writing check
Pay careful attention to the “Pay to the Order of” line of a check.

Q: My wife and I filed our tax returns jointly and we received a tax refund check that was written out to both our names. We do not yet have a joint bank account. Is it possible to deposit the tax refund check into one of our own checking accounts?

– Daniel P.

A: Based on 2016 tax rulings, it’s important to look at what the check writer put down on the “Pay to the order of” line.

It will with be made out to “Party A and Party B” or “Party A or Party B.” Note that there is a major difference between the two.

Difference between “and” and “or”

If the check states that the funds are paid to either party, then either one of the two payees named on the check can deposit the funds into their individual bank accounts.

If the check states that the funds are paid to you and another party, then the check deposit could become much more of a hassle if you do not have a joint bank account with the other party.

According to Section-110(d) of the Uniform Commercial Code, if a check payable to two or more people is ambiguous in terms of the payee(s), any of the stated payees can deposit the check into their individual accounts.

In every case, all other payees must endorse the check with their signatures.

Bank regulations

Since refund checks from joint tax returns are paid out to both filers, you’ll have to follow your bank’s policy on check deposits that contain multiple payees (each bank has its own policy). Banks must account for the risk involved in the possibility that a check was written out to multiple individuals and one of the individuals attempt to deposit all the funds into his or her own account.

Some banks can be very strict. For instance, Bank of America requires that both people must have their names on the account that receives a check with two payees. Popular online bank Ally Bank has the same policy.

Chase and Wells Fargo requires that, if you want to deposit a check that is payable to two individuals, both payees must go to a branch in person and present government identification to verify the signatures on the back of the check.

Other banks are rather lenient. Citibank and online bank Capital One 360 simply required that checks are properly endorsed by all payees. They don’t stipulate that all payees must provide identification or maintain joint accounts.

What you should do

It would be best to call your bank ahead before you deposit the check by searching for your bank on MyBankTracker’s bank profile page. Also, do not deposit the check through an ATM and hope that the bank will accept it. If the bank finds that the check deposit was in violation of its policies, it may become much more of a hassle to get the situation cleared up.

Tip: In most cases, you would be better off asking the payer to write two separate checks. For checks issued by government agencies, you’d have to contact them for a reissued check.

For tax refunds, you can contact the Tax Help Line for Individuals at IRS by calling the toll-free number at (800) 829-1040 to ask for a new check.

Ask a Question

  • Ted Bear

    Your answer is very generic when the question was very specific. Not helpful. How would you get the US Government to write a new check?

    • Ted, thanks for pointing that out.

      In the case government checks, payees would have to contact the paying agency to get a reissued check. I’ve updated the story with a more specific response.

  • KJD Mom

    when if the 2 payees are not related? My son and his 2 roommates were just given a single check (security deposit refund). 1 ex-roommate lives in Hawaii, the other 2 in Maryland. How can they obtain a endorsement from the Hawaii ex-roommate? They don’t want to mail the check around. Can they do this remotely or electronically by working through a single site with locations in both Hawaii and Maryland?

    • Krisz

      same here, this is the stupidest thing what I ever met. my rommi moved out from florida and in the bank they told me he have to be here in person the signature is not enough. now I have a 1000 dollar check and cannot do shit. apartment company don’t want to do for me anything!

      • komal

        Where you able to deposit the check

        • komal

          I have the same the same issue

  • dees

    I had a cashier check from Wells payable to myself and my contractor. I endorsed it as did my contractor- I received a copy of his drivers license and his contractor license. I presented it for deposit to my account and Citibank rejected it saying I could not deposit it but the contractor had to. They further indicated it was a federal law and not a bank law. I asked them to provide me with the federal law indicating such and I have yet to get a reply. Is this true and where is Federal law to document such policy

  • Queen

    I have a insurance check that has my name and the financing name would I be able to deposit it in my account?

    • Queen, I’m not too sure what you mean by “financing name,” but you’d have to look at whether it says it is payable to X “and” Y, or X “or” Y. If it says “or,” you shouldn’t have a problem depositing it yourself. If it says “and,” you may have to ask for a reissued check.

  • Carrie

    I received a check in the mail written to my name and soon to be ex husband. Can I deposit check with just my name on the back? He can’t be present due to restraining order

    • Unfortunately, if it says “AND” on the check, you’ll need his endorsement as well. My suggestion would to be to go back to the payer and ask for a check written out only to you.

  • judy

    i got a refund check from my mortgage co. for an overage in the escrow….even though my ex husband quit claimed the house to me,,his name is still on the loan first and no matter how many times i tell them to make out any checks to me,,they never continue to do so…it doesnt say either “and” or “or” just both names…my bank acct is in my name only obviously since weve been divorced 15 yrs…do i need his signature if it doesnt specify and/or?

