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I wrote a check for $450.00. In the number box I put the amount $450.00 exactly. In the spelled number line I put Four Hundred and Fifty. I did not include the cents fraction in the spelling. Is the check valid?

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  • 20
    FYI: The "and" in the middle of the number is unnecessary and potentially ambiguous. The number is "Four Hundred Fifty." "And" on the check amount goes before the number of cents. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Jul 31 at 15:13
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    @BenMiller-RememberMonica that's nonsense. I have NEVER written and before the cents and often include it after hundred. I don't know what particular institute taught you that rule, but it's not a rule. – Kate Gregory Jul 31 at 16:06
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    @KateGregory Here is just one source (see rule 8A): grammarbook.com/numbers/numbers.asp – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Jul 31 at 16:15
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    @KateGregory This is probably a British vs. American thing: englishlessonsbrighton.co.uk/saying-large-numbers-english :) – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Jul 31 at 16:18
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    For exact dollar amounts I arbitrarily choose between "and no/00" and "exactly". E.g., "Four Hundred Fifty exactly". (And FWIW having grown up in Los Angeles CA and lived in the USA my entire life I never use "Four Hundred and Fifty' and always write the "and" before the (non-zero) cents, e.g., "Four Hundred Fifty and 10/100".) – davidbak Jul 31 at 18:06
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The basic criterion is that a forger can not change the amount by adding to what is already written.

So if someone (including an unscrupulous bank employee!) could change "four hundred and fifty" to "four hundred and fifty thousand" the check should be declared invalid.

FWIW in the UK, the convention was to write "only" after an amount in pounds, e.g. "four hundred and fifty only". (I say "was", since hardly anyone writes checks in the UK these days).

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  • 51
    I've always (probably following my parents' example) just drawn a line to fill the field: "four hundred and fifty ----------------------------------" – chepner Jul 31 at 13:35
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    @chepner: Yeah the line is common. – Joshua Jul 31 at 15:21
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    Here, it's particularly bad because "$450.00" is probably pretty easy to change to "$450,000.00" and adding "thousand" at the end of the text is pretty easy too. – David Schwartz Jul 31 at 15:41
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    0 people in the U.K. write checks - and nobody ever has. Cheques on the other hand... ;) – Tim Aug 1 at 0:03
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    In UK didn't we write four hundred and fifty ponds only or with a dash after instead if the only. The bit extra to other comments is that we wrote the units eg pounds example nationwide.co.uk/support/payments-and-transfers/… – mmmmmm 2 days ago
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Valid, as in "legal"?

Yes. Section 3-114 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) doesn't specify the format, but does specify how the check is to be interpreted in the case of contradictory content.

If an instrument contains contradictory terms, typewritten terms prevail over printed terms, handwritten terms prevail over both, and words prevail over numbers.

Your example doesn't include contradictory content, but as we'll see later, this comes into play if someone takes the opportunity to alter the check to take advantage of the way you have filled it out.

I haven't found any part of the UCC that requires the presence of the cents portion of an amount in any context. Lacking specific regulations, the law often asks "How would an ordinary, reasonable person see this?" And in this case, Four Hundred and Fifty in your handwriting, plus Dollars at the end, seems pretty clear as to the intent.

Valid, as in "accepted by the bank"?

Highly probable. As yoozer8 points out, it depends on the bank. Most banks will accept a check like you describe, as long as the meaning is obvious. In your case, you have a combination of Four Hundred and Fifty written by hand, plus the word Dollars presumably pre-printed at the end of the line. That combines to make it unambiguous.

Valid, as in "a good idea"?

