Checkbooks may seem like an out-of-touch relic from an earlier era, but the reality is that they are worth keeping around. You may not often need your checkbook, but when you do, you’ll be happy to have it.
There’s no denying that we live in a world of digital payments, debit and credit cards, and occasional cash usage. But when was the last time you saw someone whip out a checkbook? It can seem like the only people still using their checkbooks are older folks who always happen to end up right in front of you at the grocery store.
However, there are circumstances where paying by check is actually the easiest and safest option. For example, although numerous electronic money transfer services exist, many landlords only accept rent by check.
Of course, you could run out and buy a money order or cashier’s check every month, but both will set you back a few bucks in fees. Likewise, money orders and cashier’s checks are not as easily traceable as checks.
In order to trace money orders and cashier’s checks, you need to remember to save your purchase receipts and the stubs. Your checkbook, on the other hand, helps you keep carbon copies of your checks, including the check number, recipient, and amount all in one place.
How To Use A Checkbook
Okay, so you’ve decided not to trash your checkbook quite yet, but what do you need to know about actually using it?
First, when you are writing checks, make sure to use pen in order to keep a clear record on the carbon copy underneath your check. (You also don’t want to risk someone erasing and rewriting the amount, which could happen if you use pencil.)
You’ll need to include all the required information on your check in order for it to be accepted. Normally, that means you’ll need to write the date, the name of the person or business you’re making the check out to, the amount of the payment included on the check in digits, and the number written out in words.
You also need to sign the bottom of the check to verify that you’ve consented for the funds to be withdrawn from your checking account. Checks also include a memo line where you can (and should!) record the purpose of your check, whether you’re sending birthday money to your niece or paying January’s heating bill.
Accidentally misspell the name of the recipient or write $10,000 instead of $1,000 on your check? No worries. Simply write “void” in large letters across the entire face of the check in marker or pen and stash it away with your checkbook to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.
If you are paying by check at a business, they may require you to present your identification to compare the name and signature on your check. Usually, a driver’s license or official ID card will suffice.
And even though it may seem intangible at the moment (a thin slice of paper with a bunch of numbers on it), you do want to make sure you have the funds to cover your purchase. Be warned, some businesses may charge a bounced check fee, so make sure you have enough money to cover your purchase in your account before you hand over a check.
What about if you receive a check written out to you? You’ll need to endorse the check by signing the back on the line provided. Many banks make depositing checks easier than ever through mobile deposit, which requires you to snap a picture of the front and back of your check on your bank’s app in order to send the funds to your checking account.
Some banks require that you write “mobile deposit” or “deposit only” underneath your signature before depositing your check, and it never hurts to add your checking account number below your signature as well. Just make sure not to write below the line that marks back of the check back for bank-use only.
It’s the 21st Century, so you’d be forgiven for wondering, do you need to balance a checkbook still? When checks originally came out, you needed to keep on top of balancing your checkbook so that you would know exactly how much money you had left in your bank account and wouldn’t accidentally write a check that would bounce. Online and mobile banking have made it easier than ever to monitor your bank account, which means that balancing your checkbook isn’t quite so important.
That being said, it is still important to keep track of the checks you are writing and whether or not they have been cashed. You can do this by writing your checks down in the register that comes with your checkbook and making sure to hang on to the carbon copies of the checks you write.
To keep your check register up to date, make sure to record the check number, the name of the recipient of the check, the purpose of the check, the date you issued the check, and the amount. This will help you reconcile the checks you have written with your bank account, so you can ensure that the checks you write are being cashed and that no fraudulent checks are coming out of your account. Once you see that a check has cleared your bank account, you can put a checkmark next to that check in your register so that you know it’s been deposited.
Choosing The Right Account
SoFi Money® offers free checks with your cash management account. That means that even though you might not need to write a check very often when you do, SoFi has your back with checks on the house.
Plus, SoFi Money’s easy-to-use online and mobile platform takes the hassle out of balancing a checkbook with easy access to your balance information on the go.
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SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.