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With the advent of PayPal, Venmo, and Bitcoin, checks seem very much from the last century, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to read bank information on a check.
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In the year You might be surprised to learn that in 2018 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – there were still 14.5 billion check payments. You’ll see three sets of numbers at the bottom of your check. The routing number is in the first group, your account number in the second group and your check number in the third group.
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Some online transactions require understanding how to read a check and where to find important information. For example, you may need information from your checks to set up direct deposit or to set up a direct wire transfer to your account. To do any of this, you need to know how to decrypt your checking account and routing numbers.
Reading a check is easy, but use the image guide below to understand how to read a check and the difference between a routing and an account number, or how to read a government check and create a direct deposit.
In the upper left corner of the check, you will find the personal information of the account holder. This usually includes their name and address.
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You will find a text “Pay for the order” on the receipt line. This is the person or business to whom the money is paid. If the check is made out to you, you are the payee. When you’re ready to cash the check, you’ll need to sign it back and approve it. Don’t approve it until you’re ready to withdraw or deposit money.
In the dollar box, you will find the amount for which the check was written. Enter your amount as follows: $20.65.
Start writing the first number as close as possible to the corresponding dollar sign on the left side of the box. You don’t want someone to cash a check for $2220.65.
Write the dollar amount in words on this line, which is below the payoff line. Coins, however, still exist in numerical form. For example, the payment line for a check for $20.65 would read “twenty dollars and 65/100.” It should match the amount in the dollar box.
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After writing the total size, if there is any space left on this line, you can delete the remaining space so that no one can adjust the size without knowing.
A memo line is optional, but good practice for keeping track of check payments. The note line is used to indicate the reason for the transaction. For example, when a tenant writes a check to their landlord, they can write “March 2021 rent” in the memo line.
Sometimes the payee can post the check to indicate when the payee should cash out. For example, you can check on March 5th, but write March 15th on the date line. This is usually done if the funds in the account are not available for some future period.
Although a payee may accept this instruction to wait before cashing a check, the check is valid from the time it is signed by the drawer. The payee does not have to wait for the date on the line to clear the check. If the payee tries to cash the check before the date on this line and the check bounces, the person who wrote the check and the person who cashed it may be charged by the bank.
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If you have any questions or concerns about a check, you can contact the bank listed on the check.
The ABA routing number is a nine-digit number assigned to your bank by the American Bankers Association. This shows the bank from which the money is withdrawn.
Also use the ABA transfer number to set up direct deposits and recurring payments. Some banks will have more than one routing number depending on their size, so always make sure you’re using the correct routing number before processing these types of payments.
This is the number associated with the bank account from which the money is withdrawn. It’s the second set of numbers printed on the bottom of your checks. The rotation number is first on the left.
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The check number is used to identify an individual check. This set of numbers can be found at the bottom right of your checks.
The fractional number, usually in the upper right corner of your check, contains numbers associated with your bank, such as a routing number. Because these numbers are easily found elsewhere on the check, the fractional number is not widely used.
You may notice that the routing and serial numbers on the bottom of the check look like symbols. It’s a special font known as Magnetic Color Character Recognition or MICR. This special color can be read by filter machines.
If you’ve learned how to read check statements on a personal account, you’ll also know how to read a cashier’s check and how to read a business account check.
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Why Checks Are Still Important Not everyone knows how to use cash apps, and some people don’t have a cell phone or computer. Some people like the ease and time-tested reliability of writing a check. Checks are safer compared to cash. If your wallet gets stolen, your money probably does too. If you are sending money as a birthday present, you may lose that money in the mail.
One disadvantage of checks is that anyone who gets hold of one of your checks now knows your name, address, bank details and account number.
Want to know your routing number and don’t have a rough check? You can also get your routing number from:
You can also find your bank account number in the bank statement. If all else fails, you can call or visit the bank for routing and account numbers.
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Regardless of how you choose to do your banking, being able to read a check is a valuable skill if you find yourself in a situation where checks are the best or only valid form of payment.
Our in-house research team and industry finance experts work together to create accurate, unbiased and timely content. We check every statistic, quote and fact using reliable primary sources to ensure the information we provide is accurate. You can find out more about our processes and standards in our editorial policy.
Erica Giovanetti is a writer and editor based in Charlotte, NC who enjoys spending time in nature, reading contemporary fiction and non-fiction, discovering and recreating family recipes, playing with her kitties, and spending time with friends and family.
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