Writing a cheque is universal no matter where you bank. Though some cheques may have slightly different designs, they all need the same key pieces of information. Get it wrong, and your cheque might bounce.
Since cheques are slowly being phased out, many people are unaware of filling in a cheque the right way.
Before you feel a bit silly about not knowing how to write a cheque (or forgetting if its been years), bear in mind that most large banks in the UK no longer give cheque books out as a standard practice, and fewer will automatically replace them when the time comes.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that people don’t know how to write a cheque correctly. So you’re not alone!
There are plenty of reasons one may need to write a cheque. For example, many older people still use cheques, and cheques are a great way to make a surprise purchase as the transaction doesn’t show up right away on an online statement.
In the UK, the DVLA seem to still be keen on them – and that’s when I had to refresh my memory, and did all the research here.
This article will cover each of these and detail how to find the correct placements – including common errors that could make your cheque invalid!
How To Correctly Write Out a UK Cheque
Some people just write what they think should go on a cheque, and think the bank will interpret anything that is unclear. Unfortunately, cheques are one of the most error-sensitive ways of banking.
What Happens if I Write a Cheque Incorrectly?
If the information on a cheque is not accurate, the cheque will be useless and you’ll have to write another one, which can delay your payment for days.
Worse still, banks can charge fees to people who write bad cheques, or if a cheque “bounces” (meaning it gets returned, unpaid, to the sender’s bank).
So, let’s go over the steps of writing a cheque, so you get it right 100% of the time. But, first, take a look at the image below:
As you can see, this is a sample generic UK cheque that includes examples of how each section should be filled. Although this isn’t for any particular bank, almost every cheque will look the same way.
For example, Barclays, Tesco Bank, and Santander cheques look the same. The only real difference is the bank’s logo and where they put their address and information.
1. Fill In the Date
The first thing to fill in is the date. Usually, you’ll fill in the date on which you wrote the cheque on the top right corner, and it must be written in day-month-year format.
In the UK, the day always comes first, so be sure to double-check – especially if you’re from a country like the USA where it would be written differently. If you accidentally write November 1, 2020, as 11-01-2020, the cheque would be more than six months old and therefore considered out of date.
Many banks refuse to accept cheques that are more than six months old from the date provided (Source: NatWest)
Therefore bear in mind that you CAN put a future date on cheques, but be careful if putting a past date on them.
It is possible to write a date in the future, should you know that it won’t be deposited within six months, or if you don’t want it to be deposited or cashed before a specific date.
This is known as post-dating, and many people use it. For example, if you send someone money but need to be sure they don’t deposit the cheque before payday, you could put a future date on to be sure.
2. Write the Payee’s Name on the Top Line
In the middle of the cheque, there will be two to three lines. The top line will have the word “pay” or “payee” on the far left, indicating that this is the line on which you write the name of the person to whom you are giving the cheque, and therefore, the money.
It is vital that you write their name in full, as it appears on their bank statement. You might get away with writing Mr M. Collins, but it’s advised to write the names in full.
Also, it’s better to write in capital letters to avoid any handwriting errors or confusion.
For joint accounts, you can write just one name on the cheque to save space. Then, provided it matches what’s on the account, the bank will take the cheque with just one account holder.
If writing a cheque to a business, use the name given on the invoice. Though some companies may have public names, they could use a parent company for their banking.
3. Write the Amount in Words, Including Pence
The one or two lines under the “Pay” line are for the amount to be paid.
On these lines, you’ll write the total amount in words, using capital letters to make it as clear as possible.
For example, £63.57 becomes sixty-three pounds and fifty-seven pence.
After this, you need to write the word “only” so that nothing else can be added. In this case, it would say sixty-three pounds and fifty-seven pence only.
If the amount is a small number, like ten pounds only, you should draw a line that extends to the end of the given space. Again, this is to prevent anyone from amending the amount after the fact.
You can see this in the image above.
4. Fill the Amount in Numbers in the Box Provided
In addition to having the amount written in words, you’ll also need to write it out in numbers in the box provided. This box is always under the date and is a solid box on its own.
There will be a pound sign to the left of the box, and you just need to fill in the numbers.
This number must match what’s written on the left, down to the last penny. The idea is to help prevent mistakes or fraud.
5. Sign on the Signature Line
Under the date and number-amount box, there will be a small line. This is where you sign the check.
This signature should be identical to the one on your bank records, or there will be an issue in the clearing process.
Cheques are cleared through a third-party company, and they will use the information on the front (the account number and sort code) to access your account. In doing so, they will check that you have enough money to send and that the signature and name matches.
6. Add a Note to the Memo Section or Cheque Stub (Optional)
This final part is optional, but it will help in keeping track of your money.
The cheque in your book should be attached to a small slip on the left-hand side, called a memo or stub. In this part, you can write the person’s name and the amount of money you wrote the cheque for.
You can also add a note about the payment, such as rent or car payments.
There is also a number printed on here that matches the cheque number found on the cheque itself. That way, you can also compare the cheque to its number, should you run into any problems.
You never know when you might need to write a cheque, so hopefully, you can use this article as a guide and get it right the first time. Remember that the day must come first in the date section and that you should write as clearly as possible to avoid confusion.