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I grew up in Australia, and learned that when I write a check, I should generally cross it with two diagonal lines with Not Negotiable written between them. The idea being that this signifies that the check can only be deposited into an account owned by the named person.

I read, obliquely, in this question on this site that a similar thing can be done in the United States by saying For Deposit Only.

Do two diagonal lines mean the same thing on an check in the United States?

For those who think this is urban legend see this link on the National Australia Bank website.

Effect of crossing

If you cross a cheque (by drawing two parallel lines from top to bottom across the front of the cheque), you are telling NAB not to cash it over the counter. The cheque therefore must be paid to a bank (e.g. into a customer's account). If NAB does cash a crossed cheque, it may be liable for any loss suffered by the true owner.

Meaning of 'not negotiable'

You may write the words 'not negotiable' between the two parallel lines on your cheque. This means that if the cheque is transferred to another person, the person who obtains the cheque has no greater rights to it than the person who gave it.

For example, if the cheque was stolen, the person from whom the cheque was stolen might recover the amount of the cheque from the person who received payment, even though that person who received it may have done nothing wrong.

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    I am wondering if this is just an Australia thing or if there are other countries that do this as well including the US. Although this is the first time I have ever heard of this. – JoeTaxpayer May 19 '16 at 21:41
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    When you say "write a check" are you talking about filling out the front or signing the back? In the US, when we say "write a check", we're generally talking about filling out the front. When we are talking about signing the back, we say "endorse a check". – shoover May 19 '16 at 21:50
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    If I got a check with two diagonal lines across it, I would assume the lines were an attempt to void the check. – shoover May 19 '16 at 21:51
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    @PeterK. OK, I was confused by your mention of "For Deposit Only", which I've only ever seen used by the endorser. – shoover May 19 '16 at 22:46
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    In Colombia we have 3 different things: One line in the front will mean the cheque cannot be cashed, it must be deposited in some account, but it can be endorsed to someone else. Two lines will mean that the cheque has to be deposited in an account owned by the same person that was originally named to, so it cannot be endorsed and cannot be cashed out. Not negotiable means that it cannot be endorsed (transferred to someone else), so it can be either cashed out or deposited by the named person. – bns May 20 '16 at 17:54
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Crossed Checks don't mean anything over here. As you mentioned, For Deposit Only has the same effect, and that's what banks/retailers look for.

Source: Wife is a former bank teller.

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    Going with your answer, as it answers the question most directly. Thanks! – Peter K. May 25 '16 at 13:53
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    Not so... For Deposit Only applies only to an endorsement. An uncrossed check is, theoretically, a negotiable instrument which can be endorsed to a third party or, more importantly, cashed by the payee at the bank on which it is drawn without being deposited first (which US banking law requires the bank on which it is drawn to do if it is not a crossed or account payee only check. A crossed check is part of US banking law and it mandates the check be deposited into a payee bank account. – Jim Nov 30 '16 at 23:29
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    @Jim - That's interesting. Could you supply a source? All of my research, both online and speaking with current/former tellers, indicates that in the US crossed checks are so rarely used that it's either not recognized or causes significant headaches when attempting to deposit. Maybe it's just because the tellers never encounter them that they don't know how to handle them? – BobbyScon Dec 1 '16 at 0:58
  • @Jim Any references would be great to have! I did a bit of googling at the time I asked the question and couldn't come up with anything definitive. Please post an answer with them, and I'll have a look at that. – Peter K. Dec 1 '16 at 13:23
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Sometime ago, I wrote the following in response to a different question:

Once upon a time (not all that long ago), British cheques used to say something like "Pay to the order of ..,,,, or bearer the sum of ...,.." (emphasis added) and could be cashed by anyone unless the cheque-writer drew two parallel lines in the upper left corner of the cheque. These lines converted the instrument into a crossed cheque which could only be deposited into a bank account of the payee; a bearer of the cheque could not walk into the bank and waltz out with the cash equivalent. Perhaps British banks no longer use this styling (Indian banks still do) but if that cheque for 60k is not a crossed cheque, it better be sent securely with lots of insurance. An uncrossed cheque is the same as cash since it can be cashed by anyone.

In response, I was told that British cheques no longer had the "... or bearer" pre-printed on them, and thus were automatically considered to be crossed cheques.

Presumably, Australian banks used the or bearer styling on cheques when OP Peter K was growing up. Whether they still do or not is something I don't know. That being said, I have never seen the or bearer styling on a US check, and so the concept of a crossed check is generally unknown in the US. Perhaps that's why they spell it check instead of cheque.

  • Thanks, Dilip! I really can't recall whether the or bearer was on the cheques I used back then. You may be onto something there. – Peter K. May 20 '16 at 2:52
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As check depositing can be done on an ATM, I assume it will have zero implication.

I remember that the exact same concept was used in Germany in the seventies (when I saw the last time checks there), but it was basically an urban legend - most people believed that's what it meant, but in reality it had no binding meaning at all for banks.

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    It definitely had meaning in Australia. A close friend was a bank teller. I stopped writing checks shortly after I got my first check account. EFT (electronic funds transfer) and easy access to debit cards came out at about the same time. – Peter K. May 19 '16 at 22:56
  • An ATM wouldn't make a difference would it? The cheque would still be checked by a member of staff – Tim Malone Jun 5 '16 at 8:32
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    No, nobody looks at them if there is no complaints. – Aganju Jun 5 '16 at 12:05
  • When you say that the last time you saw a cheque was in the seventies (I think I saw and used some in the early eighties), I am surprised that ATMs even were a thing in Germany back then – Hagen von Eitzen May 28 '18 at 10:28

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