Checks are usually made payable to a specific person or organization, but sometimes a single statement is made out to multiple names. A review might go to a married couple, several roommates, or any other group with a shared interest or ownership. A single word on these types of checks is dictates how they can be handled. The key is whether the word “and” or “or” appears between each person’s name.
“And” means that everybody named on the check must sign. “Or” usually allows only one of the payees to sign.
Everybody named on the payee line must sign for checks that use “and.” For example, both John and Jane should sign a bill made payable to “John and Jane Doe.”
“And” Checks Can Be Tricky
Banks have to verify the identity of everyone who signs the back of a check, “endorsing” it so it can be cashed or deposited. There’s hardly any risk if a statement is made payable to two parties and you’re depositing the funds into an account that bears the same two names. Still, there’s a risk that one person will forge the other’s signature and run off with the money if somebody wants to cash the check.
Banks might employ specific rules when the names on the check don’t match the names on the account to which it’s being deposited.
Does Everyone Have to Sign Together?
Some banks require that all the payees named on a check endorse it together simultaneously in front of a bank employee. Everyone must show valid identification to prove that they’re permitted to endorse that check. Other banks will accept a statement when just one of the payees has an account with them.
Banks are cautious with checks that involve high dollar amounts. One person can often endorse and deposit without the hassle of getting everybody together if it’s just for a small amount, such as $5 or $10.
Deposits are Easier
The process should be more straightforward if the plan is to deposit the check instead of cashing it. That’s especially true when all the payees hold an account together. For example, it might be a joint account for a married couple, and the check is written using those same two names. It might even be possible for one person to deposit the check without both signatures in this case.
“Or” Means Anybody
In most cases, just one party can sign checks made payable to multiple parties using the word “or.” For example, a statement made payable to “Jane or Pat Doe” can be signed by either Jane or Pat. Certain situations might require the signatures of all payees, however. Speak with your bank or ask an attorney in your state how to handle the check if the payment is substantial or if it’s part of an insurance or legal settlement. It might be wise—or even required—to get everybody’s signature on the check even if it says “or.”
What If It’s Not Clear?
Some checks don’t specify “and” or “or” anywhere. The answer isn’t as evident in this case.
As far as the law is concerned, you can often treat the check as if it says “or.” The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which sometimes serves as a template for how states and banks handle these transactions, indicates that “ambiguous” checks can be negotiated by anybody named on the bill.
Your bank doesn’t have to follow the UCC guidelines. Banks can use extra caution with these checks to protect themselves from losses. Some banks have a policy requiring everyone to endorse the bill when there’s any doubt about the check writer’s intentions. They might even need that everyone is present to sign in front of a bank employee, preventing you from just mailing it in or depositing it at an ATM.
One option is to try your luck and simply attempt to deposit or cash a check with just one payee’s signature. The risk is that the bank will reject your deposit and require that you get the missing signatures before you re-deposit. That process can take several days, weeks, or even longer.
A safer approach is to contact the banks involved (both the bank the check is drawn on and the one you’re depositing it) and ask what they require. Don’t be surprised if you hear conflicting answers from different people—bank policies aren’t always clear or well-known.
Talk with somebody who will handle the deposit if possible, such as a teller or the branch manager.
You Can Always Try
In some cases, checks will be accepted with a single signature—even when bank policies require multiple signatures—because the missing signatures might go unnoticed. Ultimately, you have to decide what’s best for you. Weigh the alternatives, considering how easy it is to get everyone’s signature and whether you can tolerate delays if the bank wants more signatures.
Writing Checks to Multiple People
Keep in mind that you can make it relatively easy or difficult for the recipients of a check to deposit the funds if you’re writing one to more than one person. The right choice depends on what you hope to accomplish, how much you trust the two (or more) people and other factors like legal and tax issues.
“Or” makes it easy. Using “or” between names allows the most flexibility if you’re not worried about one of them secretly pocketing the funds.
“And” keeps everyone informed. It’s better to use “and” if you want to be as sure as possible that everybody is aware of the check. This might (or might not) slow things down, but that could be a good thing.