    • That is a tough question as the policy for the bank may vary on whether or not they’ll accept a check that doesn’t specify and/or. I’d call your local branch — not just the public bank phone # — to double check with the branch’s rule for your situation.

      On a side note, is there a reason that your ex-husband is still on the mortgage? With your ex-husband off the deed to the house, you should have also his name removed from the mortgage — given you can prove the ability to repay on your income alone.

      • Judy

        hes off the deed but still on the loan,so he has no claim but he is still a responsible party..apparently a quit claim only does that..the only way to get him off is to refinance or sell..believe me,,ive tried to get him off .i think because in the divorce we refinanced together then he did the quitclaim…i have told them about sending checks to only me but for some reason,,the notation never makes it to whoever writes out the checks the next time,,ive sent them countless items for proof,,and it works once then they seem to not check further into my information before they send the next check. Thank you so much for answering my question so quickly.

        • Jack

          Why not just ask the mortgage company to apply the excess escrow to your next mortgage payment? That way you don’t even have to mess with a check or involve your ex at all.

          • Herp Derpington

            In many states, the mortgage company can’t apply excess to a payment. They have to cut you a check.

  • Florida

    I have a check made payable to me & my husband. I have a POA for my husband. Still not able to deposit the check into my account. Any ideas?

  • Jay

    Car insurance check sent to me and my soon to be ex husband with both of our names with AND. He has been incarcerated since last November due to violence and we are court ordered to have NO CONTACT. How can I deposit the check into my account without him being there?

    • Herp Derpington

      You can’t you turd. You have to get another check or take your deadbeat self to prison to get his jailbird butt to sign it.

    • Hi Jay, the best thing to do is to call your car insurance company and have them issue you another check in your name only. Good luck.

  • EXA

    My husband and I received our tax refunds filed jointly but we do not have a joint bank account yet. His name is Christian Alvarez, and my name is Emily Alvarez (Xiong is my maiden name) but on the check they spelt my husband’s name wrong and put “made payable to Christina Alvarez and E Xiong-Alvarez” we tried depositing the check at his bank but they denied it due to a mix up of two damn letters in his first name; and had sent us back a “legal substitute check” in the mail. So my question is, can I just deposit the check at MY bank instead since I am the second payee on this check?

  • Sylvia Abdulsam

    I have a similar situation as carrie. The second payee is in Jail and has a restraining order on them against the first payee. The check says (AND) and the insurance company wont change the names on the check.

  • Allie

    I received a state check for refund from Maryland the check does not say “and” nor “or”. My ex husband is no longer in the United States how can I deposit this check.

    • In this case, the check is written ambiguously so you should be able to deposit the check into your individual account. To be sure, I suggest that you confirm it with a teller when you go to deposit the check — do not deposit the check at an ATM.

  • Karie Peck

    I have and escrow check for rehab loan on my new house.. however it is written to my general contractor AND myself.. after we both sign the check does it matter which one of us cashes/deposits it>

  • Karie Peck

    I have an escrow check from my rehad loan and it was written to both my general contractor AND myself.. after we both endorse the check does it matter who goes to cash/deposit it

  • Amalia

    I receive a check from insurance since I crash. And on the check it has my name and my loan bank where I’m paying my car monthly payments . Do I have to send the check to my bank and for them to sign it ?

    • Typically, for insurance claim checks written to you and the lender, you sign the check and send it to your lender. The lender will cash that check and pay the repair shop (through which you get a repair estimate) directly to have the vehicle fixed.

      It may vary, so you’ll have to contact the lender to see what their procedure is for insurance claim checks.

  • DD

    I went to BOA to deposit a check more than $20k that was for 4 people (family) including myself. It was endorsed by everyone but the aggravating teller told me everyone had to be present with their IDs. I just went to an ATM and deposited there and it was available the next day 😀

    • D J

      Yep, use the ATM as you did saves all sorts of hassles.

  • C

    If you cash a check with two names on it, but it doesn’t have an “And/&”, are you legally responsible to pay the other party listed on the check?

    • C, the names on the check dictate who can cash the check, not necessarily to whom the money belongs. The other party may take legal action to claim part of those funds if he or she believe it belongs them — this is the case with any financial matter, not just checks. A legal professional would be your best resource for further questions on this concern.

  • Rob Austin

    I have never seen an ATM deposit come back. You sign both names on the back and you deposit in an ATM.

    • Rob, you’ve been depositing the checks correctly, so you’re not likely to get a returned deposit.

  • Left of Eden

    So, since rent checks on a commercial building are made out to my father “or” myself, I will be able to cash these checks on my own when it becomes necessary? Note – he banks at B of A, and I am not on his account.