How do you endorse a check? What does it mean to endorse a check? Learn all you need to know about check endorsements in the "How to Endorse a Check" segment in our Check Cashing series.
If you've never really received a check you might not know how to endorse a check or even what a check endorsement is. The first thing we should get out of the way is that check endorsements are for people receiving a check, not sending a check.
You need to endorse a check when you are the check recipient. When you get paid via a check, it's like you've received a voucher for the amount outlined on the front of the check.
The check sender signs their signature on the front of the check to allow the funds they outlined to be taken from their bank account and given to you, the check receiver. As the check receiver, you then need to sign, or endorse, the back of the check to finalize the check transaction and receive your promised money.
What is Endorsing a Check?
In order to finish a check transaction and receive your money, you as the check receiver must endorse the back of the check.
Endorsing a check is incredibly easy. All you have to do is flip the check over to the back, find the words "ENDORSE CHECK HERE" and sign your signature where indicated.
If you only sign your name that's called a blank endorsement. A blank endorsement is when you only provide your signature and no other instructions about what you want to do with the check.
To be extra secure with your check transaction, you can also write the words "for deposit only." This is a restrictive endorsement that makes sure this check can only be used to deposit into your account and not for any other purpose should it get lost or stolen.
As an added precautionary measure you can even include the bank account number of the checking or savings account you want the check to be deposited into. That way there is no doubt for how the bank teller is meant to process the check.
You can also endorse a check to someone else by signing your name and writing the words "pay to the order of (insert name of someone else)." This allows someone else to cash or deposit the check instead of you.
All of these endorsement restrictions go in the same "ENDORSE CHECK HERE" box on the back of the check. As the check receiver, you shouldn't write anywhere else on the check.
What Does Endorsing a Check Mean?
When you are writing a check for someone you have to sign your name on the signature line on the front of the check, in order for the check to be useable. If that signature is missing, then the check receiver won't be able to cash or deposit that check. Your signature is needed to give the check receiver permission to take out those funds from your own account.
Check endorsements work in much the same way. The receiver of the check must validate they are in fact the check receiver by signing their own signature on the back of the check and providing the bank teller or cashier with their ID. This ensures that the check is being cashed or deposited by the correct person.
Check endorsements also give the bank permission to finish processing the check transaction and get your funds to you. It gives the bank permission to deal with the check sender's account and your account in order to transfer funds from the sender's account to the receiver's account.
Because endorsing a check is how you authorize the finalization of the check transaction between you and the check sender, you should wait to endorse the check at the bank teller's counter. This will help keep thieves from being able to cash the check because the proper person (you) hasn't endorsed it yet.
If you are endorsing a check for an electronic deposit then the check will remain in your possession even after you've endorsed it. To keep the check secure, keep others from trying to cash it again, and remind you that you've already taken care of that check, write the word "VOID" in all caps across the front of the check as soon as the electronic deposit goes through.
Where to Endorse a Check
The endorsement area of a check is found on the back of the check. If you flip your check over you'll find a section with the words "ENDORSE CHECK HERE" and a box or some lines for you to write your signature.
At the bottom of the endorsement area, you'll also find the words "Do not write, stamp, or sign below this line." This means that you are meant to write your check endorsement in the designated space and not make any marks on the rest of the back of the check.
You should keep your signature and any other endorsement instructions you might have in that small endorsement area only. This is because the bank will need the rest of the space on the back of the check for their own records and purposes to finish processing the check correctly.
Who Endorses a Check?
The person receiving the check is the one that needs to endorse the check. For instance, if the front of the check on the "Pay to the Order of" line says, "Jane Doe" then Jane Doe is the one who should be endorsing the check.
In general, whoever's name is written on the "Pay to the Order of" line is the one who needs to endorse the check.
How to Endorse a Check
How to endorse a check is an easy thing to do. The first thing you should know is to wait until you are actually at the bank before you endorse the check. That way you'll be better at protecting yourself against check fraud.
Next, flip the check over on its back and you'll find the section shown in the image below. This is where you'll be endorsing your check.
Step One: Flip the check over to the back of the check. On the back of the check, you'll find the words "ENDORSE CHECK HERE" with some lines beneath them.
Step Two: Sign your name on the lines or empty box provided below the words "ENDORSE CHECK HERE."
Step Three: On the last line below "ENDORSE CHECK HERE" you'll find the words "DO NOT WRITE, STAMP OR SIGN BELOW THIS LINE ***RESERVED FOR FINANCIAL INSTITUTION USE***" These instructions mean you should not write, sign, or stamp anything at all below that line. The check cashing place you use will need this space for their own purposes, so it should be left blank.
How to Endorse a Check for Deposit Only
Endorse check for deposit only is a type of restrictive endorsement. Restrictive endorsements are useful because they ensure the check will be used exactly how you want it to be used.
When writing a restrictive endorsement it is important you be as clear as possible in your instructions. You also need to keep your endorsement instructions and endorsement signature in the designated endorsement area and nowhere else. So you might have to write small, but legibly.
Step One: Flip the check over to the back of the check.
Step Two: In the designated endorsement area write the words "For Deposit Only" in small but legible letters.
Step Three: Below where you wrote "For Deposit Only" sign your signature to complete the endorsement.
*Extra Step: You can make this restrictive endorsement extra secure by adding the account number of the account you want the check to be deposited to. Just write the words "For Deposit Only to Account #####" with your account number written out.
