March 11, 2008

4 Safety Tips for Writing a Personal Check

Posted in finance tagged , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by Jon Symons

For anyone that has little experience in check writing, it is strongly recommended that you read on. Although, safely writing a check may not be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it is one of the most important.

Use Ink Only

use a pen to write personal checksAlways use a pen to write a check to prevent any kind of tampering with the check. Never use a pencil when you are check writing because someone whod prefer to fill in the blanks with the amount they’d like to receive could easily erase your pencil marks. To avoid dishing out blank checks to people, be sure to use some kind of ink. Although a pen is acceptable according to most people, it is wise to use a permanent marker if possible. This is significant due to those occurrences in which people have committed “check washing”, which is a process in which criminals use chemicals to remove checks’ ink. A permanent marker prevents this possibility.

Dating and Identifying Tips

Upon first glance at the check, it might seem complicated to the inexperienced. If you know all of the information, however, the blanks are very easy to fill out. To start with, enter the current date on the check. It is illegal to post-date a check so always recheck the date that you put on the check. Once this has been completed, be certain to write the name of the person who shall be the recipient of the check on the “pay to the order of” line of the check. Make sure that you’ve accurately written the business name or the person’s first and last name.

Filling in the Amount

The foremost piece of information on the check is the amount of money you want the Bank to pay. This information will need to be inputted twice. The first place to put the information is in the dollar amount line. You’ll find this just under the line that says “PAY TO THE ORDER OF.” Include the full amount and any cents that are involved in the transaction. You need to complete this portion of the check thoroughly to avoid another from changing your numbers. Look at the right side of the check. Put the numbers you see there in the amount box.

Sign the Check Properly

Signing the check may be the last but not the least part of check writing. Be absolutely certain to sign the check with your own unique, standard signature, very stylistically similar to the one printed on your driver’s license. You could face the hassle of questions and accusations about fraud if you don’t sign the check with your standard signature. Deviations can cause the bank to red flag your check. Given how much check fraud and forgery is going on these days, banks are vigilant against suspicious-looking signatures that do not match up against your normal signature. The info section is somehow optional. Many people elect to make a quick note of what the check was for, just to keep their own bookkeeping records straight. Speaking broadly, you will be better off providing as much information as possible.

In general, it isn’t difficult to write a check. However, check writing isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Be certain to take a great deal of care in filling out each section of the check as carefully and completely as possible, so as to minimize the possibility that your check will be manipulated. This will prevent future headaches from occurring.

To save money on your next personal checks purchase, look for designer checks coupons that can be used for a discount when ordering online.

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February 16, 2008

Image Check Deposits

Posted in finance tagged , , , , , , at 7:26 pm by Jon Symons

If you dread going to the bank and standing in line to deposit a simple check, you’ll be happy to hear about the latest innovation in the financial industry. Digital deposits, or remote deposit capture is a method for consumers and small businesses to deposit checks remotely, from a home or office for example, using an image scanner. Simply upload a check image to your bank’s website, and presto, the funds are in your account.

What Makes Digital Deposits Possible?

scannerIn 2004 US legislation known as “Check 21” made it unnecessary for banks to handle the physical checks in order to clear the financial transaction. These transactions could now be completed based on images of checks. The bill was passed in order to make the banking system, specifically around check clearing, much more efficient as the need to physically transport the checks between banks would be eliminated.

Companies like CheckFree quickly recognized the opportunity to extend this new legislation to the benefit of the consumer so they began developing solutions that would enable banks to offer remote check image scanning on a wide scale.

Image Check Deposits Step by Step

From the user’s point of view, it is actually a very simple process that requires only a standard computer, an Internet connection and a scanner which is built-in on most modern Inkjet printers.

