Knowing how to endorse a check is one of the foundational financial skills you need to have. This simple process ensures money goes where it needs to and helps protect you against fraud.
How to endorse a check
Endorsing a check is, rather simply, signing your name to authorize the movement of money. Your signature on the back of a check allows your financial institution to verify you are the intended recipient of funds.
A proper endorsement starts by ensuring the name you sign matches the name on the payee line on the front of the check. In some cases, a person may write a check out to you and misspell your name. Rather than request a corrected check, The Balance contributor Justin Pritchard notes you can endorse the check with the misspelled version of your name and then again with the correct spelling.
Your endorsement goes on the back of a check in a section at the top. The endorsement area typically consists of a heading that reads “Endorse here” followed by lines where your signature is intended to go. Beneath these lines, you’ll likely find text that reads “Do not write, stamp, or sign below this line.” Follow these instructions — writing below that text can invalidate the check.
When you endorse a check, do so with a pen that will not bleed through the paper. Endorsing a check in pencil could allow someone to erase and alter the endorsement. Marcie Geffner, a contributor with U.S. News & World Report, recommends using a pen with black or blue ink.
Another way to ensure you are protected against fraud is to not sign it until right before you cash or deposit the funds. Geffner recommends endorsing checks you plan to hand over to a teller in the lobby of your bank rather than before you arrive.
Different kinds of endorsements
If you plan to bring the check to your bank and keep the funds for yourself, signing your name in the correct space on the back is sufficient. This is what’s known as a blank endorsement, which means it provides no further instructions. Because there are no restrictions, a blank endorsement is best for cases where you’re depositing or cashing the check immediately.
A restrictive endorsement provides more specific instructions that limit the way the check can be used. One example Geffner notes is endorsing a check with “For deposit only” and including the account number on another line. This means the check in question can only be deposited and only in the specified account. These endorsements are particularly safe if you’re mailing a check or depositing it at an ATM.
Another common restrictive endorsement is “For mobile deposit only,” which is a requirement for most financial institutions if you are depositing a check via a mobile banking app. In many cases, you will need to write this restrictive endorsement yourself. Some checks now offer a blank check box with a pre-printed endorsement line that reads “Check here if mobile deposit.”
An endorsement in full is when you essentially sign the check over to someone else. A possible example would be selling an item on behalf of your child and then endorsing the check so that you can deposit the funds directly into their savings account. In this case, you would sign “Pay to the order of,” followed by the name of the person to whom you’d like the money to go, followed then by your signature and the signature of the recipient.