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.

How is the Check Written to Multiple Payees?

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 govern 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.”

Hassle to Deposit Checks Written to Two People

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 the check.

Next, I’ll show you the policies for the top U.S. 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. 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 account holders.)
  • 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 Accept 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 many 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 besides 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, we’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.

    • Simon Zhen

      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 😀

    • Simon Zhen

      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 ?

    • Simon Zhen

      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.

  • jakeF20

    TDBank. They refused to accept ours, so we went to another location and deposited through the ATM. We relied on the employees laziness to *not* send us the check back. It worked.

  • 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.

  • Sarah R

    There is no “&” or “or” on my check just one name and the other name listed underneath it. I have a pfa and no contact. I sent in all requested legal documents to the bank and they still wont reissue a check. I was told to take it to another bank. Any advice?

    • Under the ambiguity rule, you should be able to deposit the check under your own account.

  • Christina Chornomud

    I work for an insurance company and I have seen many times banks missing that the check was made out to two parties. I had one check issued Mercury A/S/O the person’s name and they missed it. I think it’s luck of the draw

  • jay

    My ex wife recently deposited over $41,000 of insurance checks at Bank Of America, on our rental house when a pipe burst. The mutiple checks were written to fix the house and loss of use. The checks were written to me(first) “AND” my wife(second line). She signed MY name to them and deposited them into HER account, NOT a joint acct. What can I do? I’m livid at Bank of America, they should be charged too, or at least be held responsible because I know if I tried to deposit them, they would DENY the deposit! Thanks

    • Tracy Huter-Miller

      Get a lawyer, you can sue. You can even call the cops since forgery is felony offense

  • Tracy Huter-Miller

    If the check has 1st person with a “%” 2nd name. Do both need to sign since it doesn’t say or or &?

    • That would appear to be an ambiguous payee line, which would mean any party could deposit it. Definitely confirm with a teller before depositing.

  • Bec

    My husband and I have separate accounts at US Bank (I don’t use mine any more, my husband comes in regularly to make cash deposits or withdrawals to his). The last two times we’ve had tax refund checks, I had my husband endorse, then I went to US Bank and deposited it into his account and did my endorsement in front of the teller. Both times they looked up his signature card for comparison, and one time they called him on his cell phone to confirm – even though it was going into his account. Later we transferred funds to my account, which we use for household expenses

    • That surely removes part of the hassle of depositing these checks. Good to see that U.S. Bank used to verification protocol.

  • SR

    I am having a very hard time figuring out how to deposit a 2 party check into my account. I had hail and wind damage and received a check from my insurance company made out to me and my mortgage company (over $20K). I spoke with the mortgage company and was told to sign it and send it to them and then they would send out a check to me once everything cleared. They did send me a check, but it was also made out to our general contractor. He says that in his experience, banks do not accept these 2 party checks very easily (we have 2 different banks). I get different answers when I called the banks to get advice, My mortgage company says this is always how they do it for checks over $20K and its a Freddie Mac rule, although I can not anything about that online. It looks like different mortgage companies deal with this in different ways. Any guidance would be appreciated!

    • Have you tried having the contractor go with you to your bank branch to deposit the check through a teller? That may be worth a try before looking for other options.

  • David Martin

    I recently found out my ex wife of 15 years deposited multiple checks form the New York Tax and Finace Dept for Hurricane Sandy Fund through New York Rising. The check payee line was her name and my name and are both different. There was no “and ” and no “or ” on the payee line.
    She deposited the checks into her personal account at Chase Bank. I do not have any accounts at chase bank. I never endorsed the checks and was not aware of this. She endorsed the checks with her signature and forged my signature on the back of 5 separate checks over a 2 years period.
    I am trying to find out what Chase Bank branch procedure is for this. Will Chase allow the deposit with out me being present? Would the bank ask her to have me present with ID. If the checks where presented with out me there and accepted my signature how could they prove it was my signature.
    I am not there customer and have no signature on file.
    A police report has been made. Is Chase Bank going to be responsible for the money? Do I have a lawsuit against Chase Bank? The amount was a total of $ 125.000.00

    • Under the ambiguity rule, she could have deposited the check into her personal account.

      Your case is a legal matter where you should speak with a lawyer to claim part of the funds that were paid to your ex-wife.

  • Ana-Maria Carrasco

    I just found out that my ex got a check for over 12,000 for a claim he filed on a burglary of our house. I had moved out but a lot of the items were mine. He never told me he got the money. He is now in prison(because he’s an idiot) While cleaning out the house that had been vandalized for like the 3rd time, I found the check and a bank statement from his bank that had the amount of the check in his personal account. I called the insurance company and got copies of the check. He didn’t sign my name but did e-deposit it and the bank took it….Do I go to the police and file a report? Is the Insurance company liable or is it the bank or both?…

    • At this point, the best course of action may be to seek legal advice on how you can reclaim the portion of the funds that belonged to you.

