How to Endorse a Check

By Brad Murrow , last updated January 10, 2012

Endorsing a check may seem as easy as signing your name on the back, but if you don’t do it correctly, you may not be able to cash the check. Whether you are endorsing a personal or business check made out to you, or a third-party check signed over to you, take the time to get your endorsement correct.

Types of Endorsements

When you endorse a check, the process differs based on who the payee is. If the check has been made out to you, you often need to do nothing but sign the back. If the check has been made out to someone else, they’ll need to endorse it to you. Depending on who or what institution is accepting the check, the back may be endorsed over to more than one person. Poker games are notorious for resulting in checks signed over to multiple persons during the course of the game. Some institutions limit the number of times a check can be endorsed.

Basic Endorsement

The basic endorsement is your signature on the back of a check made payable to you. Generally, you flip the check over and sign on the upper, left-hand side of the check, on the end of the check nearest your name on the opposite side. You may be required to sign the check above a line that appears in the endorsement area.

You may need to match your endorsement to the payee of the check. For example, if the check is written to Milly Smith, and you use Millicent F. Smith for your signature, you may need to endorse the check “Milly Smith.” In some cases, you can endorse the check “Milly Smith,” then sign it with your signature immediately below, “Millicent F. Smith.” This method is usually required if your name has been misspelled on the check. For example, if the check is written to Steven Jones and your name is Stephen Jones, you may need to endorse, then sign. Check with the institution cashing the check to see how they want the endorsement.

Third-Party Check

If you are cashing a check made payable to someone else, you’ll need the check endorsed to you. If Randy Reynolds is signing over a check to you, Randy would endorse the check with his signature, then underneath write, “Pay to Stephen Jones.” Under those two lines, you would sign your name.

If you are endorsing a check made payable to you to someone else, you would reverse this process. You would endorse the check, “Stephen Jones,” then write, “Pay to Randy Reynolds.”

For Deposit Only

To protect your check in the chance it’s lost or stolen, you can limit what can be done with the check. If you write, “For Deposit Only” directly under your signature, then the financial institution accepting the check can only deposit the funds into your account. If you lose the check or it’s stolen, no one can cash the check and receive any funds. You may need to write the account number into you want the money deposited underneath the words, “For Deposit Only,” depending on where you deposit the check.

Be certain this is what you want to do. Once you endorse the check this way, the cashier may not give you any money, even a partial payment, after he accepts the check.

Stamps

Some business and personal checking accounts issue ink stamps to the account holder to make endorsing checks easier. Make sure you stamp the endorsement on a blank piece of paper first to make sure you have it lined up correctly. Most banks and financial institutions will honor a check with an upside-down endorsement stamp, but you’ll decrease your chance of any problems if you stamp it correctly.

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Cashing a third-party check is often a simple matter of endorsing the check properly. Third-party checks differ. One type is a check written to another, signed ...
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