How to sign a check over to someone else

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In a Nutshell

If a check has been made out to you and you want to sign it over to someone else, first you need to understand your bank’s rules for doing so. It may not be easy — so before you sign over the check, it’s a good idea to explore other options for making a payment.
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While it’s usually possible to sign over a check you’ve received to someone else, it may not always be your best option for paying someone when you owe them money.

Not all banks will allow you to sign a check over to someone else. And banks that permit it will have specific rules you’ll have to follow. Before you decide to sign a check over to someone else, here’s what you need to know about the process.

Can I sign a check over to someone else?

Several factors may affect your ability to sign a check over to someone else. The biggest one could be your recipient’s bank and whether it’ll accept the check you signed over, which is sometimes called a “third-party check” or “third-party endorsement.” You may also face restrictions based on the type of check you want to sign over, like state or federal checks. For example, you probably wouldn’t be able to sign over tax refund checks.

When might I want to sign over a check?

There are a few reasons why you may want to sign a check over to someone else. You may not live close enough to a bank branch or be physically able to visit your bank in person. It’s also possible you don’t have a smartphone or your bank doesn’t currently offer mobile deposits.

And signing a check over to someone else could be a convenient time-saver. If you owe money to an individual or company, it might seem easier to bypass your bank account and pay them sooner.

How do I sign a check over to someone else?

You may be eager to sign a check over and move on, but there are five vital steps to follow. Here’s how to sign a check over to someone the right way to avoid potential hiccups.

1. Check that your recipient can accept the check

It may seem obvious, but the first step is a candid talk with your recipient. You should make sure they are willing and able to accept your check before you attempt to sign it over.

2. Confirm your recipient’s bank can deposit a signed-over check

The second step is critical. You need to make sure your recipient’s bank will accept a signed-over check. Depending on the institution, there may be specific endorsement rules to follow. The easiest way to find out this information may be for your recipient to call their bank and ask.

3. Sign your name on the back of the check

Look for the endorsement line on the back of the check and sign your name as it appears on the front of the check on the “pay to” line.

4. Write “pay to the order of” with your recipient’s name or company

To sign a check over, you need to write “pay to the order of” and your third party’s full name on the next line below your endorsement on the back of the check. The exact location may vary by bank.

5. Give your recipient the check

After following the steps above, you may deliver the check to your recipient, and they should try to deposit or cash the check.

What problems might I encounter in signing over a check?

As you begin the process of signing over a check, watch for potential roadblocks. One of the most significant issues could start with your recipient’s bank or credit union. Not all institutions will accept a signed-over check, and those that do may have specific guidelines.

And some banks won’t allow you to deposit a signed-over check via mobile check deposit, so you should make sure your recipient has easy access to a brick-and-mortar branch.

Beware of check-cashing scams

Unfortunately, check-cashing scams have become more prevalent, so it pays to be wary if someone asks you to deposit or cash a third-party check on their behalf. After you make the deposit, the scammer may ask you to send the money back to them, or someone else, before your bank realizes it’s a fraudulent check.

The scammer may ask for the money back in cash or as a personal check, prepaid card, ACH transfer, person-to-person transfer or wire transfer. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Company, or FDIC, three of the most common scam scenarios are lotteries, online auctions, and secret or mystery shopping opportunities.

Here’s the problem: Once the check bounces, you’ll likely be responsible for repaying the bank the money you withdrew to give to the scammer. If this happens, you should report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, local protection agencies, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Be wary of any check you receive from a stranger, especially if they ask you to accept a third-party endorsement and return some (or all) of the funds.

Alternatives to signing over a check to someone else

While signing a check over to someone may be possible, it’s not the only option — and may not be the ideal solution for your needs.

If you have an account in good standing with a bank or credit union, you may deposit the check in person, at an ATM or through a mobile banking app. There may be different timelines for how quickly you can access the funds, but there’ll be numerous ways to transfer the money to your recipient once the funds appear in your available balance. These alternative solutions may include ATM withdrawals, personal checks, ACH or wire transfers, or peer-to-peer apps. Before picking an option to transfer money, always check possible fees.

Unfortunately, most banks won’t cash checks for folks without an account, and those that allow it may charge a fee to protect the institution from forgeries. You may also be able to cash your check in person through some retail stores like Walmart, Kmart or Kroger for a fee. Some states limit the fees a check-cashing store or other non-bank may charge to cash a check.

Once you have access to the funds, another option is to pay someone with a prepaid card, which will disclose the total fees upfront. If you buy a prepaid card in person, you can see a summary of the fees on the packaging.

About the author: Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Business Insider, Investopedia… Read more.