18

When filling a check, I wrote the numeric value correctly. However, I wrote "$" before the numeric value (while the check itself has "$" symbol printed at the beginning of the numeric box). Will the bank accept the check or should I write a new check?

5
  • I'd be concerned with how the automatic readers will initially pick it up, though one would hope they can deal with it. Of course any discrepancies will be cleared up in several days to a week but it could cause a short term headache if you have a low balance.
    – eps
    Jan 10 at 18:35
  • 8
    Where I live, that would be just fine. But you've given no indication of where you are, so it's impossible for anyone to comment on banking practices in your jurisdiction. Jan 10 at 20:24
  • I'm sure you are not the first person to do that; I'd be very surprised if automated scanners were not set up to allow a hand-written "$" in the numeric box. Jan 11 at 17:08
  • @DawoodibnKareem The jurisdiction is almost certainly the US, it is one of the very few remaining countries where people still commonly write checks. Or did you mean that the banking practices depend on the state or the particular bank you use?
    – quarague
    Jan 12 at 18:18
  • @quarague I live in a country where people write checks, and whose currency symbol is $. Not the United States. Jan 12 at 20:23
34

Most banks are not that nitpicky about what is written on the check as long as it is clear of the intent and doesn't look like it has been altered after the fact. The textual version of the number is just a double check to prevent fraud and make clear up any confusion if the numeric version is unclear.

2
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JohnFx
    Jan 12 at 1:49
  • 2
    This answer is incorrect. The textual version takes precedence over the numeric part. Jan 13 at 2:50
21

You'd need to ask the bank to be sure, but I suspect that it would not be a problem so long as the textual amount matches the amount in the box. That's one reason why checks have a textual amount as well, so if someone did put in a dollar sign, for example, it could not be, say, manipulated to look like a number like a 5 or an 8. It also prevents easier manipulations like adding a one in front of a number.

Or, to be on the safe side, tear up the check (writing VOID across it) and write a new one...

11

In the United States, the numeric field is called the "convenience amount" and the amount in words is called the "legal amount." If they disagree, the legal amount is the one that matters.

That said, automated processing relies heavily on optical character recognition of the convenience amount because it's much easier. In fact, in the 1990s, there were new guidelines for the size, shape, and position of the preprinted dollar sign and for the background contrast of the convenience amount box in order to improve automated recognition.

If the extra dollar sign you wrote confuses the reader, it might get kicked to a human who should understand that the legal amount is correct and that the extra dollar sign can be ignored. They would then manually enter the correct amount which might be encoded on the original check or attached to the record that includes the scanned images, and then the rest of the automation would handle it just fine.

The extra dollar sign could possibly be mistaken for an extra digit. If the wrong amount is deducted from your account, it may be a bit of a hassle for you to have it corrected, but the "legal amount" is what matters for the regulators, so you should be able to get the problem resolved.

8

As someone who used to be a bank teller, I would say you do not need to worry about it. Tellers are trained to look for suspicious indicators on checks that could indicate tampering or fraud. Anything deviating from a normal check will cause some extra scrutiny, but once they see the numerical amount matches the written amount, they won't think anything else of it.

This is actually semi-common, and when I would see it, the automatic reader would just throw an error and make me manually enter the amount. On the off-chance the reader mistakes the $ for a 5 or an 8, the teller is supposed to review the check before finalizing the transaction anyway, so they should correct the error.

That being said, tellers are human and may miss it for some reason, so if you're worried about it causing you to go negative, writing a new check is the safest option. If you check your balance later and find that the wrong amount was taken from your account, you can dispute this with your bank and they will get it sorted out eventually.

Here's some unsolicited advice on things banks will usually not accept on a check

  • Check with a future date on it
  • Routing # doesn't actually exist, or routing # doesn't match the bank name on cashier's check (indicates fraudulent check)
  • Check has "VOID" written on it
  • Check date is more than 90 days old
  • Check has been torn or ripped
  • Checks with whiteout or anything that has been scratched out and cannot be read
  • Missing signature (this is actually pretty common, don't forget to sign your checks)
0

You have nothing to worry about. Cashiers or Manual Encoders actually type the check amount in to a special machine that creates a MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) printout, which places some magnetic ink at the bottom of the check, like the following:

MICR encoded check (credit Wikipedia)

As described here, the final section with the 9 followed by three dots in ascending order encode the transaction amount. This value is always manually input/verified by the teller or later at a document processing facility. Note that this is an older example. The format has changed, but the process remains largely unchanged for decades now.

The document processing facility then runs these through a Magnetic Eye Reader to process the documents. The best part about this setup is that it only reads the magnetic ink, so even a normal marking of any type of color (e.g. a stray stroke of red ink) won't affect the reader.

Because of the manual steps involved, there is exactly a 0% chance that it will be mistakenly read as either a 5, 8, or anything else. That part of the check isn't read by a machine at all in most cases. For digital deposits, the system is generally smart enough to ignore OCR invalid characters without a problem, and the images from those checks are still checked by a human anyways. After all, accidentally changing $500.00 to 5500.00 would be a major hassle for everyone involved.

I was actually employed as a manual encoder in the very late 1990's, and my job was to use a Document Encoding machine to manually type in the numbers. In this case, the checks are also automatically verified against the teller's deposit slips, and if they do not match, the encoder will have to figure out where the discrepancy is and fix the document that is incorrect. It would take at least two separate humans making the same mistake in order for a stray $ to cause a problem.

You can read more about MICR if you're interested in learning more about how it works specifically.

6
  • This value is always manually input/verified by the teller I can tell you from personal experience that the teller does not always verify it correctly in which case the MICR won't catch the problem. Especially in cases where people bring in dozens of checks to deposit at once and there's a long line of people waiting. The teller may rush and miss something. The chance of the amount being mistakenly read is low, but I wouldn't say it's 0. Jan 13 at 22:40
  • @imnotarobot Exactly zero was slightly hyperbole, but I can tell you from my experience as a Document Encoder that the teller isn't the last line of defense against mistakes. There are numerous automated and manned systems in place that all have to fail before a magnitude difference check makes it through and causes any temporary harm. The bank has a well over 99.99999% accurate check processing system built through many layers of redundancy. At every level, there are penalties for mistakes.
    – phyrfox
    Jan 13 at 23:12
  • @imnotarobot If the customer doesn't catch it, they can lose their bank account. If the teller and Document Encoding employees don't catch it, they can lose their jobs, etc. Oh, and yes, I only worked as a Document Encoder for a few months, but I can tell you that I saw a LOT of "extra" dollar signs, they never confused me. I had exactly zero document errors during my stay there.
    – phyrfox
    Jan 13 at 23:13
  • Maybe things have changed since the 90's, but I can think of at least one time when I was a teller and someone called and complained about a deposit from several days ago having one less 0 than it was supposed to. I looked up the check and they were right, so we fixed the issue. No one lost their job over it. Jan 14 at 15:14
  • @imnotarobot Right. People make mistakes, but there are rules. E.G. as a Document Encoder, we were allowed 1 error per 10,000 documents (99.99% accuracy), which would have been hard to do, given the nature of how we had to encode the data; errors could only happen in pairs. Under-deposits are generally not an issue; over-deposits will typically flag for Fraud Prevention review before the money is transferred. My point has been, and remains, an extra $ at the beginning is virtually never an issue.
    – phyrfox
    Jan 14 at 16:06

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