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How to Use Checks

There are many ways to pay for things, including cash, checks, and credit cards. When you pay for something using a check, you are giving the person a piece of paper that states that they can bring the piece of paper back to a bank and get the money you owe them.

To write a check, you first need to open a checking account with a bank, savings and loan, or credit union. After you deposit some money into your checking account, the bank sells you blank checks. You can then use these checks to pay other people using the money you deposited in your checking account.

When you want to buy something, you fill out a check and give it to the person you want to pay. You can only write checks for amounts of money that you have in your checking account (you usually also have to keep a small reserve amount in your account). For example, if you have $100.00 in your checking account, you can only write checks that add up to $100.00. If you write checks that add up to more than that, the bank will not honor the check, that is, nothing will be paid to the person. Plus, you will be charged a fee by the bank. This is called bouncing a check.

Sample Checks:
check Many things are pre-printed on a check, including your name and address, the check number, the bank's name, and bank code numbers. The person writing the check writes the date, the name of the person or company who will get the money, the amount of the check (written both in numbers and in words), an optional comment on what the check is for, and the person's signature.
check This sample check was written by Sue Cole on January 3, 2008, for $340.22 to "Seattle Gas Company."


Balancing Your Checkbook:
registerWhen you write a check, you have to make sure that you have enough money in your checking account. To do that, you balance your checkbook every time you write a check. All this means is that you keep track of your account balance (how much money is in your checking account), and every time you write a check, you subtract that amount from the total. You also need to keep track of deposits (money you add to the account), interest you earn from the bank, and bank fees.

Most checkbooks come with a register, a small booklet that lets you keep track of the checks you have written, the amounts of money you deposit or withdraw from your checking account, and your account balance. Each time you write a check, you should also write an entry in your checkbook register, noting everything about the check, including the check number, the date, who the check was written to, and the amount of the check. After you do this, you can calculate how much money you have left in your account (this is called your account balance).

Check Safety:
When you write a check, you have to use some saftey measures to insure that someone, somewhere doesn't change what you have written on the check for their own advantage. If someone changes the amount on your check, you will lose money.

One simple measure is to write your checks in pen (never use a pencil or erasable pen, which can easily be erased by a cheater).

When you write the numerical amount of the check, always write the numbers as far to the left as you can. This is so that cheaters cannot add an extra digit to the left, changing a small amount to a larger one. For example, you may write a check for $10.00, but if you leave a space between the dollar sign and the amount, that check could be easily changed to $710.00 or more -- and you would be giving far too much money to a cheater.

Also, if you ever lose blank checks, call your bank immediately and let them know. They can perhaps stop these lost checks from being honored.

Printable Activities on Writing and Understanding Checks and Checkbook Registers:
Writing Checks

Writing Checks:
Printable Read-and-Answer Worksheet

A printable worksheet on writing checks, with a short text, a check to write, and a checkbook register to balance. Or go to the answers.
checks

What's Wrong With the Checks? #1

On this printable worksheet, the student finds the mistakes made on two checks. Or go to the answers.
checks

What's Wrong With the Checks? #2

On this printable worksheet, the student finds the mistakes made on two checks. Or go to the answers.
checks

What's Wrong With the Checks? #3

On this printable worksheet, the student finds the mistakes made on two checks. Or go to the answers.
checks

Checks #1

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a check and a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
checks

Checks #2

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a check and a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
checks

Checks #3

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a check and a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
checks

Checks #4

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a check and a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
checks

Writing Checks #1

On this printable worksheet, the student writes checks for given amounts and then balances the checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
checks

Writing Checks #2

On this printable worksheet, the student writes checks for given amounts and then balances the checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
checks

Writing Checks #3

On this printable worksheet, the student writes checks for given amounts and then balances the checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
checks

Writing Checks #4

On this printable worksheet, the student writes checks for given amounts and then balances the checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
Check Register Quiz

Check Register Quiz #1

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
Check Register Quiz

Check Register Quiz #2

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
Check Register Quiz

Check Register Quiz #3

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.
Check Register Quiz

Check Register Quiz #4

On this printable worksheet, the student answers questions about a checkbook register. Or go to the answers.

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