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Can You Sign a Check Over to Someone Else to Deposit?

Find out whether you can sign and endorse a check to have someone else deposit it. Learn about the rules for this practice and how to do it properly.

When someone gives you a check, you first need to deposit the money at a bank or cash it so you have money to spend.

Sometimes you might not want to visit the bank, or might not be able to visit the bank to deposit or cash a check that you receive.

In that situation, you might want to try signing the check over to someone else so they can deposit it for you.

You might also want to sign a check over to someone else if you received the check, but the money was intended for another person.

If you were the middleman for a large transaction, someone might write a check payable to you erroneously rather than to the person who is actually owed the money.

While it’s possible to sign a check over to someone else, it will not always work. It should be something you try only if you really need to.

It's Possible, With Caution

You can certainly try to sign a check over to someone else so they can deposit it, but it won’t always work.

When you deposit a check, there’s a long process that the bank follows to get the money transferred to your account.

The process

Your bank takes all of the checks it receives each day and separates them by the bank that issued the check. It notes on each check who made the deposit.

At the end of the day, the bank will send each check to the issuing bank, requesting payment for the amounts listed on each check.

Once the issuing banks receive the checks that their customers have written, they need to verify those checks.

They’ll confirm whether the check is legitimate, whether it was signed by a customer with the authority to write checks, and whether each customer has enough money to cover the transaction.

If everything is in order, the money will be transferred between the banks. Otherwise, the issuing bank will refuse to pay the bank at which the check was deposited.

This process can take days, or even a week or more.

However, you usually get access to funds just a few days after depositing a check. Banks are willing to do this because you take on some responsibility for the checks you deposit.

Up to the bank

By depositing a check, you’re telling the bank that you trust that the person who gave you the check is good for the money.

By signing a check over to someone else, you introduce another party to this already complicated transaction. Some banks might be unwilling to let you do that.

Depositing and Issuing Banks May Reject the Deposit

Keep in mind that both the issuing bank and receiving bank are involved in the processing a check deposit.

Before you sign a check over to someone, they should go to their bank and speak to a teller asking about whether it’s allowed, and what process the bank requires to accept a check that’s been signed over.

If the bank doesn’t allow you to sign a check over to someone else, you’ll know not to waste time trying.

Even if the recipient’s bank says it’s alright, the issuing bank may block the transaction.

You should check with the issuing bank if possible, to make sure the transaction won’t be blocked on its end.

Don’t Try to Deposit Through an ATM

When you sign a check over to someone else, make sure they don’t try to deposit it through an ATM because you can't guarantee that it'll clear.

Many ATMs these days can handle check deposits, but these systems are highly automated.

They’re good at handling standard check transactions, but a check that’s been signed over is anything but standard.

The person who you’ve signed the check to may be able to deposit it at an ATM, but it’s best not to risk it.

Make sure they visit a bank and speak to a teller to maximize the chances of making this unusual type of transaction will complete.

How to Sign Your Check Over to Someone Else

If you need to sign a check over to someone else, make sure to do it properly.

Usually, when you deposit a check, you first need to sign the back of it. This is called endorsing the check.

Underneath the line where you sign the check is a small area for notes.

To sign a check over to someone else you should first endorse it, then write “Pay to the order of:” followed by the person’s name.

Your signature, combined with that message, indicate that you’re giving up your claim to the check and transferring it to the person who you specified.

It’s then up to the bank whether to honor the check.

Alternatives to Signing Over a Check

Because the process is complicated and many banks do not allow it, signing a check over to someone should be a last resort strategy.

If you need to pay someone and have a check from someone else, try these alternatives to get the money where it needs to go.

Cash it at the issuing bank or check-cashing store

You can try cashing the check at the issuing bank if you need access to the money quickly.

By bringing the check to the bank that issued it, you cut out a large portion of the process required to handle a check transaction.

The bank can immediately look at the account that the check was written against to make sure there’s enough money to cover the transaction.

Assuming everything is in order, you can get your money immediately.

If you don’t have an account at the issuing bank, you’ll likely have to pay a fee for the service.

Cost to Cash Check at Top 10 Banks

Bank Cost to cash a check as a non-customer
Bank of America $6
Chase $6
Wells Fargo $7.50
Citibank Free for checks under $5,000
U.S. Bank $5
Capital One Free
PNC Bank $10
SunTrust Personal check is free; business check is $7
TD Bank $7
BB&T Free under $50; Over $50 a fee of $8

Another option is to bring the check to a check cashing company. You’ll have to pay a fee based on the value of the check, but you’ll get the money.

Open a bank account

Bank accounts can be expensive these days. Many banks charge maintenance fees to keep accounts open and many banking services cost money.

These costs have caused a huge number of Americans to be unbanked or underbanked. If you don’t have a bank account of any kind, turning a check into spendable cash can be difficult.

Thankfully, many online banks have checking accounts with no monthly fees.

If the cost of having a bank account is preventing you from opening one, look for one of these accounts.

Taking the time to open an account at one of these institutions will give you a way to deposit checks.

It can also get you access to valuable financial services that you can use to improve your financial health.

Watch Out for Check-Cashing Scams

Whenever you’re working with checks you should be on the lookout for check cashing scams.

Remember that when you endorse a check prior to depositing it, you’re also taking some responsibility for the check’s legitimacy.

If you deposit a check that is later returned to the bank unpaid, you may be charged a returned item fee.

Also, recall that it takes a while for a bank to fully process a check. In fact, it can take a week or more before the bank receives the money from the issuing bank.

However, you get full access to the funds from the check in much less time than that.

If you withdraw money from your account, and the bank later finds that one of the checks you deposited cannot be paid by the issuing bank, your bank will deduct that amount from your account.

If that deduction sends your checking account balance negative, you’ll wind up owing the bank money.

Notorious scams

A common scam is for someone to approach you asking you to cash a check on their behalf. They might ask you to cash a $1,000 check and give them $950. You get to keep the extra $50 for your trouble.

If you go through with this, you’ll later find that the check bounced. The $1,000 will be deducted from your account. The scammer will have effectively stolen $950 from your checking account with this scam.

When depositing a check make sure you trust the person who wrote it or is signing it over to you. If the check bounces you could be left on the hook.

Conclusion

Signing a check over to someone else lets them deposit it into their account, but this doesn’t always work.

Try depositing or cashing the check yourself when you can.

Only sign it over to someone else as a last resort.

If you must sign a check over to someone else, make sure that both the receiving bank and issuing bank allow that type of transaction.