I want to write a check in the US, to be sent to the recipient via standard mail (USPS). What (and where) do I need to write on the check (in addition to the standard recipient name, $ amount, date and my signature) in order to protect it from being cashed or deposited by any person other that the intended recipient?

For example, if the envelope is lost in the mail and the check arrives at some stranger's hands, how do I guarantee that person cannot use (deposit, transfer, cash) the check?


3 Answers 3


You can't really, it's the bank's job to do that. That's the whole point of writing a name on the For line. Banks aren't supposed to accept checks endorsed by someone other than that person. When you get your canceled check images (or the actual checks if your bank still does that), you should be checking that that the depositor is who you wrote the check to.

  • Thanks. Looking in other places, there are different methods to limit the usability of a check. For example, in Israel, the payer can write (the Hebrew equivalent of) "To the payee only" in his handwriting. Then no one else can deposit this check.
    – ysap
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:30
  • Yes, banks job. The banks that I deal with won't convert a check to cash unless you have an account and show ID.
    – Mattman944
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:31

In USA, on Check you cannot write "To the payee only" as in Israel or "account Payee only" as in India.

In USA it is assumed that the Bank will verify that the name matches with the person cashing the check.

I understand that basically you want that check to go to an account rather than being cashed, I don't think that can be limited by writer. So if you write a check to "John PQR" any one with same name ( multiple people can have same name) can withdraw the fund.

So first defense is to put the correct address and possibly use certified mail.

  • 1
    Thanks. I believe in other countries, you could "cross" a check, making it only valid for account deposit and not for cashing. This is explained here: investopedia.com/terms/c/crossedcheck.asp
    – ysap
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 13:02
  • @ysap I have seen that, but I could not find a way like that in USA. Basically banks do not want to put customers first, even if bank makes mistakes, but they have lawyers to blame on customers.
    – Raj
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 14:05
  • 1
    Really? I’ve also seen something about crossed cheques being rare in the US, but if it is legal to cross cheque’s in the US, how do banks circumvent that?
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 14:39
  • @Lawrence - the page you link to actually claims that the crossed check should only be deposited to the payee's account. I am not sure this is an accurate interpretation to the law, though. But, if it is, then this actually answers my question.
    – ysap
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 15:28
  • In the US you typically write "For deposit only" on the back to prevent cashing. Most Google links seem to assume that only the recipient is writing this, however.
    – pboss3010
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 16:20

For example, if the envelope is lost in the mail and the check arrives at some stranger's hands, how do I guarantee that person cannot use (deposit, transfer, cash) the check?

You need to minimize the chances of it getting lost. In the United States the USPS has certified and registered mail. Certified mail requires a person to sign for the letter, registered mail allows you to track online the progress of the letter though the system.

If you use these options you will have proof that it was delivered and who signed for it. You can also give the recipient the shipping number for the letter to let the recipient know that the letter is coming, and they can track the progress. They will then know to alert you if it doesn't arrive.

You then have to trust the banks to do their job, to make sure it is only cashed/deposited by the intended recipient.

  • Thanks. Mailing is just an example. The question is more general - protecting the payer and payee from unintended use of the check.
    – ysap
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:31
  • 3
    @ysap have you actually had problems with this? I'm written thousands of checks, and never had this problem. Ever. (Or do you deal with many dishonest people who you think might forge other people's signatures?)
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:43
  • @RonJohn - no, I did not have a problem. OTOH, I rarely send checks in the mail. I've been using online bill pay since forever now so I do not bother myself with writing off and mailing checks. But once in a while there is a need for that.
    – ysap
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:58
  • @ysap yeah, I rarely hand-write checks anymore (three or four in the past 18 months). My online bill pay service mails some checks for me, though.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 13:22
  • No, certified mail has several options and some of them don't require a signature from the recipient. All certified mail has tracking, indeed even priority mail has tracking. In short, registered mail is not the only method offering tracking. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 15:27

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