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 the law, it’s important to look at what the check writer put down on the “Pay to the order of” line.

Two party checks are made out to “Party A and Party B” or “Party A or Party B.” Note that there is a major difference between the two.

Quick answer: If a check with two names says “and,” on the “pay to the order of line” then everyone has to endorse the check. Otherwise, any party named on the check can deposit it into his or her individual bank account. This rule still applies if it is ambiguous whether the check is payable to both parties or either party.

What is the difference between “and” and “or” on Two-Party Checks?

If the check states that the funds are paid to either party by using “or” instead of “and”, 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. It’s also a hassle if you cannot get a signature endorsement from the other party. Some banks go further as to require that all parties visit a branch with government ID to verfity the signatures.

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 payees must endorse the check with their signatures.

Two-Party Check-Cashing 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 tax refund check with two payees (does not apply for regular checks). 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.

If a check is written to multiple payees, big banks may have special rules (otherwise, they follow the law for accepting these checks):

BankSpecial deposit rules for multiple payees
Bank of AmericaFor tax refund checks, all payees must also be joint owners of the account.
Wells Fargo-
U.S. Bank-
Wells Fargo-
PNC Bank-
TD BankFor tax refund checks, all payees must also be joint owners of the account.
BB&TFor all checks, all payees must also be joint owners of the account.

How To Deposit A Check With Two Names

It would be best to call your bank ahead before you deposit the check. 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.

When Payees Find Out Their Checks Were Deposited Unknowingly

There have been many cases where checks are written to multiple people and one of the parties find out that part of those funds belonged to them.

This often happens when the check states “or” in the payable line. But, it can also happen if one party opens a joint account and forges a signature to deposit checks with “and” in the payable line. Note: This activity is illegal and against the law.

Other parties may not know about the check being deposited without their consent. Once they find out, it may seem logical to pursue the bank(s). However, that move tends to be ineffective when it comes to retrieving their portion of the check funds.

Ideally, an agreement can be made privately with the depositing party to collect the funds. If not, you would have to take legal action to get the money that belongs to you.

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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?

    • Simon Zhen

      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?

    • Simon Zhen

      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.

      • Greg

        what if its made out to a deceased person and C/O to me?

  • 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

    • Simon Zhen

      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?

    • Simon Zhen

      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.

      • Jay Ellnet

        You’re an aggressive a-hole ๐Ÿ™‚ you probably have mommy issues

    • ClaireMBT

      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.

    • Simon Zhen

      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 ?

    • Simon Zhen

      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 ๐Ÿ˜€

    • 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?

    • Simon Zhen

      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.

    • Simon Zhen

      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.

    • Simon Zhen

      That is correct.

  • austin cole mayo

    i have a check that has my name and my sisters name on it witch one off us can cash it and were can u cash it at

    • Simon Zhen

      If the check states that it is payable to “your name AND your sister’s name,” then both of you have to endorse the check. Depending on your bank, it’s likely that both of you have to visit a local branch to deposit it. The rules can vary by bank, so it is best to ask your bank for their policy.

  • April

    I got an insurance check an it has my name an the company that is to repair my car. I had already took steps an bought parts to have my car fixed. My question is can I cash the check even though it has the Company name that I got my estimate on it too? My name is first and then company name

    • Simon Zhen

      April, you should call your car insurance company and ask to have the check reissued under your name only.

  • Tod Riecher

    I have a refund check from a car lease, it has my name AND my father’s name on it. Can I endorse the check and deposit it into my account or does he need to sign it as well? That could be difficult because he lives in Florida as I reside in Michigan.

    • Simon Zhen

      Your father would have to sign the back of the check as well. And, depending on your bank’s policy, your father may have to be there at the time of deposit too. Check with your bank on the rules first.

      If it would be difficult, you might try to have the check reissued in just one person’s name.

  • Rich show

    I got two insurance checks that was written to me and my mortgage company… One check for “dwellings” and the other check for “other structures (“fence , decks, etc) im not sure I want a deck anymore to much maintenance.. I endorsed the check sent it to the mortgage company, now they are telling me that they will pay me draws… I need to send them a bill of materials list and they will issue my monies in draws! Can they do that? I paid for the ins, and my mortgage on time… I understand the check for dwellings, kind of but for other structures… I built those after I bought my house…. Does my mortgage company have the right to tell me when I get draws from what my ins company gave me

    • Simon Zhen

      I’m sorry, can you elaborate on what you mean by “draws”?

