How To Correct A Mistake On A Check

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: October 9, 2020

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How to correct a mistake on a check | Be The Budget

This might seem fairly obvious, but the more checks you write, the more chances you have to make a mistake. On the other hand, if you aren’t in the habit of writing checks very often, it’s also easy to make a mistake due to a lack of practice. But truthfully, why you made the mistake doesn’t matter. The more important thing — and the question we’re about to answer — is, can you correct a mistake on a check?

In some situations, yes, you can correct a mistake on a check by crossing out the error, writing the correction directly above it, then adding your initials adjacent to the correction. Though, if you’ve made a mistake in either the numerical or written versions of the check’s amount, it is best to void the check and write a new one.

Ultimately, the decision to accept or reject a check lies with the financial institution at which it is deposited or cashed. So, if you are concerned about it, you can always check with them and explain the situation.

Though, you should know that they are likely to recommend voiding the check and writing a new one. This is the cleanest method. And, in an effort to avoid any mistakes themselves, banks much prefer to work with error-free checks.

So, is there anything else you need to know? Well, yes. And that’s why, in the rest of this guide, I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process of correcting a mistake on a check. So, if you ever find yourself in a situation where that is your only option, you will know exactly what to do, and how to do it.

Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Cross Out The Mistake

Ok, so this step might seem pretty self-explanatory, but honestly, there are all sorts of wrong ways to cross out a mistake on a check. And if you do this wrong, you can almost guarantee your check will be rejected.

So, how do you cross out the mistake?

Simple. Just draw one, very neat line through the middle of the mistake.

Don’t scribble it out or draw a wiggly line through the whole thing. And definitely don’t black it out with a pen. You see, when correcting a mistake on a check, banks don’t just want to see the correction. They also want to see the mistake that needed to be corrected.

Your goal isn’t to hide the mistake. Rather, your goal is to correct it, as well as show what, exactly, you corrected. Put simply, if a bank can’t see the original mistake, it becomes much harder for them to trust the authenticity of the correction. And when that happens, your check is much more likely to get rejected.

Can you correct a mistake on a check? | Be The Budget

Step 2: Correct The Mistake Above It

Once you’ve drawn a clean line through the mistake on your check, the next step is to write the correction directly above it.

Now, since checks don’t leave much room for corrections, you will likely have to write the correction in fairly small letters. So, keep your handwriting neat, and clearly legible. The last thing the bank wants is a check with a correction that is harder to read than the mistake.

Messy checks are more likely to get rejected, so keep it clean.

Step 3: Initial The Correction

After correcting the mistake in clear, easy-to-read handwriting, the last thing you’ll want to do is initial the correction to authenticate it. This is a critical step, and if you leave this out, the bank is likely to reject it.

Like step 2, be sure to keep your handwriting neat and legible. Oh, and if you had to correct multiple mistakes on one single check, be sure to initial each correction. Adding one set of initials for multiple mistakes doesn’t cut it.

For every correction, add your initials.

Step 4: Alert The Teller At Time Of Deposit

If you find yourself in a situation where voiding a check is not a possibility, (i.e. you made a mistake on the very last check in your checkbook), it is best for you to alert the teller at the time of deposit.

This might require you to accompany the person to which you wrote the check to the bank, and speak to the teller yourself. That way, if they have any questions about the check’s authenticity, you can be there to confirm the corrections. Just as a precaution, be sure to bring a photo ID. I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

Step 5: When In Doubt, Void And Start Over

I know I’ve said this multiple times already, but if you make a mistake on a check, your best option is to just void the check and write a completely new one.

If you’ve never voided a check before, all you have to do is write VOID in big letters across the entire check. Also, be sure to use a black or blue pen when doing so. Just don’t use anything that can be erased. The whole point of voiding a check is to make sure it can never be used to withdraw money from your bank account. So, make those letters big and bold.

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When Can’t You Correct a Mistake On A Check?

In general, you shouldn’t try to correct a mistake in either the numerical or written ‘amount’ fields on a check. Since banks might view this as tampering, it is very unlikely that the check will be accepted. Rather, you should just void the check and write a new one.

Can You Use White Out On A Check?

Put simply, no, you should never use white out on a check. Banks consider this ‘tampering’, and therefore, will not accept it. Rather, you should cross out the mistake on the check, correct the mistake directly above it, and then initial the correction. When in doubt, you can void the check and write a new one.

How Do You Void A Check That’s Already Been Sent?

If you wish to cancel a check that has already been sent, you can contact your bank as soon as possible and place a stop payment on the check. Assuming it has not already been cashed or deposited, this.

What Should You Do If A Check Gets Lost In The Mail?

If you believe a check you sent was lost in the mail, you should alert your bank immediately and place a stop payment on the check. As long as it has not already been deposited, the check will be considered invalid, and therefore, the money will not be withdrawn from your bank account.

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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