How to Correct a Mistake on a Check?

Mistakes when writing checks happen often. It can be pretty frustrating if you’re in a rush or running low on checks.

You might write the wrong amount, or perhaps the check isn’t even made out to the correct person. When there’s an error with this form of payment, it must be fixed before anyone can cash or deposit it.

Since that’s the case, it’s important to know how to correct anything, so you don’t have to waste time, or checks, rewriting. Here’s how to correct a mistake on a check. 

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Can You Fix a Mistake on a Check?

First of all, if there is an error, can you even correct it? Yes, you can fix a mistake on a check but there are some banks that have policies of voiding checks that have mistakes.

Here are some things you should know about how to correct a mistake on a check.

The Financial Institution has the Final Say

No matter what, the bank is the final authority on whether or not they can accept the check. Since they’re the ones cashing or depositing it, they make the final call.

If there is an error on your check, it’s important to remember this. You can always ask.

That way, you’ll learn about their policies. But remember that it is never their responsibility to accept an altered check.

When in Doubt, it is Always Best to Void the Check and Start Over

This is one of the best things to do if you aren’t sure about an error on a check or how to fix it.

Simply write VOID across the check, and write a new one instead. While it may take a couple more minutes of your time, you won’t need to worry about any errors.

How Do You Edit a Check?

But suppose you don’t have the time for a rewrite or are down to your last check ( hopefully not), then what? You’ll need to know how to make some minor edits correctly.

Here’s how to correct a mistake on a check – well, at least some errors.

Step 1: Neatly Cross Out Error

Don’t try to erase or white out the mistake. It’s better to draw a straight, neat line through it in order to show that you’re making a correction.

Don’t scribble or draw multiple lines over the error; a simple cross-out will do.

Step 2: Correct The Error Above It

Above the error, write the correction. Take care to make your writing easy to read. You want everything to be legible when the bank takes a look at it. 

Step 3: Initial The Correction

Write your initials next to the correction. This way, you’re sort of signing the correction and saying that you are the one correcting the error. It gives a bit more credibility to the correction. 

What to Do If You Wrote the Wrong Amount on a Check?

It’s easy to accidentally add a number to an amount on a check. This can result in a check that is worth much more or less than you intended.

This can be frustrating but don’t panic. An amount is not as easy to fix as something smaller, so it’s best to just start over.

If you really don’t want to, then try contacting the bank to see what their policy is on this. But if you void the check and rewrite it, you can be sure that there won’t be any confusion.

What to Do if the Check is Made Out to the Wrong Name?

If the check is made out to the wrong name, have the teller check your ID and documentation and see if they’ll allow it. They just need to know that you’re you. 

Suppose you’re dealing with a slight misspelling or something more complicated like a nickname. You should still be able to deposit as usual.

Ask your bank first but many will have you sign the check with your correct name and the misspelled version to avoid confusion.

What to Do if You Wrote the Wrong Account Number on the Back of the Check?

This is more difficult because, in this case, someone else wrote you a check that you’re trying to deposit. You should try contacting the bank to inform them and see what the procedure is. They should be able to aid you further.

The worst-case scenario would be having to ask the provider of the check to issue a new one and voiding the old one. But it’s better and more convenient if you don’t have to do this.

What Should You Do if You Sign a Check Wrong?

You should always try to sign everything in the same way. Use your unique signature so that people know that it’s you.

If you sign a check incorrectly, reach out to your bank. See what they’ll allow and what they want you to do for endorsement mistakes.

How to Avoid Dealing with Checks

Checks have been around for a while now. But they aren’t always the fastest or most efficient form of payment.

Sure, many banks will now make mobile deposits. Still, even with that, there’s sometimes a waiting period before the check goes through to the account.

And if you don’t have a mobile deposit option, you have to find a location to cash or deposit your check. This can make it a challenge to get the money quickly, especially if the bank is closed for the weekend.

While correcting minor mistakes on checks will usually be easy, you might be starting to think that checks aren’t worth dealing with. Maybe you’re wondering about other methods that will help you to be able to pay others and be paid yourself.

