How To Sign Over a Check: 6 Steps + Tips for Safety

Updated on January 6, 2024

At a Glance

  • Determine the recipient and secure their agreement.
  • Confirm their bank accepts third-party checks.
  • Sign in the endorsement area, specifying the recipient below your signature, and hand the check to them for depositing.
  • Ensure clarity and agreement throughout the process to avoid complications.

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Signing over a check allows the payee to authorize someone else to deposit or cash it on their behalf. If you can’t process the check personally, you can sign it over to another party. Here’s what you need to know.

What Does it Mean to Endorse a Check?

Before cashing a check, it’s essential to endorse it. The method and timing of your endorsement depend on your intentions with the check and its specifications. Essentially, endorsing a check facilitates the transfer or withdrawal of funds, either for you or a third party, from the bank.

How To Sign Over a Check: 6 Steps

If you wish to transfer your check to another individual or entity, you’ll need to understand the process of signing it over. Given that the check is made payable to you, endorsing it to a third party, commonly referred to as a “third-party check,” requires certain steps to ensure it’s accepted. Here’s a guide:

Step 1. Decide on the Recipient

Before you endorse your check, determine the individual, organization, or entity you want to sign it over to. It’s essential to strategize this step, as third-party checks can sometimes present challenges when cashed or deposited.

Step 2. Seek Agreement from the Recipient

Initiate a conversation with your chosen recipient to ensure they’re amenable to receiving a signed-over check. Mutual agreement is vital for a seamless transaction.

Step 3. Check with the Recipient’s Bank

The chosen recipient should verify with their bank if it accepts third-party checks, as not all banks do. Having this clarity beforehand can prevent potential complications.

Step 4. Use the Endorsement Area

Flip the check over to locate the “Endorse Check Here” section. Sign your name as it appears on the check’s front. For a clear understanding of endorsement nuances, refer to resources like how to properly endorse a check.

Step 5. Specify the Third Party

Below your signature, write “Pay to the Order of” followed by the third party’s name. This action clearly indicates your intention to transfer the check’s ownership.

Step 6. Hand Over the Check

Once endorsed, the third party can proceed with depositing the check. Accompanying them to their bank can be helpful, especially if the bank requires additional verification.

How to Write an Restrictive Endorsement on a Check

Restrictive endorsements provide an added layer of security when depositing checks by designating a specific purpose or use. Here’s how to apply them correctly:

For Specific Account Deposit

If you’re aiming to deposit the check into a particular account, follow these steps:

  1. Direct the Funds: On the first line, inscribe “For Deposit Only.”
  2. Mention the Account: Directly below, note down the account number.
  3. Sign It Off: On the third line, place your signature.

Utilizing this method is especially secure because it explicitly directs the bank to deposit the funds only into the specified account. This way, the check cannot be cashed or deposited elsewhere. A point of caution: if the payer gets a returned check from their bank, your account number will be visible.

For Mobile Deposits

Should you opt to deposit your check through a bank’s mobile application, there’s a distinct procedure in light of the 2018 federal regulations:

  1. Your Signature: Initiate by signing your name on the first line.
  2. Specify the Deposit Method: Right below your signature, you may need to jot down “For mobile deposit only at [Your Bank’s Name]” or a similar phrase as directed by your bank.

It’s crucial to name the respective bank and indicate that you’re conducting a remote deposit, ensuring compliance and smooth processing.

Other Types of Endorsements

A check can be endorsed in several ways, depending on the desired action, such as transferring the funds to someone else or directing its deposit. Here’s an overview of some common endorsement types:

Third-Party Endorsement

If you wish to use a check addressed to you as a payment for someone else, you can do a third-party endorsement. This essentially instructs the bank to transfer the check’s value to another individual. However, remember that not all banks accept third-party checks due to the associated risks.

To carry out a third-party endorsement:

  1. In the endorsement area, write “Pay to the order of” followed by the intended recipient’s name.
  2. Add your signature below that line.

The recipient would then sign below your signature when they deposit or cash the check. If you plan to do this, it’s crucial to confirm beforehand that both the issuing bank and the recipient’s bank will accept this form of endorsement. Otherwise, the check may be rejected.