Choose carefully if you’re writing a check to newlyweds. One or both spouses might change their last name. Money is always a nice gift, but complications can arise if you write a review out to both of them using “and”:
- One might change their name, and it will no longer match the name on the check.
- You might assume that one of them is changing their name, but that’s not accurate.
In many cases, newlyweds can deposit these checks even if the names don’t match up perfectly. Banks see this fairly often. But depositing the funds might require a trip to the branch or a few additional documents and phone calls. Write the check using “or,” or ask the couple how they prefer to receive gifts to make the deposit as easy as possible for them.
How Mobile Check Deposit Works
As technology advances, banks often offer their customers a variety of features designed to make banking easier. Many banks offer mobile banking, digital wallet payments, peer-to-peer payments, and more. And one popular feature—mobile check deposit—allows customers to deposit checks through the bank’s app without leaving home.
Learn more about using mobile check deposit to get money into your bank account conveniently.
What Is a Mobile Deposit?
A mobile deposit is a way to deposit a check without physically going to the bank. Using a mobile device with a camera—such as a smartphone or a tablet—it’s easy to take a picture of the check, which is then uploaded through the bank’s mobile app. Mobile deposits are usually cleared within a matter of days.
Steps for Making a Mobile Check Deposit
The method for depositing a check may vary slightly, depending on the financial institution. However, the following steps often apply.
Download the Mobile Banking App
First, make sure your bank or credit union offers a mobile check deposit. If it does, the website will often provide a download link to the bank’s mobile app. Download the app onto a mobile device with a camera—Android, iPhone, and Windows devices are typically supported. Start from your bank’s website to ensure you get the legitimate app rather than an impostor.
Endorse Your Check
Include any endorsement required by your bank. A signature in the payee section at the top of the back of the check may be sufficient, but your bank may require a restrictive endorsement that makes your intention clear.
One example of such an endorsement is “For mobile deposit only to my [name of financial institution] account.”
Some checks already contain the mobile deposit language on the back of the bill, next to a checkbox; by checking the box, you may not need to write it out. Skipping endorsement could lead to delays in getting your money, and you may need to endorse and re-deposit it.
Enter Required Information
Depending on your bank’s app, you may need to provide a bit of information about the check during a mobile check deposit. This may include the amount of the review and the account you want to deposit the funds.
The app should guide you through the process of snapping photos of the check using your mobile device. You’ll need different pictures of the front and back, along with your endorsement.
Some banking apps will automatically take a photo when the camera is positioned directly over the check. To ensure crisp images, make sure that all four corners of the bill are within the frame shown in the app.
Verify and Submit Your Deposit
The app will likely automatically read the numbers printed in magnetic ink on the bottom of the check and ask you to verify that they have recorded correctly. If everything looks good, submit your request.
Wait for Confirmation
Don’t destroy the check immediately after depositing it, as the bank may not have accepted it yet. Many banks suggest keeping it for a certain period; other banks recommend shredding the check as soon as it has cleared. Visit your bank’s website to see what its recommendation is.
After you submit your deposit, you’ll usually get an email confirming receipt, and you may receive another one informing you that the promise was accepted. Verify that your account balance reflects the deposit.
Until your check has been fully cleared, make a small mark on the review with a date to remind yourself that it has been deposited.
When Be Will Mobile Deposit Funds Available?
After you deposit your check, you will likely have to wait until at least the next business day before all of the money is accessible. Sometimes, banks will make a portion available the same day but place a hold on the remaining funds until a later date.
Mobile Check Deposit Restrictions
To reduce fraud, most banks set specific limits on deposits made with a mobile device. Learn more about the limitations commonly placed on mobile deposits.
Mobile Deposit Limits
There’s usually a maximum deposit limit that applies per day or month, and there may also be a limit on the number of checks you can deposit. The dollar limit varies from bank to bank, but you can often deposit several thousand dollars per month.
You can usually view your deposit limits inside the app. For example, the Wells Fargo mobile app shows you your mobile deposit limit after you select an account and enter the desired deposit amount. Your limit may be raised if your account has been open for several years without any problems.
Permitted Deposit Types
You may only be able to make standard deposits, which are checks made payable directly to you, rather than those paid to someone else but signed over to you. If a review is expected to you as well as someone else, there’s a chance you can still deposit it in your account—if both of you endorse it and it’s not a large amount of money.
