How to Read a Check

By Jackie Lam · May 20, 2024 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.

How to Read a Check

With the rise of online payments, checks aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they used to be. But this form of payment hasn’t disappeared. You may get a government check with your tax refund, a rebate check from a company, or an expense reimbursement check from your employer. Plus, in order to make an online payment, you‘ll need to look at your own checks to determine what your routing and account numbers are.

The upshot: Even in the digital age, it’s important to know how to read a check. Here’s a simple guide to help you find any info you need on a check.

Key Points

•   Understanding check components is crucial, even in the digital age, for managing transactions like tax refunds or reimbursements.

•   The routing number, located on the lower left, identifies the bank holding the account.

•   The account number follows the routing number and is essential for identifying specific bank accounts.

•   The check number helps track and manage personal finances by recording transactions.

•   Writing the payment amount in both numbers and words ensures the check’s validity and banking compliance.

The Routing Number

Your routing number is the first series of nine digits listed on the lower left corner of a check. This number identifies the bank where your checking account is held and reduces the chances of miscommunication in financial transactions. Even if two banks have similar names, they’re distinct from one another because of their different routing numbers.

You’ll need to know your routing number to set up direct deposit at work, transfer money into your account, and make a bill payment.

The Account Number

Your bank account number can be found on the bottom of your checks and is the second set of numbers, just to the right of your routing number. It’s usually between eight and 12 digits long (though it can be longer).

Bank account numbers are used to identify a bank account. The one listed on your checks is the number assigned to your checking account. If you also have a savings account at the same bank, it will have a different number.

If you don’t have access to a check, you can find your bank account number on your statement or by logging into your account.

Check Number

The check number is typically located on the upper right-hand corner of a check, though it can sometimes be found at the bottom of the check after the symbol at the end of your account number. It’s usually three or four digits long.

Checks are numbered in ascending order, so you can easily keep track of checks that you’ve written. When you write a check, it’s a good idea to note the check number and the amount in your check register. This will help you keep the account balanced and avoid accidental overdrafts.

Pay to the Order Of — Payee Line

This line is located in the middle of the check and where the name of the person or business being paid is written. When endorsing a check you’ve received, it’s important to sign your name as it appears on the payee line.

It is possible to write a check to yourself. In that scenario, you would simply add your name in the payee line. This is one way to move money from one bank account to another. You can also write “cash” in the payee line. In this case, anyone can cash the check.

Date Line

The date line is usually located in the upper right area of a check. It’s where you add the date you wrote the check.

If your cash flow is tight, you might be tempted to write a future date in this line, so the recipient doesn’t cash the check until there are available funds in your account. However, know that as soon as you write and sign a check, the recipient can cash it immediately — even if you post-dated the check.

Payment Amount in Numbers

The payment box appears to the right of the “pay to the order of” line, and where you write the dollar amount the check is written for in numeric form, including both dollars and cents. For instance, if the check is for three hundred dollars, you would write “300.00.”

Payment Amount in Words

Below the payee line is a space for the check issuer to write the payment amount in word form. Cents, however, are written in numbers. For example, a check for “$500.25” it’s written out as “Five hundred dollars and 25/100.” If there are no cents, the issuer might write XX/100.

The payment amount in words needs to match the payment amount written in numerical form in the payment box. If these amounts don’t match up, the check can still be cashed, but the bank will only honor the amount that is written out in word form.

Fractional Bank Number

The fractional bank number often goes unnoticed, as it’s typically printed in a smaller font size and isn’t of much importance today. You can find this number towards the top right of your check and it’s listed in two parts — a numerator, then a slash, and a denominator, thus a “fraction.”

A fractional bank number identifies the bank where your checking account is held, but, since the same information is included in your routing and account numbers, it’s not used much anymore.

Your Information

If you’re writing a check, your personal information is located at the top left of the check. This includes your name on the first line, your address in the next few lines, followed, in some cases, by your phone number.

If your checks have an outdated address printed on them, don’t worry — you can still use them. Financial institutions use routing numbers and account numbers to identify where they should pull the money from, not your personal information written on the top left of your check.

Recommended: A Guide to Ordering Checks for Less


The memo box is housed at the bottom left corner of the check and typically begins with “for”. This space gives you an opportunity to briefly note the purpose of the payment, or maybe add a personalized message to the recipient. For instance, you might write “June rent” or “Happy Birthday Sally.”


The line on the lower right area of a check is where you sign your name. Your signature needs to match the one the bank has on file. If you accidentally sign with a shortened first name or nickname (such as Jon versus Jonathan) or with your maiden name versus your current last name, the bank might refuse to process the transaction.

Bank Name/Logo

The bank name and logo is usually located above the memo box. This tells where the checking account is held. It also adds an additional layer of security. If you receive a check where the logo looks slightly off, or you’ve never heard of the bank listed here, it’s a tipoff that the check might be counterfeit.

Endorsement Line

The endorsement line is located on the back of the check and is usually on the right side. This is where the check recipient, or payee, provides their signature. Without proper endorsement, the bank won’t process the check.

If you’re endorsing a check for a mobile deposit, you may need to write “For mobile deposit only” (or similar wording) under your signature, or check a box labeled “for mobile deposit.” Rules vary by bank.

The Takeaway

While checks aren’t as common as they used to be, you may still receive and write checks. You’ll also likely need to refer to your checks to find important details about your account, such as your routing and account numbers. You’ll need these numbers to sign up for direct deposit or set up an electronic payment or funds transfer.

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Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

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