  • Nic Brown

    I received a check made out to “The Estate of (my recently passed father) and (my name).” It’s for an Insurance Claim. Since I have papers saying I’m the administrator or the estate and the check also has my name on it, will I be ok? Should I take his death certificate with me, as well?

    • Simon Zhen

      Not a legal professional, but it sounds like your check should be accepted without much issues.

  • queen of the weezils

    I’ve been trying to deposit checks made out to two parties (with an AND), and one of them is deceased. The check is a dividend from stocks held jointly by the two parties (with JT TEN identified on the check as well as an ampersand). Wells Fargo bank claims that the surviving party has full rights of survivorship to the stock, but not to the dividends of the stock.

  • Trollio

    Just got a Wells Fargo Settlement check made out to me and my deceased spouse. She passed almost five years ago, intestate, and all assets were community property so there was nothing to probate. What do I do with the check?

    • You should be able to deposit the check into your account without issue. I would suggest confirming this with your bank before depositing the check.

  • Lisa

    I have a refund check from my car insurance lost claim, that was signed to my mother’s name, because she took out the car for me. She has signed the back and endorse the check to me, does she need to be present when depositing it to my own account? When she no longer lives in the same country as I do?

  • Maria Martinez

    if the check does not say and or can either party cash the check??

  • shane shane

    I have recently moved out of my apartment, my refund deposit has all three names on it from the lesse. The check id from bank of america. If we all present government identificatiom are we able to cash it

    • It doesn’t really matter where the check was written from (aka the paying bank). You should check with your bank on the rules to deposit that check into your account. Most likely, all 3 people would have to sign it and go to your branch with you with proper ID.

  • Jessica Garcia

    I refinanced my home and was paid out escrow but the check is made out to me and the other borrower who is now dropped. Says Pay To with names listed. I only have a warranty deed stating he signed rights over on his part and was noterized but we were never married any suggestions on what i can do bc the mortgage company says they cant do only my name and the other borrower has been out of home 10 years wasmt able to refinance at that time by myself.

    • The Money Man

      Did you get an answer for this….I am going through this now….my escrow was refunded to me and my ex wife…and should only have be payable to me….what answers did you get?

  • zemira

    I have a refund check written to 3 parties with an “AND” between each name. One party cannot be present, so I contacted the complex that issued the check and they said they could not cut another check with “OR” instead. Is there anything I can do?

  • Ellen Herman

    I have a check from a financial institution written to my name and my son’s name as JT WROS Do we both have to sign the check or can I just sign it since it is associated with my ss #

    • If it says “and” on the check, then you and your son must visit a branch (bring gov’t ID) and sign the check for deposit.

  • Alexis Bradley

    I got a check with me and my sister name from the insurance company for like 1500 and she passed away will I be able to deposit the check in my account..

    • You will probably need to take further steps to deposit that check. You may consider calling the insurance company to reissue the check with proof that your sister passed away. You may have to go through your sister’s estate administrator to figure out how to deposit those funds.

  • jim

    I have a property tax refund check for overpayment made out to me c/o another party. Are they aloud to cash it without my endorsement?

    • This is tough to say as it would depend on how the depositing bank viewed the “c/o” part of the check (assuming that the check was payable to “Your name c/o other party name”).

      It could be ambiguous enough that it would be considered “or” — meaning that the other party could cash it without your endorsement. Again, depends on how the depositing bank viewed the terms of the check.

  • Jack Thrams

    I don’t have a check. Can someone please send me one? No need to fill in the dollar amount – I’ll take care of that. Also, just make it out to “cash.”

  • Gina cassese

    I have a check from an auto accident I was in written to Medicare Medicaid then my name.. no and or or just three names.. it’s my responsibility to pay Medicare n medicaid .. can I deposit it..

    • You may deposit it into your account, but you’ll need a signature from Medicare and Medicaid. Contact your Medicare/Medicaid office to see how they can help you with that.

  • annimherre

    My husband sold stocks that were jointly purchased. He received the checks which were endorsed to both of us, x and y. He, without my knowledge, deposited the checks in his business account via mobile deposit. I did not sign the checks. Do I have action against him?

    • Yes, you may consult a legal professional to discuss what actions you can take against your husband to retrieve the portion of the funds that belong to you.