No. As alephzero points out, leaving it incomplete opens you to the possibility of someone altering the check to make it for more than your intended amount. It depends on the wording of the amount of the original, but adding thousand would make most any amount into an alternate, larger, and still grammatical, amount. As others have mentioned, your best approach to prevent/minimize this risk is to fully specify the amount, including the cents, even if zero, or to otherwise fill out the remainder of the line to make it clear that the amount is what you have entered, and nothing more. Each of these should provide reasonable protection against such an alteration:

  • Four Hundred Fifty Dollars

  • Four Hundred Fifty and 00/100 Dollars

    • or Four Hundred Fifty and xx/100 Dollars -- to prevent someone changing it to 88/100 or 99/100
    • or Four Hundred Fifty and no/100 Dollars -- also to prevent someone changing it to 88/100 or 99/100
  • Four Hundred Fifty Dollars Only

  • Four Hundred Fifty Only

  • Four Hundred Fifty Dollars -----------------------------

  • Four Hundred Fifty -------------------------------------

  • Four Hundred Fifty Dollars and Zero Cents

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  • Great summary. Banks nowadays probably never look at a check after it left a teller accepting the check unless it jams in the processing equipment. And I haven't seen a teller really look at a check that close, even for large amounts. 40 years ago, I got a phone call from a bank about a check with something unclear on it. And pay with a check at WalMart, and usually only the cashier looks at it; and even then, the check reader probably just uses the sale amount, not whatever is written on it. And they hand you your check back. – Mark Stewart Jul 31 at 19:20
  • Some people write “…and xx/100 dollars,” presumably to avoid the zeroes in “00/100” from being changed into nines or something like that. – bdesham Jul 31 at 19:30
  • @bdesham Nice point. I've added that option. (Gotta stop those criminals ripping us off for 99 cents at a time. :-) ) – Doug Deden Jul 31 at 19:35
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    Another option would be Four hundred fifty and no/100 to avoid changing the 00 to something else. FWIW I've always written Four hundred fifty and no/100 ----- with both the cents and a trailing line – Andrew Ray Aug 1 at 14:47
  • My bank recently sent out a notice that, contrary to previous practice, the numbers would take precedence over the words. I assume the is because the numbers are much easier for computers to scan reliably without human intervention. – Andrew Lazarus Aug 2 at 17:17
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I routinely write “something dollars” without adding the “And 00/100 cents”, and never had a problem.

It’s unambiguous.

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    You don't need to write dollars - it should be inked on the cheque already. – corsiKa Jul 31 at 18:28
  • And I draw a line from the 450 -------------- to the end of the "text area" of the check, to avoid "five hundred" from being altered to "five hundred ninety-nine" – Mark Stewart Jul 31 at 19:16
  • I write ------ FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY ONLY ------ on the text area. Same with --- 450 --- as a number. – obscurans Jul 31 at 19:29
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    I think you need something after "four hundred fifty", or it's too easy to modify. Dollars is fine, dash is fine, 00/100s is fine, whatever. – Joe Jul 31 at 19:29
  • I did include the line. Just not the 00/100. It's been a month and the check hasn't been cashed yet, and I'm wondering if it has anything to do with that. I'm the issuer, not the receiver. – rigs Jul 31 at 21:50
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It's up to the bank. I usually write them that way and almost never have an issue. However, the bank one time refused to accept one as written (because it was not clear how much it was supposed to be, supposedly) and I had to write a new check. As long as the amount specified is clear and unambiguous, and consistent between the numerical and written lines, you should be OK.

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Definitely valid and it is fine, but next time you can try to add only to the end of the dollar amount so there is more clarity.

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We have had a check refused for deposit because of an and similar to your example. That generally precedes an amount in cents. I have never had a problem with omitting the cents, but I am always careful to draw a line from the end of the handwriting through to the pre-printed "Dollars".

I have also started using special hard-to-remove ink.

As I noted in a comment, in order to facilitate processing without human intervention, the bank has (1) announced that numbers would take precedence over contradictory words [opposite of customary practice] and (2) requested that we please write the number as 7.89 and not 7⁸⁹/₁₀₀.

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When I write checks for even dollar amounts, I write "Four Hundred Fifty Dollars and No Sense" (I do write $450. 00/00 in number box.) I have never had an issue, much less anyone comment on it. As other answers mention, you do want to fill out the text box so it can't be altered to change the amount of your check. Whether that's a line or additional text what matters is that the amounts match, and aren't easily alterable by a third party.

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    "Sense", or "cents"? :) – chepner Jul 31 at 15:59
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    Sense, the homonym of Cents. – aslum Jul 31 at 16:00
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    I think the answer is being clever. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 1 at 13:00
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    It's probably worth mentioning that doing this may just make people think you're illiterate. – zaen Aug 1 at 22:13

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