How to Endorse a Check: What it Means to Endorse a Check
When someone pays you with a check, you’ll usually have to sign the back of it before you can deposit it in your account. Signing the back of it is called “endorsing the check.” What you write when you sign it—how you endorse the check—depends upon what you want to do with the check and how the check is written. Endorsing a check allows your bank and you or a third-party to settle the funds associated with the check.
How to Endorse a Check
There are several ways to endorse a check and how you endorse it depends on what you want done with the money and how the check is filled out. First, a word about safety and check fraud. Wait as long as possible to endorse the check. Endorse the check at the bank before getting in line or during a mobile deposit. If you lose the check after you endorse it, someone may steal the check and alter the endorsement.
You endorse a check on the back of the check. There may be a simple line or a box that reads: “Endorse Here.” There’s usually another line that says, “Do not write, stamp, or sign below this line.” The endorsement area is typically about 1.5” long and covers the breadth of the check.
For Deposit Only—Restrictive Endorsement
The most secure way to endorse a check is to:
- Write: “For Deposit Only to Account Number XXXXXXXXXX”
- Sign your name below that, but still within the endorsement area of the check
This method specifically instructs the bank that the check should be deposited into the account identified in the endorsement. Whether you are taking the check directly to the bank or if a friend is taking the check to your bank for you, we recommend that you use this method as a more secure option.
Keep in mind that the check writer may see a copy of the check through their bank. They typically get to see the front and back of the check. If you’re uncomfortable with someone else seeing your bank account number, you can write, “For Deposit Only” and then sign the check. This is a less secure option than including the account number, but most banks will follow the instructions and only accept the check for deposit. Please keep in mind that most banks will print the account number on the back of the check during processing. Chances are your bank account will still be visible.
Endorsing a Third-Party Check
If someone pays you with a check and you want to hand that check over to a third-person for a payment that you owe them, then you can do this with an endorsement. Write:
- Pay to the order of [Person’s Name]
- Then sign the check
This is not considered a good practice to do, but it can be done. Some banks will not accept third-party checks due to the risk of fraud and most check-cashing places won’t accept them either. Before doing this, confirm with the check writer’s bank and the ultimate payee’s bank to make sure the banks will honor the check. It’s best to avoid this situation by depositing the check and writing the third-person a new check that directly pays them.
Blank Endorsement for a Check
This is the least secure way to endorse a check, but it’s the most common. You do a blank endorsement by simply signing your name on the back of the check. Then, when you’re at the bank, you tell the teller if you want to cash it or deposit it. People will also do a blank endorsement when they’re depositing a check through an ATM or using mobile deposit. If you’re doing a blank endorsement, sign the check just before you deposit the check.
Mobile Endorsement on a Check
Some banks will require you to add “Mobile Deposit” to the endorsement when you deposit a check using your phone. Some banks will accept other endorsement styles for mobile deposit. Check with your bank to find out if they need a special mobile endorsement.
Business Endorsement on a Check
If a check is made payable to a business, then an authorized person must endorse the check on behalf of the business.
- Sign the name of the business as it appears on the pay-to line.
- Sign your name
- Write your title with the company (Owner, Accountant, etc.)
- Add any restrictions like “For Deposit Only”
FBO—For the Benefit of—Endorsement on a Check
Sometimes checks will be payable to a person or company for the benefit of another person. For example, someone might write a check to an assisted living facility for the benefit of an elderly or special needs family member. The “Pay to the Order Of” line may look like this:
- Assisted Living Facility FBO Jane Smith
- Assisted Living Facility for the Benefit Of Jane Smith
Writing a FBO check helps to ensure that the funds will be used for a specific purpose, but in this case, the assisted living facility is considered as the custodian of the funds. The custodian endorses the check.
Some banks will require both parties to endorse the check. Consult your bank and the organization receiving the check to find out how to write an FBO check for them. This can get tricky if the bank requires both signatures and the person receiving the benefit of the check is incapacitated and cannot endorse it.
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.
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.
Do I Always Have to Endorse a Check
Some banks will accept a check with no endorsement. There might be a dollar amount limit to this service or a hold on the funds for longer than normal, but some banks will do it. You’ll need to verify your identity when you deposit the check. Keep in mind that certain types of checks may require an endorsement even if your bank doesn’t.
Why do you Need/What Does it Mean to Endorse a Check
When someone pays you with a check, it’s like handing you cash; but, there are few more steps involved. You can take that check to the issuing bank (the bank listed on the front of the check) and cash it or you can take it to your bank and deposit it into your account. Either way, you’re authorizing the bank to convert the check into cash on your behalf. Endorsing a check by signing the back of it is a security step that simultaneously helps to verify you as the proper recipient of the funds and authorizes the bank to complete the transaction.
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