A Complete Guide to Bank Checks

How to order them and when to use bank checks

Detail of check with ballpoint pen, studio shot
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Bank checks are a tried-and-true way to make payments. However, they can take some getting used to. With that in mind, a collection of tips follow that include everything you need to know about using checks. Find out where to get them, how to write one, how to deposit one, and how technology can make your life much easier when it comes to dealing with checks. In fact, technology may one day make check-writing obsolete.

The premise of this obsolescence shows already with Bill Pay, an electronic deposit of checks via mobile apps, and the predominance of transfer methods such as Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, Wise, Payoneer, Stripe, Fiserv, etc.

How to Order Bank Checks

To write checks, you’ll need a stack of blank checks. Your first set of checks will most likely come from the bank when you open an account, but what do you do after you’ve used them all up? You can order more personal checks (typically for a fee), print your own checks, and get fancy with new bank checks, such as photo checks.

How to Write a Check

When you’re just getting started, it may be intimidating to write a check, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. 

How to Deposit a Check

When somebody writes you a check, how do you get the money? You generally deposit checks into an account so you can use the funds when you need to. The traditional ways are with a teller, through the mail, or at an ATM. But you can also make deposits with your mobile device or desktop computer and get access to your cash more quickly. Ideally, you can go electronic and stop handling bank checks altogether.

Using Electronic Payments and Online Banking

Sometimes electronic payments are easier. Instead of writing bank checks, you can use faster methods that help you track your spending. This includes auto-debit, in which a company you do business with—say your utility company, for example—automatically debits payments from your account on the same day each month. Every payment you make is automatically recorded and available to you on your bank's website.

What about receiving money? Instead of depositing paper checks that people send you, you can get paid automatically through direct deposit.

Managing Your Checking Account

If you write bank checks, you need to make sure you keep an eye on your account. Writing bad checks—that is, writing a check for an amount that exceeds your account balance—can bring overdraft fees and other types of trouble. To avoid problems, learn how to manage your checking account before you write another check.