Blank Endorsement

This is the simplest and most common way to endorse a check but it’s also the least secure. By merely signing your name on the back of the check, you’re giving anyone who holds the check the authority to either deposit it or cash it. It’s advisable to use this method right before making a deposit, either in person with a bank teller or at an ATM, to minimize potential fraud risks.

Endorsement for Business

When a check is made payable to a company or business, an authorized individual from the organization must endorse the check.

To endorse on behalf of a business:

  • Begin by writing the business’s official name in the designated endorsement area on the check’s back.

Note: The process might require additional steps, depending on the bank’s policy and the business’s internal procedures. Always consult with your financial institution for specific guidelines.

Depositing a Check for Somebody Else

If you deposit a check for someone else, proceed with caution. Although your intentions may be good, your finances could be at risk. Should the check bounce, you’ll be liable for the amount, even if the check wasn’t originally yours. If it doesn’t clear, the bank will deduct from your account, potentially leading to further complications with the bank, including account freezes or closures.

Avoid depositing checks for strangers, as this can be a scam. Although funds might appear available immediately, the verification process can take days or even weeks. If the check doesn’t clear and you’ve spent or handed over money, recouping losses can be difficult and may require legal action. Always prioritize your financial safety.

How to Sign Over a Check Safely: 10 Tips

Signing over a check involves transferring your rights to the funds to another person or entity. Given the financial and legal implications, it’s crucial to exercise caution. Here are some tips to sign over a check safely:

  1. Verify the Recipient: Only sign over checks to individuals or organizations you trust. Be cautious of any unsolicited requests to sign over a check.
  2. Use Clear and Legible Writing: When endorsing the check, make sure your handwriting is clear and legible to avoid any misunderstandings or mistakes during the depositing process.
  3. Limit Exposure: Don’t sign over a check until you’re ready to hand it over. An endorsed check is like cash, and if lost, anyone can potentially cash it.
  4. Use Restrictive Endorsements: Write “For Deposit Only” along with “Pay to the Order of [Recipient’s Name]” to ensure the check can only be deposited into the named person’s account.
  5. Retain a Copy: Make a photocopy or take a clear photograph of both the front and back of the endorsed check for your records.
  6. Confirm Bank Policies: Before signing over a check, contact both your bank and the recipient’s bank to confirm their policies on accepting signed-over checks.
  7. Avoid Mailing: If possible, avoid mailing signed-over checks. Instead, hand-deliver them to ensure they don’t get lost or fall into the wrong hands.
  8. Document the Transaction: Especially for larger amounts, consider drafting a brief document that states the intent, amount, parties involved, and date of the transaction. Both parties should sign it.
  9. Monitor Your Account: After signing over a check, monitor your bank account to ensure the check is processed correctly. Look out for any unexpected fees or discrepancies.
  10. Be Cautious with Online Deals: If someone you met online asks you to cash a check on their behalf or for any deal involving signed-over checks, be extremely wary. Many scams revolve around fraudulent checks.

10 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Below, you will find ten common mistakes people make when signing over checks and advice for how to avoid them:

1. Bank Acceptance Issues

  • Mistake: Assuming all banks or individuals will accept a third-party check.
  • Solution: Always contact the intended recipient’s bank to confirm their third-party check policy.

2. Endorsement Errors

  • Mistake: Not fully endorsing the check or only providing a signature.
  • Solution: Ensure you both sign your name and write “Pay to the order of [Recipient’s Name].”

3. Signature Inconsistencies

  • Mistake: Providing a signature that doesn’t match the bank’s record or the check’s front.
  • Solution: Sign consistently. Keep a sample of your signature for reference.

4. Communication Lapses

  • Mistake: Failing to communicate with the third party you’re signing the check over to.
  • Solution: Always coordinate with the recipient to ensure they’re aware and prepared.

5. Record-Keeping Oversights

  • Mistake: Not retaining a copy of the endorsed check.
  • Solution: Always photograph or photocopy both sides of the endorsed check for records.

6. Deposit Delays

  • Mistake: Letting the signed-over check sit around too long.
  • Solution: Advise the third party to promptly deposit the check to avoid potential issues.

