Sometimes it’s the small things that get you. You might be familiar with checks, but you get stuck writing out the amount. Writing a check with cents is especially tricky, but with a little bit of practice you’ll soon be able to do it without thinking.
Sample Check With Dollars and Cents
For example, assume you need to write a check for eight dollars and fifteen cents (that’s $8.15). There are two steps:
- Write the amount using numbers (see the red number one in the picture above).
- Write the amount using words (see the red number two in the image above).
First, write the amount in numeric form in the dollar box, located on the right side of your check next to the dollar sign (“$”). Start by writing the number of dollars (“8”), followed by a decimal point or period (“.”), and then the number of cents (“15”). Ultimately, you’ll have “8.15” in the dollar box. For more examples and practice questions, scroll down.
Next, to write out the check’s amount in words, the two steps are similar:
- Write out the dollar amount.
- Write the word “and.”
- Write out the number of cents.
The tricky part is putting the number of cents into fraction format. To do so, write the number of cents, then write a slash (“/”), and then write the number 100. Technically, this is the fractional amount of whole dollars.
Using our $8.15 example, write the following:
- “Eight dollars”
Write everything together on one line so that it reads “Eight dollars and 15/100.” For a detailed example of how to write a check, see a step-by-step tutorial that uses the same amount.
Now that you have the basic idea, let’s look at the example in more detail.
No “cents”: You might notice that the word “cents” doesn’t appear anywhere—you don’t need to use it when writing a check. It is sufficient to simply put the number of cents into the format above. If you want, you can certainly write “fifteen cents,” but it’s easier and faster to use the fraction format. Your check probably has the word “Dollars” at the end of the line, so it would not make sense.
The word “and”: Include the word “and” just before you write how many cents the check is for (or just after you write out the full dollar amount). You are writing a check for dollars and cents. If you like, you can use an ampersand (“&”) or plus sign (“+”) instead. It is best not to use the word “and” elsewhere when you write out the amount. For example, the following example is incorrect, and the word “and” should be removed: “One hundred and five dollars.”
It might help to think in terms of percentages: The word percent comes from a Latin term that roughly translates to “per 100.” That’s why cents are called “cents”—each one is one percent of a dollar.
Another way of looking at it is to consider that each cent is one one-hundredth of a dollar. When you write a check, you note how many dollars the check is for, including whole dollars as well as partial dollars—or cents.
To solidify the concept and develop the habit, try several different dollar amounts.
Example: Write ten dollars and 99 cents on a check.
- Ten and 99/100
Example: Write eleven dollars and five cents on a check.
- Eleven and 5/100
Example: Write a check for five dollars.
- 5.00. Note the double zero—you should always have two digits to the right of the decimal.
- Five and 00/100. Here, you can use one or two zeros, but two would be safer.
Example: Write a seventy-five-cent check.
- Zero dollars and 75/100
You might have noticed that the last example was for less than one dollar. To write a check for less than a full dollar, use a zero to show that there aren’t any dollars. After that, include the number of cents just like all of the other examples. You can also write “No dollars and….” if you prefer.
The five-dollar example can also be confusing. Just write a zero (or double zero) when there isn’t any other number to use. Some people would write that amount out as “Five dollars only,” which is also fine.
How to Write Fewer Checks
Want to make your life even easier? Use fewer checks—or at least have your bank write your checks for you.
Online bill payment allows you to set up automatic payments or just pay when you feel like it. Your bank will pay electronically if possible, or it will print a check and mail it. This service is typically free with most checking accounts, and you can send payments to businesses and individuals.
Debit cards can be used at merchants and online retailers. Just like a check, your debit card pulls funds from your checking account. For everyday spending, it may be safer to use credit cards to reduce the chance of errors and fraud hitting your checking account.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services help you send money to friends and family, often for free. Those services draw money from your checking account electronically, so you’ll automatically have a record of every transaction.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What happens if the two amounts on a check are different?
If the amounts on the two lines of your check differ, the bank will default to the written words rather than the numerals. Be sure to double-check that the amounts match, to ensure that your check doesn't clear for a different amount than you expected.
How do you write a voided check?
You may need to provide an employer with a voided check to set up direct deposit for your paychecks. To do that, simply write, "VOID" in large letters across the front of the check. Be sure it covers the lines of the check and reads clearly, but do not block the printed numbers on the bottom of the check. Your employer will need these to establish a connection with your bank account.
How do you write a check for cash?
If you want to take out cash directly from the teller at the bank, you can make the check out to "Cash" instead of a person or other entity. Simply write, "Cash" on the payee line, and fill in the amount of cash you want in the two spots where you would normally write the amount. You'll need to endorse the check on the front and the back in order to cash it. A more secure way to do that, however, would be to write the check out to yourself.