits on how much money you can deposit:

  • Per mobile check deposit transaction
  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly

If you’re logged in to your bank’s mobile app, you should be able to view the deposit limits. If not, you can check your account agreement or contact your bank to ask about limits for mobile check deposit.

Be Clear About Mobile Check Deposit Funds Availability

It’s important to know when the money deposited via a mobile check will be available to you. Each bank and credit union has a funds availability policy. But a bank can hold a mobile check deposit for specific reasons, which means your check might take longer to clear.

For example, the bank could impose a hold if:

  • You’re depositing a large check.
  • There have been frequent overdrafts in your account.
  • You’ve had a deposited check returned unpaid in the past.
  • It’s believed that a deposited check may not be paid for any reason.

If the bank plans to place a hold on the deposit, you may receive a notification before finalizing a mobile check deposit. You’d then have the option to continue with the mobile deposit or take the check to a branch instead. Check with your bank to see the policy for holding deposits and how quickly your mobile check deposits should clear.

Other Mobile Check Deposit Tips

  • Take note of exclusions. Note any types of checks the bank excludes from depositing through mobile banking. And ask about what it may cost to use your bank’s mobile check deposit app.
  • Keep fees in mind. While mobile check deposit is typically free, check to see whether there are any fees involved. For instance, if your bank gives you the option to make an express deposit using your mobile device, you may have to pay a fee for accelerated processing.
  • Avoid common errors. Make sure that your signature on paper checks is legible and that the photos you take are clear. You also should compare the amount of the check to what you’ve entered to avoid a mismatch when trying to submit a deposit. Simple errors like these can cause your mobile check deposit to be rejected.
  • Don’t trash the check just yet. Don’t discard the paper check immediately. If something goes wrong with your mobile check deposit, you may need to deposit the paper check instead. Hold on to the check and, after the mobile check deposit clears, you can safely destroy the paper check or void it and keep it on file.

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. 

How to Endorse For the Benefit of (FBO) Checks

FBO checks, or "For the Benefit of" checks, are checks written to be payable to person A for the benefit of person B. This allows checks to be cashed or deposited by a specific party even though they are meant for another. You might write an FBO check when writing a check for a child. 

For example, Jane Doe has a son named William Doe. William has a birthday and his grandma, Anne Doe, writes him a check. She knows William is just a child, so she writes him an FBO check instead of writing the check directly to William. 

Grandma Doe would write an FBO check that says "Jane Doe" on the "Pay to the Order of" line, but then in the memo line it would say "FBO William Doe." This allows William's mother to take care of the check for him without the bank needing a special endorsement on the back. 

This means that Jane Doe is the one who should endorse the check and then cash the check and give the money to William, or deposit the check funds into William's bank account for him. It is always whoever is written in the "Pay to the Order of" line that needs to endorse the check on the back. 

Summary

It’s just as necessary to get the back of your check right as it is to get the front right. If you don’t do it correctly, it will be refused or returned to the issuer, just as if you messed up the front. Regardless of if you can get away with not signing the back, it’s always a good idea to endorse the check to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Where can I cash a check I already signed?

7 Places Where You Can Cash a Personal Check The Bank listed on the check. …Walmart. …Ace Check Cashing. …Gas station. …Your employer. …Grocery store. …Endorse your check to a friend or family member

How to fill out the back of a check for deposit

Let’s say you are receiving a check and want to deposit it. Whether you are making a mobile checking deposit or one in person, here are a few things you need to fill out in order to deposit a check.

Before you make a deposit, make sure you endorse the check, without writing or stamping below the indicated line. Endorsing a check will allow you to cash it or deposit the funds into your checking or savings account. This serves as a verification you are attempting to redeem this check — without it your check could be rejected for deposit. If the check is written out to your business, an authorized person must endorse the check on behalf of the business. In this case you’ll want to sign the name of the business, your name, your title, and any restrictions.