Mobile Check Deposit Safety
Mobile check deposits are generally safe, and they can even prevent specific methods of fraud. It becomes much more challenging for a criminal to steal your check when you keep it with you and submit it for deposit quickly.
Reputable banks and credit unions use industry-standard encryption in their apps, so your account details should be safe. And check images and other data are not stored on your mobile device.
However, it’s best not to use public Wi-Fi for sensitive information or anything requiring your bank password. It’s better to use a secure wired or wireless connection—or your mobile phone’s data connection—if you want to avoid sharing sensitive information.
Deposit Checks With an iPhone
Smartphones have become ubiquitous. The number of smartphone users in the United States is estimated to reach 298 million in 2021. The Pew Research Center reports that 81% of Americans currently own a smartphone, up from just 35% in 2011.
If you own an iPhone, you might complete banking transactions directly from it, such as transferring money or setting up automatic payments. You can even deposit checks simply by taking pictures of them through the banking app. Many banks and credit unions offer the ability to use your phone’s camera and a secure application to save a trip to the branch. If you’ve never done it before, here’s how the process works and what you need to do to deposit checks with your iPhone.
Can I Deposit Checks With My iPhone?
In the past, only select banks allowed customers to deposit checks from their iPhone, but mobile banking is now increasingly common. The Federal Reserve reported that about half of adults in the United States with bank accounts used a mobile phone to access their bank information.
Not all banks and credit unions offer mobile banking apps or accept remote deposits.
Owning an iPhone doesn’t mean you can deposit checks with it; your bank must provide an application and offer the service.
To deposit checks with your iPhone, get an application for your bank. Call your bank’s customer service line, or visit its website to find details about the application. If you’ve been using your bank’s application for a while, you may need to upgrade to a newer version to deposit checks.
How to Deposit a Check-in Six Steps
Depositing a check with your iPhone is surprisingly easy. You can complete the process in six simple steps:
- Endorse the check: First, endorse the check so that it can be deposited into your account. Your bank may have specific instructions on how to support it properly. For example, Chase requires you to sign your name and write, “For electronic deposit at Chase only,” on the back of the check. The app may even have a pop up on-screen that will tell you what information is needed.
- Click on deposit: Open your banking application, and choose the “Deposit” option (or something similar). You may have to provide information, such as the amount of the check, or the app may automatically read that information from the bill. It depends on your bank and the check writer’s handwriting.
- Take photos: Next, take photos of both the front and back of the check. Most iPhone applications for depositing checks make it easy by telling you what to do and when. A check-shaped window will appear, and you’ll centre the bill in it. As you snap a picture, your iPhone’s camera shutter should confirm that a photo was taken. For best results, place the check on dark background in a well-lit room.
- Review the check information: After you take photos, confirm that they are clear. Again, your banking application will most likely guide you through this process, asking for verification before submitting the images. You may have to verify the account number and routing numbers, which the app will automatically read from the check. If something doesn’t look right, you can always take another picture.
- Submit the deposit: If everything looks okay, you can submit the transaction. Make sure you receive a confirmation from your bank on-screen or via email. If you don’t get a confirmation, call the bank immediately to report what happened.
- File the check: Finally, be sure not to deposit the check another time. Once you deposit a statement with your iPhone, it’s off to the bank for processing. Your bank should provide instructions on how to handle the check. You may have to write “Void or “Electronically presented” on it, keep it for 15 days, or destroy it. Follow those instructions to protect yourself and to avoid legal problems.
Is It Safe?
You may wonder whether it’s safe to deposit checks with your iPhone. Any reputable bank will be sure that communication is encrypted and that thieves will not be able to pull your account details out of the airwaves. Depositing a check is no riskier than viewing your account—you’ve already provided your login credentials. Making a check deposit is more difficult for the person who wrote the check because their account and routing numbers are being photographed and transmitted. However, the risk is negligible and perhaps not as significant as the risk of a paper check getting lost.
That can happen whether it goes through the mail or you’re on your way to a branch.
Keep your device up-to-date, and update your bank’s mobile app regularly to reduce the chances of problems.