How to use a checking account

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Learn the basics of how to write and cash checks, locate your routing number, checking account and more.

What is a checking account?

Checking accounts are typically accounts that have unlimited transactions that allow you to manage your daily finances to deposit and withdraw funds. To deposit funds, you have multiple options including direct deposits from employers, transferring money from other bank accounts, depositing checks using mobile deposits, or any other option that your bank allows. To withdraw funds, you can use checks, debit cards, pay bills, or set up Automated Clearing House (ACH) electronic debits.

Checking account costs can differ between banks and different checking accounts within the same bank. Some accounts have little or no fee, while others may have fees or balances required to avoid fees. Review the features carefully to determine which checking account you would like to apply for. Some checking accounts can be applied online with some companies.

How can I fill out a check?

checking account

  1. Write today’s date in the space in the upper right corner. You can set a date in advance that you want the payee to withdraw the funds, but the payee is not obligated to honor it. It’s best to make sure you have enough money in your checking account on the date you write the check.
  2. On the “Pay to the order of” line, clearly write the name of the person or company to whom you are writing the check.
  3. Write the numerical amount of the check in the small box. For example: “12.52”. You do not have to include the dollar symbol as it is printed on your check.
  4. On the “DOLLARS” line, write the same amount you entered in the box above (No. 3), only this time in words. Write, for example: “twelve dollars and 52/100”. If the dollar amount is pennyless, write 00/100. If there is space left, draw a line to fill the space and prevent it from being disturbed.
  5. The note line is the only optional area to fill out on a check. You can leave it blank, however, that’s a great way to keep track of the concept of the check or to write an account number. For example, you can write something like, “groceries.”
  6. Sign your name on the bottom right line. Signing your check authorizes the payee of the payment to withdraw the specified amount from your checking account.

What are the numbers at the bottom of a check?

There are three sets of numbers located at the bottom of your checks: the routing number, your account number, and your check number.

The first set of numbers is the routing number, which is a nine-digit code that is specific to the bank where you have your checking account. Routing numbers are used to transfer money between financial institutions, banks, and credit unions. Some common transactions include electronic money transfers, electronic bill payments, and direct deposits.

The second set of numbers on the check is usually your checking account number. Unlike the routing number, this number is personal and can only be found on your check or bank statement.

The last set of numbers is your check number. This represents the number that appears in the upper right corner of your check and is used to keep track of the checks you have written.

Account features

Bill Pay: Gives you the option to make payments electronically, either one-time or recurring. This generally requires a one-time setup for each account to be paid. Then, select the account, the amount and the date you want the payment to be made.

Mobile Deposit: Allows you the flexibility to deposit a check by taking a photo with a portable device.

Electronic Statements: Traditionally, checking account statements were provided on paper, but now you can select the option to receive them electronically.

Handling an unused check

What if you fill out a check and you don’t need it anymore? You will have to void that check, even if you only filled out part of it. Voiding a check ensures that someone else cannot complete the check or process it. To void a check, simply write “VOID” in large letters throughout the entire check. You can keep it for your records or destroy the check to get rid of it.

How do I deposit a check?

In the designated endorsement area on the back of the check, sign your name and write: “For deposit only” to prevent someone from cashing it. You can then deposit the check at your bank’s branch or ATM. The bank may require you to fill out a deposit form, which you can get at your bank or on the back of your checkbook.

What are insufficient funds?

Insufficient funds or “bounced check” is a check that has been returned to you because you do not have enough money in your checking account to cover the amount written on the check. A bounced check can result in Insufficient Funds (NSF) fees from your bank due to insufficient funds, as well as additional fees from the payee who tried to process your check. The key is to know your checking account balance before writing the check.

Keep your checking account safe

Store your checkbook and extra checks in a safe place just as you would if it were real cash. You don’t want the wrong person to control your checking account number or write checks on your behalf. Check your checkbook balance and check your account regularly, and notify your bank immediately of any suspicious activity.

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