If you are making a mobile deposit, you typically

If you are making a mobile deposit, you typically don’t need a deposit slip. Instead, you would endorse the check, fill out the above information, and upload it through your bank’s mobile app. Some banks will limit the amount of mobile deposits you make in a day, so check your bank’s guidelines to confirm how much and how often you can deposit money into your account. Once a mobile check has been deposited and approved, it can still take several days for the funds to be available in your account. Check with your bank as this timing can vary depending on the bank.

Get Started With Square Mobile Check Deposit Start depositing checks to your Square Checking account right from your phone.Learn more

Step 2: Fill out the amount of the check

Next, you’ll need to enter the payment amount. In the blank box on the right side of the check, write the amount in numbers (e.g., $150.99). On the longer line under the payee’s name, write the amount in words (i.e., one hundred and fifty dollars and ninety-nine cents). Make extra sure these two amounts match, or the recipient won’t be able to deposit the check.

Common Issues With Endorsing a Check

Though the process of endorsing a check seems straightforward, there can be issues that arise. These can delay how long it takes for your bank to process a check and even prevent it from doing so altogether. 

Misspellings

One of the most common problems you will encounter when endorsing a check is that the person who has written it has spelled your name incorrectly. This can be an issue, because if there is a mismatch between the front of a check’s spelling and your endorsement, your bank may refuse to process it. Unfortunately, about the only way around this issue at present (other than asking the check writer to make out another check) is to copy their incorrect spelling in your endorsement.

Multiple Payees

Sometimes a check will be made out to multiple payees. This is often the case with checks given as wedding presents, where a check will be made out to “John and Jane Smith.” This simple form of words can create a real inconvenience, though, because many banks will insist that in this instance both parties must endorse the check, even if it is being deposited into a joint account.

If you have received a check like this, consult with your bank on what its policy is for processing it. And if you are making out a check to a couple, make life easier for them by writing “John OR Jane Smith."

Security Tips for Writing a Check

Any time you’re dealing with money and your identity, it’s important to be super secure. And since checks involve both of those things, here are a few security tips for writing a check:

Use a pen. If you write a check in pencil, someone can erase it and change the amount or replace the name in the Pay to the Order of line. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Fill the entire amount box and amount line. Don’t leave blank space in the amount box or amount line. That opens the door for someone to change a period into a comma—making you pay more than you signed up for (literally). Write the numbers big enough to fill the box and the words big enough to fill the whole line—or add a line to fill up any extra space, like in our sample check example!

Don’t sign the check until it’s filled out. No blank checks in your checkbook or wallet, okay? Let that signature be the last thing you fill out when you’re writing a check.

Don’t practice signature styles. Do that before you’re writing checks, not while you’re writing checks. You don’t want banks questioning fraud because your signature doesn’t look the same. And you don’t want to make it easy for someone to sign your name looking like whatever because you never make it look the same!

Warnings

  • If you receive a check with a later date on it (a “post-dated” check), you do not have to wait until that date to cash or deposit the check. However, if you cash or deposit it early and the bank accepts it, the check may bounce.

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  • This article discusses how to endorse a check under US law regarding negotiable instruments. If you live in another country, your law may be different. Consult a banker about how to properly endorse a check.

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What does signing the back of a check mean?

Signing the back of the check is called "endorsing" it." This endorsement provides the bank with an opportunity to verify your identity and ensure the check is deposited into the correct account. All parties who are listed on the "pay to" line on the front of the check should endorse the back.

Step 4: Fill in the memo (optional)

If you want, you can also fill in the memo line and note what the check was used for (e.g., “lawn services.”) This is not required, but you might want to do it to inform the recipient what the money’s for — or simply to keep a record for yourself. For example, if you’re sending a birthday check to a loved one unannounced, you might add “21st birthday gift.”

It’s a snap

Take photos of the front and back of your endorsed check using our app. You’ll get immediate confirmation that the deposit was received.

The Bottom Line

Endorsing a check is a relatively simple process that significantly improves your banking security. Different types of checks require different types of endorsement, but most of them involve signing the backside of a check to prove that you are the legal owner of the funds it represents. Learning how to endorse a check is a basic part of financial literacy, so make sure you know how the system works.

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