There are a couple of things you can do to not have to deal with checks at all. That way, you don’t have to think about how to correct a mistake on a check.

Direct Deposit

Direct deposits are very efficient and it’s one of the easiest ways to get paid and avoid checks at the same time. This is best for companies that you work with very often, like your primary employer.

If you’re a freelancer or contractor, you may not want to set up a direct deposit with every person that pays you, especially if it’s a one-time project. So direct deposits are better for long-term business relationships.

To get started, you’ll need to fill out any information required by the company that pays you. They’ll need some information like routing number and account number in order to set up a deposit directly into your account.

All the setup can take a few days to take effect, so you’ll need to be patient. But once the process is done, direct deposit makes payments super easy. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Apps

If you don’t want to make a direct deposit, but you don’t like checks either, there are still other ways to get paid for your work. There are a ton of payment apps out there, including Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay, Venmo, and more.

Some quick research can show you the pros and cons of all of them, to make it simple to find one that fits your lifestyle. It may depend on whether you plan to use this service for personal use or business use, too.

Apps are great because you can be paid very quickly and pay others rapidly too. That way, you aren’t still waiting on a check to be cashed days and days later. 

Are Checks Still Relevant?

Checks have lost popularity for sure. They used to be used by everyone, and in fact, they’ve been around for hundreds of years!

But as usual, newer and better ways of payment are emerging. Direct deposit has been around for some time, but less than 50 years, so it’s pretty new.

And a lot of people prefer it. Apps are even more recent. With all these modern ways to get paid, are checks still relevant? 

I say yes, only because they are still used by a lot of people. That means that it’s pretty likely you’ll still need to use checks at some point in your life.

This could be either to deposit or write a check to someone else who doesn’t have another way of accepting payment. It’s a good thing to know about, and it wouldn’t hurt to have some checks of your own on hand for emergencies.

And it is definitely good to know how to correct a mistake on a check.

Should You Have Personal or Business Checks?

This answer is pretty easy. If you own a business, use business checks for business expenses. If you don’t own a business, use personal checks.

It’s commonly agreed that you should separate business and checking accounts, and the same can be said of checks. Keep everything in the correct categories.

Review of Steps to Correct a Mistake on a Check

We’ve covered a lot of information in this article. Now, you should feel pretty comfortable handling any mistakes with checks. Just in case part of this didn’t make sense, this checklist can help you remember how to correct a mistake on a check.

To Edit a Mistake:

  • Cross out. Neatly draw a line through the mistake. Use a pen. 
  • Correct. Above the cross out, write in the accurate information.
  • Initial. Put your initials next to the correction.

Good to Remember:

  • Edits are best for small mistakes like misspellings. If it’s something more important, the check may not get accepted.
  • Always ask the bank if you aren’t sure. They are the ones who can tell you how to correct specific errors, and they have the final authority on what checks are cashed and deposited. You won’t be able to do anything with the check without their help, so it’s essential to keep them informed.
  • Just start again if you don’t know the right way to fix an error. Void the current check and write a new one. That will solve problems before they start and keep you from worrying about whether the check will be able to be deposited or not.

Keeping these things in mind will help you a lot when you’re wondering how to correct a mistake on a check. It can help you save paper and time when you’re in a rush and just need to fix something quickly.

This article also covers knowing when it’s better to start over with writing a check and what you can do if you have questions regarding a check you’ve written or received. 

It may seem like a lot to remember, but most edits are simple, and you can follow the three rules above. If it isn’t so simple, there’s usually a way to fix that, too.

Checks have been an acceptable form of payment for years, and it’s good to know how to write them and correct things. That way, you’ll always be prepared.

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Steffa Mantilla

Certified Financial Education Instructor

Steffa is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and the founder behind Money Tamer. Her 12-year background in operant conditioning and positive behavioral change training is used to help people find effective motivators to change their harmful money behaviors. Steffa explains the reasons “why” behind people’s financial behaviors and how to successfully change them. After paying off over $80,000 in debt through budgeting, she now teaches families how to get their own finances in order. You can learn more about her here.

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