How to Deposit a Check
Turn that paper into something you can use
Depositing a check is now easier than ever. When you receive a check, depositing the payment turns that piece of paper into money that you can actually spend. The funds sit safely in your account, and you have several ways to use the money: Withdraw cash, pay bills online, shop with your debit card or checkbook, or transfer funds electronically.
So how do you deposit a check? It’s not hard, and you can choose a method that fits your lifestyle.
Where to Make Deposits
Depending on the bank or credit union you use, you should have several options for deposits.
Deposit with your mobile device: The fastest and most convenient option is to use your mobile device.
- Download your bank’s app. Be sure to use a legitimate app so that you don’t give bank information to thieves.
- Find the option to deposit checks and begin the process.
- Endorse the check (see details below).
- Take a picture of both sides of the check.
- Provide details about the check. You might need to enter the amount of the payment and verify that the app reads the account and routing numbers on the check correctly.
For complete details, see How to Make Mobile Check Deposits.
Visit a branch: You can also deposit checks in person at one of your bank’s branches. An advantage of depositing with a teller is that more of your money might be available quickly because deposits with bank employees can clear faster.
If you use a credit union, you can typically deposit checks at any credit union that’s part of the shared branching network. You don’t have to visit your credit union—you can go to (almost) any branch that’s available and open when you need it.
Deposit at an ATM: Some banks and credit unions allow you to deposit checks at an ATM, which is convenient if you’re unable to get to a branch during banking hours. Different banks have different requirements (whether you need an envelope and a deposit slip, for example), so read the on-screen instructions carefully. In most cases, the process is:
- Swipe or insert your card.
- Enter your PIN.
- Choose the option to deposit funds.
- Insert checks and cash (either one-by-one or in a bundle).
- Verify that the deposit credits your account.
Funds are typically available within a few days. For more detailed instructions, see how to make deposits at ATMs.
Use the mail: You can also mail checks to your bank. You never want to send cash, but sending checks by mail is quite safe. Ask your bank what the requirements are. In most cases, you need to include a deposit slip and endorse the check. This isn’t the fastest way to deposit checks, but you can do everything on your own time.
What You Need to Deposit a Check
Making a deposit is not as simple as handing the check to a teller or snapping a photo—but it’s close.
Endorsement: You typically need to endorse a check by signing your name on the back of the check. Technically, doing so gives your bank (or whoever has the endorsed check) the right to collect the funds—so don’t endorse until you’re confident that the check will get to the bank.
For added security, you can use a “restrictive” endorsement, which says the money can only be deposited to your account. That’s a smart move in case the check gets lost or stolen. To restrict the endorsement, sign your name and write “For deposit only to account ###” (use your account number instead of the number signs). For more ways to endorse, see Basics of Endorsing Checks.
Deposit slips: You might need to fill out a deposit slip when you deposit a paper check. Deposit slips provide the information a bank employee needs to get the money into your account: your account number, the amount you’re depositing, and more.
Identification: If you’re making a deposit in person, bring valid identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued ID. This is typically required even though you’re just adding money to the account—not taking cash. ID is especially important if you’re visiting another credit union’s branch to deposit a check.
If you plan to spend all of the money immediately (with cash), you can try cashing a check instead of depositing it. You can usually get up to $200 immediately on personal checks, and you might be able to get more for official checks like cashier’s checks.
However, it’s risky to take cash and spend it before you know that a check is good—if the check bounces, you’ll have to repay your bank for any money you take. The only way to know for sure that the check is good is to cash it at a branch of the same bank the check is written on. In other words, go to the check writer’s bank to cash the check—the bank name is shown on the check.
Of course, it’s risky to walk around with large amounts of cash because that money can be lost or stolen. It’s often just as easy to spend money from your checking account with a debit card or withdraw cash from an ATM later when you actually need it.
Is the Check any Good?
Verify that checks are legitimate, and make an effort to determine whether or not they’ll bounce before you make deposits. If the person or company that wrote you the check doesn’t have enough money to cover the payment, your bank might charge you fees—even though it wasn’t your fault.
If you make a habit of depositing bad checks, your bank might even close your account. Whenever you’re concerned about a check, contact the bank the check is written against to verify funds in the account and find out if the check will bounce.
Where Not to Deposit Checks
Depositing the funds into your bank or credit union is the safest and least expensive option. You might be tempted to cash checks at more "convenient" places such as payday loan shops or check cashing stores. If you do so, you’ll pay dearly. Even supermarkets take fees, which can add up on small checks.
If you don’t have an account at a bank or credit union, you really need one—it’ll save you time and money. However, some people can’t or won’t open a bank account. If you’re in that group, a prepaid card might be a good alternative: Some cards allow you to make mobile check deposits to add to your balance, which helps you store the money safely. Others have partnerships with retail locations, so you can bring checks to certain stores to add to your account.