7. Neglecting Check Details

  • Mistake: Missing discrepancies like incorrect amounts or dates.
  • Solution: Thoroughly review the check before endorsing.

8. Security Lapses

  • Mistake: Endorsing in public or leaving the check unattended.
  • Solution: Handle checks securely. Endorse in private and store safely.

9. Lack of Follow-Up

  • Mistake: Not ensuring the check cleared successfully.
  • Solution: Monitor your bank account and communicate with the third party to ensure smooth processing.

10. Overreliance on Third-Party Checks

  • Mistake: Using third-party checks frequently for fund transfers.
  • Solution: Reserve third-party checks for occasional use. Consider electronic transfers or payment apps for regular transactions.

Alternatives To Signing Over a Check

Many banks have restrictions or delays on signing over checks. Consider these alternatives if you can’t directly present your check to your bank:

Cash It at the Issuing Bank

  • Take the check to its issuing bank for quicker clearance.
  • If you’re not an account holder at that bank, there may be a service fee.

Check Cashing Companies

  • Use these services for an urgent cash need, but be aware of potential fees and scams.

Mobile Check Deposit

  • Deposit checks digitally by capturing a photo through bank-approved mobile apps.

Credit Unions

  • If you’re a credit union member, certain affiliated branches might cash your check.

No Bank Account?

  • Some online banks offer no-fee accounts, making check cashing more accessible for those without traditional bank accounts.

Caution When Depositing Signed-Over Checks

While modern ATMs offer convenience for standard check deposits, caution is essential when depositing signed-over checks. Here’s why:

  1. Risk of Non-clearance: If a signed-over check bounces (because the payer doesn’t have sufficient funds), you might face financial repercussions.
  2. ATM Limitations: ATMs operate with high automation. While efficient for routine tasks, they might not be as adept in handling the nuances of a signed-over check.
  3. Immediate Accountability: When endorsing a signed-over check, you vouch for its legitimacy. If issues arise, you bear the responsibility.
  4. Potential Delays: The fund transfer process for a check can span a few weeks. Although you might access the money sooner, the actual clearance between banks might lag.
  5. Personal Touch Matters: Directly depositing the check at a bank branch offers you immediate feedback and quicker resolutions. If discrepancies occur, addressing them is simpler compared to an ATM transaction.

Recommendation: Avoid using ATMs for depositing signed-over checks. Embrace in-person bank deposits to ensure clarity, safety, and peace of mind.

Read More

Final Thoughts

It is better to deposit your check on your own; signing over a check should be the worst-case scenario. If you must sign over a check, research your bank’s requirements before proceeding with it.

How to Sign Over a Check FAQ

Below, you will find some common questions about how to sign over a check and other related topics and their answers.

Can I sign over a check to someone else?

Yes, you can sign over a check, known as endorsing. After signing the back, write “Pay to the order of [Name].” However, some banks may not accept third-party checks.

What is the process of signing over a check?

Flip the check, write “Pay to the order of [Name]” in the endorsement area, and sign below. Only transfer checks to trusted parties.

Are there any restrictions or limitations when signing over a check?

Some checks, like personal or government-issued ones, may not be endorsable. Dual endorsements (from both the original and new recipient) are often required. Check with your bank for specific policies.

Do both parties need to endorse the check when signing it over?

Yes, both original and new payees should sign for a legal confirmation of the transfer.

Can I sign over personal and business checks?

In 2023, both personal and business checks can be endorsed. Always verify with your bank for their specific policies.

Are there any fees or charges associated with signing over a check?

Fees might apply depending on the bank and other factors. Check with your bank about any potential charges.

Is there a maximum amount that can be signed over on a check?

Limits may exist, often around $10,000, but it varies by bank and account holder’s relationship. Always verify with your bank.

Can I sign over a government-issued or cashier’s check?

Yes, the process involves a simple endorsement. Always confirm with your bank first.

What information should I include when endorsing a check over?

Sign your name, clearly write the recipient’s name, and possibly include contact details and a brief note.

Yes, only specific types of checks can be endorsed. Proper identification and authorization are necessary. Consult with your bank for detailed guidelines.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.