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I think I know the answer to this, but I'm not sure, and it's a good question, so I'll ask:

What is the accepted/proper way to correct a mistake made on a check?

For instance, I imagine that in any given January, some people accidentally date a check in the previous year.

Is there a way to correct such a mistake, or must a check be voided (and wasted)? Pointers to definitive information (U.S., Canada, and elsewhere) are helpful.

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4 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

From working in a bank: Void the check and write a new one.

Any change, even if initialed, could be considered suspicious, and cause for the bank to refuse to accept the check (they may still accept it at their discretion). It's better to be safe than sorry, so write out a new check that is correct.

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Most countries are moving to this rule. Any correction, no matter how clearly signed and corrected, results in a voided cheque. –  Turukawa Jan 5 '11 at 7:50
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From the FDIC: cross out the incorrect information, write in the correct information, and initial.

A check with the previous year on it may be considered a stale check, and may be refused by the bank. The person writing the check must correct it if that happens.

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In India the current regulation effective from 2010 is to allow only the date to be changed. The changes should be clear and not overwritten. For example the older entry needs to be circled and a new entry be made. There needs to be a signature [full as per the record and not just initial]. Any changes to payee and amounts are not allowed and would be void if changed.

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I'll give the opposite advice as Benjamin did.

Ignore your mistake. 99% of the time (and possibly a few more nines after that), no one pays attention to anything on a check other than the numerical amount. I'd even say it's more likely to be scrutinized if you correct your error than if you just leave the error in place.

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Unless you accidentally write a check for $10,000 instead of $1000, or something :P –  Matthew Read Jan 5 '11 at 6:38
    
A date error is most certainly going to be noticed if you attempt to deposit the check at the bank. –  justkt Jan 5 '11 at 14:55
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@justkt I disagree. I've deposited post-dated checks, typo-10-years-old checks, checks with no date on them, and plenty of other varieties of date mistakes. Banks really don't care what's written on a check because anyone can write anything on one. Checks are inherently insecure, no amount of scrutiny will fix that. –  Sparr Jan 6 '11 at 1:37
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Anyone can write anything on one, which is why banks have no way of knowing if the change was made by the maker or some random joe bloe who found the check on the street. In general, though, the larger the batch of checks being deposited, the less scrutiny - an individual depositing a check will have more scrutiny than a business depositing a stack of 200 checks. –  Benjamin Chambers Jan 6 '11 at 17:50
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protected by Chris W. Rea Jun 9 '13 at 13:22

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