Who Is the Payee of a Check?

By Jacqueline DeMarco · February 14, 2023 · 8 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. Read more 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. Read less

Who Is the Payee of a Check?

A payee of a check is the person or business to whom the check is made out and who will receive funds.
While checks may not be used as often as they once were, they are still an important way to make payments, and one that can require a bit of knowledge to use properly.

Understanding who is the payee is one of those details. Read on for more information on this key aspect of checks, including:

•   What is a payee?

•   What is a payee vs. payor on a check?

•   How can payees receive money?

•   How can you identify the payee on a check?

•   How can you handle checks safely?

What Is a Payee?

What is the payee? As briefly noted above, the payee is the individual who receives the payment. When a payment is made via a check, their name is written on the payee line.

A paper check is a form of payment that transfers money from one bank account to another. For a check to be valid, it has to have the recipient’s name (aka the payee), payment amount, and date written on it clearly. Checks can be a very convenient way to make a payment or to give someone a gift. They are also considered to be fairly secure forms of payment as only the person named on the check can cash the check.

It’s also possible to make a payment via an electronic check. The way an electronic check (which can also be called an e-check) works is essentially the same as a paper check minus the paper. It’s possible to send a check digitally and the payment will be transferred via an ACH (automated clearing house) network.

Payee vs Payor: What’s the Difference?

Who is the payee? Here’s the difference:

•   The payee is the party receiving the payment when someone writes a check.

•   The payor on the other hand is the party who is making the payment. It’s also common to hear the payor referred to as the payer. The individual who writes the check is the payer.

It is possible for the payor and the payee to be the same person. An individual can pay themselves via a check by writing their own name on the payee line. This is commonly done when transferring funds from one account to another or from one bank where the individual has an account to a second bank they have an account at.

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Ways That Payees Can Receive Money

What does payee mean? While one meaning is the recipient of a check, that’s not the only way a person or business can be paid. Payees can also receive funds by a variety of different payment methods, such as:

•   Cash: Yes, dollar bills (and other denominations) still have a place around the world.

•   Credit card: You can swipe, insert, or tap your way to pay for goods or services.

•   Cashier’s check or certified check: These are secure forms of payment with additional assurances beyond a standard check.

•   Money order: These are available for purchase at U.S. post offices and via services like Western Union

•   Electronic transfer: Examples of this include when your paycheck is put into your checking account by direct deposit

•   Mobile wallet payment: Say you have dinner with a friend, but you pay for it and your friend pays you back via Apple Pay/Apple Cash or a similar app.That’s an example of a mobile payment in action.

All of these payment formats have different advantages and disadvantages. So it’s important to research all options individually to see which one is the most convenient, costs the least, and is the most secure. Sometimes you aren’t given a choice about how to make a payment (such as a landlord having a specific preference for how they want to receive rent payments), but many individuals and vendors accept a handful of different payment methods.

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How to Identify a Payee on a Check

Figuring out who a payee on a check is isn’t hard, especially since all checks follow the same format. If someone is reading a check and wants to know who the payee is, all they have to do is look at the top of the check where it says “pay to the order of.” This part of a check is known as the payee line, and it designates who can cash the check.

The payee can be an individual or a business when paying bills. When filling out a check, it’s important to write the individual or business’s full name (so if it’s Jane Smith Brown, don’t write J.S. Brown). The payee’s name must be spelled correctly, or they may not be able to cash the check.

Recommended: Differences Between a Deposit and a Withdrawal

Tips for Handling a Check Safely

Fraud can happen with a variety of payment formats, including check. When making a payment via check, it’s important to keep security top of mind to help avoid check fraud (which is notoriously difficult to resolve). These are some tips that can help consumers handle checks safely:

•   Fill out the check using a pen so the payee’s name and the payment amount can’t be changed.

•   Double-check that the payee’s name and the payment amount is correct.

•   Print clearly when filling out a check; cursive writing can lead to mistakes.

•   Don’t sign a blank check — ever. If you do, there’s the risk that a thief or the payee could fill in whatever amount they want.

•   If possible, don’t send checks by mail since they can be stolen. This is especially true for checks for a large amount of money.

•   If you must mail a check, try to use security envelopes, which are the kind that aren’t see-through, so a potential thief can’t tell there is a check inside.

•   When mailing a check, mail it via the post office, versus leaving it in a residential mailbox to be picked up.

•   If you are concerned about making a mistake when sending a check, you can always choose to do an ACH payment instead. When transferring money via ACH, it’s actually possible to reverse mistakes. Another option could be a wire transfer, which may be reversible if one acts quickly enough.

And what if you are receiving a check? Follow these pointers:

•   It’s important to deposit it fairly soon. Otherwise it might get misplaced and expire. How long are checks good for? Typically, they are valid for six months.

•   It’s wise to only cash a check from someone the payee is familiar with and that the check is for the correct amount. It’s best not to cash a check that is for more money than is owed. Here’s why: A common form of check fraud is to give someone a check for more money than they owe and then to ask for a refund. The victim sends the refund, only to discover the check they deposited bounced, meaning they have lost money on this transaction.

•   You may be able to sign the check over to someone else (say, a friend you owe money to); make sure you follow the correct steps carefully to ensure a smooth transaction.

The Takeaway

Financial terminology isn’t necessarily complicated. Wondering who is the payee of a check? The payee is the individual receiving payment via check, and they are usually the only individual who can cash the check (unless it gets signed over). Making a payment via check is very convenient, but it’s important to keep safety top of mind when making a payment this way, especially if the payor plans to mail the check.

Whether you are receiving or writing checks or do most of your transactions electronically, opening an account with an online bank can simplify your financial life. For instance, with a SoFi Checking and Savings account, you can spend and save in one convenient place and have options like Vaults and Roundups to help your cash grow.
You’ll also earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), and pay no account fees, which is also part of our better-banking benefits. Another perk? Qualifying accounts with direct deposit can access their paycheck up to two days early.

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What are payee requests?

If someone comes across a payee request, this is usually because they are filling out a form that is requesting the proper information to pay someone. Information such as their name, address, and bank account and routing numbers may be required, depending on the chosen form of payment.

Can you get scammed by a payee?

It is possible to get scammed by a payee. People can request payment for goods and services and may not deliver on their promise. It’s possible for payees to commit a variety of types of fraud.

Can the payee ever be the one who sends the payment?

In most cases, the payee is not the person to send a payment but rather the recipient of funds. The payor (or payer) is the individual who makes a payment. That said, there are instances when a person might make out a check to themself as a way to, say, transfer funds to a different account. In this case, they are both the payee and the payor.

Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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 deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government 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, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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