# What is the point of the line on a check?

It's typical to draw a long line after the written-out amount on a check:

One hundred twenty-three and 45/100 -​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​-

What does this accomplish? Without it, someone could change it to:

One hundred twenty-three and 45/100 and one thousand

which technically does change the value from \$123.45 to \$1123.45, but isn't it obvious to anyone who's reading the check that that is fraudulent?

• I draw a line rather than writing 00/100 or 'even' or 'and no cents' because it is faster. Drawing the line after writing out the fractional cents doesn't do much but is habit for some. Sep 2, 2022 at 19:19
• In your case the line is largely irrelevant, but imagine you'd just written "One hundred twenty-three" and the nefarious cheque thief had altered it to read "One hundred twenty-three thousand" Sep 3, 2022 at 13:55
• I was taught to make a big slash and then a line: ----/Eleventy one/---- Sep 4, 2022 at 8:42
• About thirty years ago someone modified a check I wrote and added "and a thousand" to the space, with the appropriate added zeros. Childish, of course, but an attempt was made. Lots of law enforcement agencies got involved as there were wire implications (somehow), mail fraud and, of course, financial fraud/theft. They did find the person involved, somehow. Sep 4, 2022 at 21:38
• Why has nobody yet pointed out that such a line on a check has a name? It's called the meganegabar: mathjokes4mathyfolks.wordpress.com/tag/sniglet.
– KCd
Sep 5, 2022 at 7:29

In your example the line is of basically no value.

However, I have one bill that's always \$70. If I write "Seventy" someone could modify that to "Seventy nine and 99/100". If I write "Seventy---------" they can't modify it.

• Better yet, "Seventy thousand...." (An extreme but that's always how I considered the potential fraud). Sep 3, 2022 at 1:48
• @BruceWayne Missed that one, although it probably would bounce and thus not be a big deal. Sep 3, 2022 at 21:44
• Why don't you write "Seventy only" instead of having to draw the line?
– Flux
Sep 4, 2022 at 3:13
• @Flux Which is easier, "only" or "----"?? Sep 4, 2022 at 3:35

It's an attempt to prevent check washing. Probably not super effective these days but it does make it slightly harder.

When a check washer gets ahold of a check, they use a chemical like acetone (most checks are now designed to react to acetone as a countermeasure) to remove the existing ink and to change the payee, the amount, or both. Then they re-write the check and deposit it. Even if the criminal successfully removes the ink, they can't remove the indentations the pen made in writing out the check (or at least smoothing out the area adds extra complexity to the process).

In the days when checks were deposited by handing a physical piece of paper to a physical bank teller, having the line made it a bit easier for that teller to notice that the check had been washed if the new amount extended over the erased line (as would normally be the case if a leading digit was added). Not foolproof by any means but a reasonable security layer particularly where it makes the check feel "off" enough that a busy teller pauses to give it a second look. In today's world where only photographs are exchanged in the vast majority of cases, it's much less useful.

• Cheque security has always been a joke. The idea that tellers were trained to look for minute lines on washed cheques is up there with the "TV Detector Van" Sep 3, 2022 at 13:57
• @Valorum I certainly was!! Sep 4, 2022 at 3:46
• Why don't they just print checks with ink similar to pen ink, so if someone washed the writing out, it would also wash things like the account number out? Sep 5, 2022 at 2:32
• @Someone - If you're washing a check, you'd apply the chemicals just to whatever bits of ink you want to remove. Companies do print checks on paper that are designed to react to chemicals that check washers use. Of course, that just leads check washers to change chemicals, banks to find new paper stock that reacts to those chemicals, etc. Plus, the routing number and account number on checks will be printed with a special magnetic ink that is designed to make optical character recognition easier and more accurate. Sep 5, 2022 at 7:53
• Magnetic ink might well be used, but in the UK at least, cheques are transferred and handled as black-and-white images. There's some fairly sophisticated software behind it which will attempt to read payee and amount on submission, but if the writing is in the right place on an otherwise blank piece of paper, it will be accepted. Sep 5, 2022 at 12:51