Since we have so many options for immediate and seamless payments -- including PayPal, online bank transfers, and credit cards -- paper checks might seem somewhat archaic to a lot of people. However, many people still pay for things using paper checks. When the time comes, you don't want to get caught not knowing the parts of a check or how to write one.
The parts of a check
1. Your name and address (usually pre-printed on your checks).
2. The check number that corresponds to that check's order within your account for tracking purposes.
3. Date that the check is written.
4. The name of the person or organization authorized to cash the check.
5. The amount of the check, written numerically.
6. The amount of the check, written out in words.
The bank's info:
7. The name and logo of your bank (usually here, but not always in this exact spot).
8. The bank's routing number, or how this bank is identified within the banking system.
9. This is your personal account number.
Purpose of the check:
10. Writing the purpose here makes sure the receiver knows what it's for, and helps you remember later on what this check was paying for
Signing the check:
11. Your autograph, authorizing the payment.
Do all checks look the same?
Interestingly, any piece of paper can serve as a check so long as it has all required information and is signed by the account owner. However, unlike U.S. currency, organizations and individuals aren't required by law to take a check (printed by the bank or self-written) as payment.
Assuming you are using pre-printed checks from your bank, almost every check looks pretty similar to the example I've shown here. Most information, such as your name and address, the check number, and the routing and account numbers, are provided on the printed check. The writer needs only to fill in the date, the payee's name, and the amount (written numerically and printed), and sign the check.
What to do after you write a check
You should record information including the check number, date, amount, and to whom it was paid in your check register and subtract it from your balance to keep an accurate total of how much you have in your account. Some checkbooks come with duplicates so that what you write on each check is transferred to a page underneath it. You should keep this copy for your own accounting purposes so that you can track your spending.
Since each check has a unique number, you can go to your online account and see when that specific check gets cashed and the money is removed from your account. Banks can also mail monthly statements to account holders showing action in the checking account.
Bradley Seth McNew owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.