Can I cut you a check?

Breaking down a rarely-used but necessary skill


H. Beck, OMN Illustrator

A photo illustration of a check. Learning how to write a check can be a useful skill.

Ginnie Sandoval, Contributor

Writing a check might seem like a foreign concept to students, and although it is rare nowadays, there are still some cases where a student will find themselves having to write a check. ‘Can I cut you a check?’ is a question you may have heard your grandparents, or even your parents, ask before making a purchase, but now, with all the avenues available to people today, check writing has become a dying payment form. 

As we enter further into an age where writing checks is nearly as uncommon as flip phones, it’s unnecessary to know how to write a check. Almost. 

There is still one check that has yet to be abolished, and that is your monthly rent check. For that, Bret Carpenter, instructor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship in the College of business, offered some general check advice for students:

  • “Make sure that you are clear on the exact name of who you are paying. If you get that wrong, the payee’s bank may not accept the payment and you will have to do it again. This could also make you late on a bill if you were paying it by check.”
  • “Make sure you write in each area required and that your writing is legible. Again, you want everything clear so the payee’s bank can accept the payment.”
  • “Use the memo field. This is especially helpful when going back over your accounts. Sometimes we just don’t remember what that payment was for. If you follow a budget, it makes it much easier to categorize.”

How to write a check

Date: Before writing out your check, you will want to date it. The date line is on the upper right side of the check. Make sure you are writing the correct date. Checks typically expire after six months, so if you accidentally pre-date it with last year’s date, you may need to write a new check.

Pay to the order of: This is the first line of your check. ‘Pay to the order of’ just means who you are writing the check out to. Whether it be a business or a person, it’s extremely important that you never leave this section blank because if you lose your check, anyone can write their name in.

Numeric Box: Your numeric box sits to the right of  ‘pay to the order of’. This is where you will write in the amount of the check in numeric form.

Center Line/Writing out your amount: The center line sits just under ‘pay to the order of’. Here is where you will write out how much you are paying. It is important that you fully write out the entire number and that it matches what’s in your numeric box. For example, if you are writing a check for $1,111.02, you’ll write – One thousand one hundred eleven dollars and two cents. The ‘two cents’ can also be written as – 02/100.

Memo Line: This memo line is the bottom line to the left. It is meant for you, so you can keep track of what the check was for. For example, you can write – March Rent Check.

Signature Line: The MOST important part of writing a check is signing it. The signature line is the bottom right line. Once you have finished writing out your check, you will sign it on that line. If you do not sign that line, the person or business you are paying cannot cash the check.

For another step-by-step guide on check writing, Carpenter recommends going to

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