How to Endorse a Check for Mobile Deposit
Many banks now let you deposit checks using your phone. That means you don't have to take a trip to your bank just to take care of a check! Now all you have to do is have your bank's mobile app and you can deposit checks to your account from the comfort of your own home.
Step One: When cashing a check on your phone, write the words "Mobile Deposit" along with your signature in the endorsement area on the back of the check.
Step Two: Then, open your bank's mobile app.
Step Three: Open the menu and select the check deposit option.
Step Four: You'll be asked to follow some instructions that will include taking a picture of the front and back of your already endorsed check, and verifying the amount on the check.
*Extra Step: It might take a few minutes or even a few business days for the check funds to deposit into your account. Once the check funds drop into your account, write the word "VOID" in all caps across the front of the check.
This will ensure that no one can try and deposit the check again. It also serves as a reminder to you that this check has already been taken care of.
How to Endorse a Business Check
If the check is written out to a business instead of a person, then someone who is authorized by that business needs to endorse the business check. The bank that holds your business's bank account will know who is and isn't authorized to endorse checks to your business.
Step One: Flip the check over onto the back of the check.
Step Two: In the endorsement area write the name of the business in the same way it's written on the "Pay to the Order of" line, sign your own name, and write your title with the company. Keep all of this information in the designated endorsement space.
*Extra Step: Even though this is a business check you can still add endorsement restrictions like "For Deposit Only."
How to Endorse a Check for a Minor
Ideally, when writing a check to a minor, you should write the name of the parent who will be depositing or cashing the check on the "Pay to the Order of" line, and then write the child's name with the letters FBO on the memo line. FBO means "For the Benefit of." Writing a check this way makes it easy for the parent to take care of the check for the child without any problems.
But not all checks for minors get written out this way. In that case, here is what you'll want to do.
Step One: Flip the check over to the back.
Step Two: In the endorsement area write the child's name with a hyphen and the word "minor" to indicate they are a child.
Step Three: Then, write your name with a hyphen that indicates your relationship with the child, like mother, father, parent, or guardian.
Step Four: Finally, sign your name to finish endorsing the check.
How to Endorse For the Benefit of (FBO) Checks
FBO checks, or "For the Benefit of" checks, are checks written to be payable to person A for the benefit of person B. This allows checks to be cashed or deposited by a specific party even though they are meant for another. You might write an FBO check when writing a check for a child.
For example, Jane Doe has a son named William Doe. William has a birthday and his grandma, Anne Doe, writes him a check. She knows William is just a child, so she writes him an FBO check instead of writing the check directly to William.
Grandma Doe would write an FBO check that says "Jane Doe" on the "Pay to the Order of" line, but then in the memo line it would say "FBO William Doe." This allows William's mother to take care of the check for him without the bank needing a special endorsement on the back.
This means that Jane Doe is the one who should endorse the check and then cash the check and give the money to William, or deposit the check funds into William's bank account for him. It is always whoever is written in the "Pay to the Order of" line that needs to endorse the check on the back.
How to Endorse a Two-Party Check
Sometimes the "Pay to the Order of" line lists multiple people. When this happens you'll want to check whether these names are listed with the word "and" or the word "or."
For instance, if the check is written out to "Jane Doe and John Smith" then both Jane and John must sign the back of the check to endorse it, and be present to cash or deposit the check.
But if the check is written out to "Jane Doe or John Smith" then only one of them needs to endorse the check and be present to cash or deposit the check.
Step One: Look at the "Pay to the Order of" line. Does it use the word "and" or does it use the word "or "between the two names?
AND: If the "Pay to the Order of" line uses the word "and" between the two names then both parties need to sign the back of the check and be present to deposit or cash the check.
OR: If the "Pay to the Order of" line uses the word "or" between the two names then only one of the parties needs to sign the back of the check and be present to cash or deposit it.
If the check doesn't specify "and" or "or," but just lists the names, then follow the same instructions you would if the check were written with the word "and."
For example, maybe the check writer doesn't use the words "and" or "or" and instead simply writes, "Jane Smith, John Smith." In this case, act as if they wrote, "Jane Smith and John Smith" and have both Jane and John endorse the check and be present to cash or deposit the check.
How to Endorse a Check to a Third Party
Sometimes you need to use a check written out to you, to pay someone else. Or, a check was written out to you but should really be going to someone else. In either case, what you want to do is endorse the check over to someone else.
Step One: In the endorsement section on the back of the check write "Pay to the Order of (insert name of someone else)" and then sign your own signature to validate this transference of payee rights.
You should know that not all banks will accept third-party checks due to the high risk of fraud. The bank might also require both parties on the check to be present to cash or deposit the check.
Call and ask your check cashing place ahead of time to ask if they accept third-party checks and what other policies they might have around third-party checks. In some instances, it might be easier to have the check issuer rewrite a new check instead.
How to Endorse a Check to Someone Else
If you are looking to endorse a check to someone else then you'll want to follow the same steps found under the above section, "How to Endorse a Check to a Third Party."
The third party refers to someone else that you wish to endorse the check to. To endorse a check to someone else, all you have to do is write "Pay to the Order of (insert name of someone else)" and then sign your own signature, all in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
By writing your check endorsement this way, you can endorse a check to someone else. But odds are, you will still both need to be present in order for someone else to cash or deposit the check you endorsed to them.