  • Debbie

    Simon, I bank with BB&T and no longer have a joint account with my now ex spouse. However, before our divorce (and settlement agreement was in place) he deposited/cashed a two party check (made out to he and myself) from an insurance company, which I was not present when he did this and he endorsed my name (forgery) in order to cash. I went to BB&T after seeing this article. The first thing I did was ask them if I had a signature card on file. She looked up my account and sure enough I did. I looked at the card/signature and said “now we have a problem” then proceeded to show her the check, in which my signature was forged. After the banking person made several phone calls she told me they were going to have to pull some information and do an investigation. I received an email from the person I spoke with several about a week later and was informed that they could not discuss this matter with me and I would have to contact the issuer of the check (insurance company, who also claims they can’t do anything about this matter, even though their website pursues fraud). I have filed a police report with my local police department nearly a year to date, and still have not received any investigation. Is forgery considered a joke in this country? No one appears to take this seriously, oh BTW the check was nearly $9,000.00. This was for a jointly owned motorcycle that somehow was “totaled” and I suspect that my name was also forged on the title.

    Any suggestions on how I can handle this since BB&T and the insurance company seem to want to wipe their hands of it and I can’t seem to get any cooperation from the police? I’ve looked into attorneys to pursue, however I can only find criminal defense attorney’s and I need a prosecuting attorney BUT since the local police haven’t responded to my report I do not know where to go? So I’m open for suggestions – from anyone out there reading this.

    • Legal action appears to be the way to go here, so it is odd to hear that you’re having trouble finding a lawyer to tackle the matter. Another option you could look into would be small claims court.

      • Debbie

        The problem with attorney’s is most will DEFEND the “crook”, I need a Prosecuting attorney. I am looking into the commonwealth’s attorney at this time. I hope to make some headway since multiple crimes have been committed.

        • Thanks for the update. Keep us tuned in if you can — any resolution to your situation could help others in the same predicament.

          • Debbie

            The county I live in has a “Victims Assistance” program. I emailed them my situation and actually got a reply that they are going to get a status from the Officer I filed my report with. I haven’t ruled out going after the bank since they are in violation of their own protocol. Stay tuned……………

  • Karen

    I received a check from a class action lawsuit and it’s made out to me AND my ex husband..we split in 2009 & haven’t had any contact since then, how can I cash it? I don’t have a # of the issuer to call…HELP!

    • There must be a claim administrator for the class action lawsuit. The administrator would be the one to handle the reissue of the check.

  • Greentravelgal

    I am doing a financed home construction project, with periodic draws. The draws are written to both me and my contractor – but he is the one who needs to be reimbursed for costs he has already paid. Wells Fargo refused to deposit the check into his long-standing account with my signature, and then only did it reluctantly when I came in person to present my ID. They told me that they would do it this time but not going forward. So they are *not* following the policy that you outline above. I am in discussion with my loan company to see how we can change the process moving forward, but they have not demonstrated a willingness to change their protocols in the past.

  • rick longino

    Santander just refused to have my wife deposit joint payee check despite:
    1. Both of us signed
    2. We each have longstanding accounts, we each have signature cards on file, money was going into one of two accounts
    3. The sum was small
    4. We both then physically appeared, and showed valid photo IDs

    We were told we had to open joint account (is this the Wells Fargo scam, lets create as many accounts as possible so we can trick shareholders into thinking we are growing?)

    We refused. First they lied and said new UCC (legal) requirement. Then they backed down from joint account requirement. But they forced filing of notarized form “to their fraud department” (oh for gods sake) then we had to sign some formal doc subjecting us to some or another liability. (I almost called their bluff and refused. After all, banks have duties to me as well, when I present a duly authorized and endorsed check).

    Once again, Santander has to be the WORST. Yes they have to take reasonable steps to check signatures, but these were not reasonable steps, especcially given the circumstances.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with Santander Bank. Your case would certainly help folks in a similar situation (or those considering an account with the bank).

  • My wife and I received a check of $4,000 from our adjuster with both our names on it. The check it written on PNC and we’re not customers, so we thought we could both go there and cash the check since it was one of theirs. They refused to cash the check. Is that legal and do you know what their policy is?

    • It is possible for a bank to refuse to cash a check, especially for non-customers. The most commons reasons for doing so are fraud and potential insufficient funds.

      Tellers may be told to accept checks “no questions asked” under a certain limit. Checks above a certain threshold (may vary from bank to bank) may require verification of sufficient funds in the account against which the check is drawn.

      If the bank suspects that the check cannot be honored in full, the bank could reject it.

  • Dian Erber Priest

    So if the check did not say “and”, you are screwed. My son’s fiancé walked out. My son continued to make the mortgage payments until he could no longer afford to. He had to sell the house. The house was in both names. There was an overpayment of escrow of almost $2000. The check was sent to her with both names and no “and/or”, just both names listed. She deposited the check in her single names account st BB&T. According to your article, she can. According to BB&T, the branch can make its own decision. So if you have this situation, just keep going into different BB&T branches. Eventually somebody will negotiate the check for you. So good for the person who receives the check. She is $2000 richer while he is the one who paid the mortgage for a year.

  • Gina cassese

    I received a check from my insurance company written to Medicare Medicaid then my name.. there is no and or or just the names.. can I deposit it..?