Depositing a check is a seemingly straightforward task when it is written to just one person — you. It’s a different case when a check is written to multiple payees because many people encounter problems when they try to deposit these checks. If you are faced with this dilemma, see what hurdles you have to jump through and what you can do to properly deposit your money.

Make sure you understand the rules when you have a check written to you and another person.
Make sure you understand the rules when you have a check written to you and another person.

In the rare instance that you ever receive check that is written out to you and another person, it can be a major headache to deposit the check if you don’t share an account with this other person.

Today, I clarify the rules for depositing these types of checks, how the top 10 banks handle these check deposits and how you can deal with rejected check deposits.

Who is the check to?

Believe it or not, the way a check is written will have a significant effect on how you deposit a check written to multiple payees. (Don’t question it, there are laws under the Uniform Commercial Code that governs the rules for check deposits.)

Let’s say that the payees are represented by “John” and “Jane” for these scenarios.

– If a check was written as payable to John “and” Jane, both payees must endorse the check. The rule also applies to payees written to John “&” Jane (note the ampersand symbol).

– If a check was written as payable to John “or” Jane, any one of the payees can endorse the check to have it deposited.
– If the wording is ambiguous as to whom the check is written, any one of the payees can deposit the check. Essentially, if it isn’t clear, it follows the same rule as if the check is written to John “or” Jane. A common example is when the check is just written as payable to “John Jane.”

Problems with the bank

Now, when it comes to these checks, you’re going to encounter the least amount of problems when they’re written in the John “or” Jane form. You can just deposit these checks as if they were written only to you.

For the checks written in John “and” Jane form, it is much more of a troublesome process. You’ll have to get the other payees to come with you to a branch to verify their signatures on the back of check.

Next, I’ll show you the policies for the top 10 banks regarding these types of check deposits.

Get ready for a trip to the branch

I spoke with branch bankers at all of the biggest banks and asked about their policies for depositing a check with multiple people on it. I’ve found that the rules are generally the same across most of the top 10 U.S. banks with a few additional requirements by some banks.

Basically, when you deposit a check written to multiple payees, all payees must endorse the checks. Furthermore, all payees must go with you to your bank and present a government-issued ID. This is required to authenticate each payee’s signature.

The following banks require you and your payee(s) to present a government-issued ID when at the branch:

– Bank of America (If it is a tax refund check, all payees must also be joint owners of the Bank of America account.)

– Chase

– Wells Fargo

– Citibank

– U.S. Bank

– Capital One

– PNC Bank

– TD Bank (If it is a tax refund check, all payees must also be joint owners of the TD Bank account.)

– BB&T  (All payees must also be joint accountholders.)

– SunTrust Bank

Banks seem to be more stringent when you’re depositing a tax refund check that’s written to more than one payee — Bank of America and TD Bank, for instance, will require that the payees of tax refund checks must also be joint account owners.

What a hassle it would be to drag someone with you to a branch to deposit a check... Photo: Shutterstock
What a hassle it would be to drag someone with you to a branch to deposit a check… Photo: Shutterstock

Of the big banks, BB&T has the most demanding policy where payees must also be joint accountholders. I think it would pose a major hassle for BB&T customers who come across checks with multiple payees.

“We’re worried that anyone can forge a signature, even on a joint account, so all payees will need to come in so that a teller can validate the signature,” said the BB&T banker on the phone.

This leads me to the next point of discussion: what to do when you have difficulty with checks that have multiple payees.

When the bank won’t take your check

The most problematic situation that I’ve heard about is when the other payee(s) is unable to visit a branch to verify the check endorsements. It sounds odd, but there are instances when this can happen.

For example, a woman who filed a restraining order against her ex-husband receives a check payable to both herself and her ex. Both payees cannot be present at the same branch together, so the bank cannot verify their signatures. A less extreme instance would be if the other payee was out of the country for an extended period of time.

Photo: Shutterstock
You might have to just as the payer to rewrite the check. Photo: Shutterstock

The only alternative would be to contact the payer (the person or entity that wrote the check) and request that another check be written with just one payee’s name or have it written in the John “or” Jane format. If possible, you might even ask the payee to split the amount between two checks so that each payee can deposit the money on their own.

Unfortunately, this will prove to be a laborious chore, especially when it comes to getting government-agency check reissued. But, there is just no way around it. It’ll prove to be even more of a hassle when the bank requires a joint account, because there’s no other way to deal with this rule beside actually having a joint account.

Be careful: I strongly advise against attempting to deposit a check without having a teller verify the signatures of all payees. Don’t try to get tricky and deposit these checks via the ATM because it will get flagged and you could get hit with a returned deposit item fee (which costs an average of $12.85 at the top 10 banks) when the check is ultimately denied.

If you had experience depositing checks with multiple payees, I’d like to hear how you dealt with it in the comments below!

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  • HU

    Great article. I also read your previous article regarding the same topic 2 years ago. We are currently working on a platform that eliminates the headache associated with multiple payee checks. Based on your research, what are the other scenarios where a check is made out to multiple payees aside from insurance and taxes ? Thanks.

    • Those two seem to be the most common incidents for multiple payees. Others I’ve seen include wedding gifts where the check was written to the couple and rent refunds written to two roommates. Other times would be just personal checks to two payees, but I would think that those situations are much more easily addressed with a rewritten check.

  • 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 😀

    • If that worked, great! I’d wait a week or two, however, to make sure that the check actually cleared before touching that money. It is certainly possible the BofA will come back to you to say that the check couldn’t be processed.

  • SlopeStylz Inc.

    I recently had this experience. In college I worked as a BOA teller and I’m now an Attorney with some knowledge of commercial papers and presentment warranties.

    What put me in a difficult position was that the teller could not clearly explain why it was their policy. Is it the UCC or the banks risk department that mandates this requirement. They should arm the tellers with a policy statement that does a better job explaining besides say “just because.”

    I couldn’t get a straight answer as to why she wouldn’t take the deposit and simply put a hold on it.

  • Michael Little

    I just received a very small State refund check. It has my wife’s name + (literally ) my name written on the check. How would this one fall under the and/or category? Do we both need to endorse the check or can just one of us do it? We no longer have a joint account together.

  • Jimmy

    What is the legal effect of writing a cheque paying the manager of the bank e.g. Pay the manager Citibank ?

    • It is best to get the person’s name and print it on the check. Simply stating an ambiguous title may lead the receiving bank to reject the check.

  • Sandra

    If i was going to open a checking account for me and i was to give my banking information to my relatives work place from another country could they deposit a check into my account

    • WorriedBanker

      No, your relative would have to open his/her own account. Depending on your bank they may not allow a check payable to someone else to be deposited into your checking account. Unless the check is payable to you then they will be able to deposit that check. By giving that information out especially out of the country it opens more windows for potential fraud. Something to keep in mind.

  • I tried depositing a 2-party check with the other party’s signature (law firm) and mine as well and Wells Fargo rejected it. Apparently I need to get a signature verification at the bank, then send the check back to the law firm for them to deposit, then have them issue me a new check made out to just me. What a drag.

    • That’s unfortunate. Keep us posted on how that works out.

  • Dillon

    I just wanted to be sure, that if depositing a check into a checking account with two payees using “and” for BoA, The only requirement would be that both parties are present to endorse the check?

    • Yes, that is the best way to do it. If you are worried that your branch might ask for something else, it is best to call that particular BofA branch.