  1. You receive a check that you want to deposit.
  2. You simply scan the front and back of the check on your home scanner.
  3. Log in to your bank’s secure online banking website.
  4. Visit the remote deposit page of their site.
  5. Enter the basic information about your check: routing number, amount and date.
  6. Upload the images of the front and back of your check with a few clicks.
  7. Verify the deposit once the images are shown back to you.
  8. Your bank then completes the process electronically or in cases where the check is not compatible with electronic clearing systems, the check is reprinted onto paper and cleared the old fashioned way.

It’s really that simple. For trusted clients, some banks will instantly credit the funds to their account. For others there may be a small delay, but certainly no longer than an “in person” check deposit.

The Pros of Image Check Deposits

  • Safety – you eliminate risk of losing or having the check stolen in transport to the bank.
  • Speed – banks should be able to process check transactions quicker when they come to the bank in electronic format.
  • Time – this deposit can be done in a couple minutes without having to get into your car and drive to a bank and stand in a long line.
  • Freedom – you are no longer tied to your bank. If you move to a new city, you could keep your bank even if it is hundreds of miles away.

What are the Potential Pitfalls?

  • Security – just like any other bank transactions, this will attract attention from potential fraudsters, which will probably deter some people from using check images.

Digital image check deposit or remote deposit capture represents a major innovation in the banking industry and passes along a huge set of benefits to the consumer. Currently only about 20% of banks are offering this service, but recent surveys suggest that almost 90% of business clients (and probably almost as many personal clients) said they would use it when it comes available. If you deposit checks on a regular basis it is worth inquiring if your bank is offering this innovative check cashing feature, and if not letting them know that you would appreciate it being available.

February 7, 2008

A Visual History of Artistic Checks

Posted in finance tagged , at 11:43 am by Jon Symons

Financial transactions have been tracked on paper documents like checks and various types of notes for hundreds of years. Our obsession with money makes it easy to miss the historical, archaeological and artistic value that checks can provide. This article will present a brief look at the world of artistic checks as more than just a simple bank balance transfer record.

Artistic Checks Throughout History

The history of money has always been meshed with art and artists. Even centuries ago artists were commissioned to decorate money and other currencies like checks, notes and coins.

For example, the check used by the United States to purchase Alaska from Russia in 1868 was a very artistic check. Decorated with fine cut lithographs, it featured perfect calligraphy and even the endorsements are historically very valuable and interesting. I wonder if, in a couple hundred years, we’ll be looking back on our credit card statements with the same reverence?

Increased Perceived Value with Art on Checks

Artistic checks also serve a need beyond pure decoration. Art imbues value into the financial record process. Can you imagine a simple blank piece of paper serving as a bank check? It simply wouldn’t express the perceived value that check needs to instill confidence.

Decorating money and checks with art is actually quite necessary. With the exception of gold and silver coins, money doesn’t have any real value. Artwork, symbols and decoration are used to create a feeling of trust in the value of the individual or institution that is backing the check or note.

Artistic Checks offer Higher Security

Our current artistic checks take the combination of decoration and security to new levels with all sorts of embedded features like watermarks, holograms and micro printing. All three of these methods have been developed to make checks much more difficult to counterfeit, thereby reducing fraud.

  • Watermarks are transparent markings that are only visible when the check is held up to the light. They are specially created by an artist so they will not reproduce if the check is copied.
  • Holograms are a more recent security innovation attached to checks on metallic foil. They contain an artistic 3-D picture which is visible only at a certain angle of viewing.
  • Micro printing is a special check inking technique that embeds words as simple lines that make up the images on an artistic check. Only when these lines are viewed with a magnifying glass, can someone read the words.

Current Day Artistic Checks

The Internet has given rise to an explosion in artistic checks. These days the security features remain, but it is not uncommon for check printing companies to offer thousands of images, patterns, designs, and scenic elements for consumers to use to decorate their personal checks.

I hope this article has provided a new view into the rich history and the value of the artistic checks beyond the simple exchange of funds between two people’s bank accounts. They provide a look at the society of their time and even into the personal style and interests of the issuer.