It may feel like cheques are a thing of the past, as bank transfers and electronic payments become more accessible both within a country and internationally.
However, if you do end up with a check, what do you do with it? Should you stick it in your pocket and hope for the best, or do you need to keep it carefully pressed between two hardback books for it to remain valid? The easiest option is probably to fold it and stick it in your purse or wallet, but… can you fold a check?
The simple answer here is yes, of course! Customers carry checks folded all the time. A paper check is easy to damage and if you fold a check it can actually protect it from certain types of damage.
That said, there are some things to bear in mind: while folding a check makes it easier to carry around, it also can damage the check. Certain parts of the check must be kept clear and legible if a bank is to accept a check. However, it is very common for people to put the cheque in their wallet folded for convenience and this is perfectly acceptable to banks.
How do checks work?
Cheques have been around for centuries. In fact, even the Romans are thought to have used a similar document as letters of credit.
Cheques (or checks) are a useful way for a person to send funds to another person without having to be near them or even to have their bank details. The key parts of a cheque are the account that the money is being taken from and the signature of the one paying the balance.
Cheques are more secure than cash as the sender specifies the name of the person they are sending the funds to and signs the cheque. This means they are not easily transferable from one payee to another, although it is possible to sign over a check to someone else if you are the one to be receiving the funds, which is accepted by most banks.
Once the cheque is deposited, the bank transfers the money from one bank account to the other. For this reason, you must make sure that all the banking details are accurate and legible.
From this point, it can take several days for the money to arrive in your bank account. If you are depositing a check of $10,000 or more, this will be reported to the federal government to improve security.
There are many ways to deposit a check. You can go into your bank and give it to a bank teller to pay into your account, use an ATM to deposit the check, or even use a mobile deposit to send the check in without ever having to leave your house. While a fold in the check may cause issues if you are depositing the cheque electronically, you can easily flatten these out.
Cashing cheques involves turning in a check, usually to a third party or a bank that is not your own, in exchange for cash. They will then receive money equal to the value of the check.
Check cashing places usually charge a small fee for this service due to the risk of accepting a bad check. While this means you get slightly less cash than you would if the payment went through the normal route, you can cash checks to speed up the deposit process. Once you have cashed the check, you receive the money immediately and without delay.
This method is also useful if you do not use banks, or if your bank is abroad, and depositing the cheque would be complicated.
Do banks verify checks?
While a bank will do their best to check that a cheque isn’t fraudulent, they will not verify that the funds are there to be withdrawn before processing the cheque. If the cheque bounces, you may be charged a processing fee, as well as not receiving the cash from the check. If it is thought that you knew the cheque was going to bounce, then you may face legal action.
Can I deposit a folded check?
As long as the fold has not damaged the check, there is no reason why you cannot deposit a folded check. and receive full payment. The bank details on the check still need to be legible and if the MICR field has been damaged then you may have issues depositing it electronically. This is written in magnetic ink to allow it to be read by the machine and if this ink has become smudged, it might be impossible for the machine to read.
Will folding a check damage it?
While scrunching a check up into a ball would probably make it difficult to cash or deposit, a single fold will not damage a cheque. People frequently fold cheques and it causes no issues as long as the check is clearly written.
Why might my check not be accepted?
Cheques are always accepted at the bank’s discretion. While a wrinkled check is unlikely to raise flags, if they suspect that there has been an account opened using a fraudulent name, or if important details cannot be read, they may refuse to accept the cheque.
If the cheque is accepted, it still may not go through it is a bad check – if there are not sufficient funds in the payer’s account to cover the amount promised. This can lead a check to bounce and you may be charged a fee for this, depending on the policy of your bank.
The most common reason that cheque processing systems reject a cheque is because some of the details cannot be read. If a bank cannot read the cheque, then they do not know which account to take the money from, and so cannot process it.
What needs to be legible for a cheque to be accepted?
The MICR field, which includes the cheque, routing, and account numbers has to be legible in order for the check to be processed.
In addition to the account number, the written text must also be legible. If you are worried about this you can ask the man or woman writing the check to write everything except their signature in print to make it clearer. Banks will find this easier to process and so it will cut down on delays.
Why might I want to fold a check?
Cheques are frequently mailed as they are lightweight and more secure than cash. Folding a cheque can help disguise the fact that the mail is a cheque which is especially useful if you wish to send a check safely through the mail.
You can fold a cheque in half and put the check inside a thick piece of paper to add to disguise what it is before you put it in the envelope. It is advised to add some extra weight to the envelope if you can, especially a large check, and to ensure there is enough postage. People can intercept mail and then steal checks that they find within. Disguising the check can reduce the temptation to do so. However, the best way to hide a cheque, if you are sending cheques through the regular mail, is to use a security envelope.
Of course, with a particularly large check, or an especially important check, then it is strongly advised against sending it in the regular mail, instead of relying on signed delivery or preferable giving it in person, instead of via mail, to avoid problems.
It is also a better option to use a money order if you must send money through the mail as these are more secure than cheques.
(There are many options other than cheques to transfer money to someone who is not nearby, that are much more secure. Instead of deciding to write a check and mail it, you could use bank-to-bank transfers which are not only more secure but much quicker, and do not involve having to leave your house.)
Can I get a replacement check if I damage one?
In theory, in order to get a replacement check, all you have to do is to contact the individual or company who issued the check in the first place. They can then cancel the check, assuming it hasn’t already been cashed, and re-issue it. If this is from a company, you should check their terms and conditions as they may charge a processing fee for this.
Obviously, this would cause further delay in the processing of the check as you would have to wait for the check to reach you again, and if it is an individual, they may not wish to go to the hassle of canceling and reissuing the check, so your best bet is to try not to damage the check to the point of illegibility in the first place.
So, can you fold a check?
Whether you are sending a check through the mail to your mortgage company or dropping it off by hand at a local vendor, whether you intend to deposit it at a bank or cash it with a third party, you will have no problem with a folded check and will receive full payment, or the full cashed amount as long as you write checks clearly.
If you do fold a check, make sure that the check still stays neat and that the writing stays legible. Make sure that the ink is dry so that it will not smudge and try to keep it in your wallet or purse and not just in your pocket, to avoid further damage. If you cannot keep it in your wallet or purse, you could perhaps use a book to try to keep it flat, although you must be certain that the ink from the book will not smudge onto the check – do not use a newspaper.
If you are still worried about keeping a cheque undamaged, perhaps you could request payment in another form instead. Direct transfer from one individual to another is much faster than check payments and more secure, while simply handing over cash has an immediacy that is unmatched, as long as you are in the same location.