Financial Dictionary -> General Finance -> Check

A check (or cheque as it's known in the United Kingdom and Canada), is a financial instrument used to pay for items, transfer money between bank accounts, and used as wages. It is paid in to the payee's bank account by the payee and instructs the issuing account to transfer the amount written on the check in to the payee's account. Checks can be used by individuals or businesses.

Unlike cash, which is legal tender, checks are not widely used in stores or for the everyday purchase of items. They are more commonly used to buy items of great value where cash is unsuitable (e.g. buying a new car), giving a monetary gift, or paying wages or money to somebody. It is a convenient way to make a payment when cash isn't on hand or if there is not yet money in your bank account to make a payment.

There are several parts of a check that can be identified. These include:
Bank Branch - Which bank the check was issued from.
Check Number - Identifier.
Date of Issue.
Payee - Who the check is being paid to, e.g. John Smith, or Electronic Store Inc.
Amount - The amount to be paid.
Signature - The signature of the person who wrote the check, endorsing its use.
Routing / Account Number - Identifiers for the computer system.

There may also be several other identifiers, security marks or sections to write extra info.

Checks have seen a steady decline in use for a number of years now, due to cheaper and more convenient alternatives, such as debit and credit cards. Cash is now much easier to obtain due to ATM machines. If banks are closed, people now often turn to online services instead of writing a check. Banks themselves are discouraging them due to fraud, ease of loss, and the cost of having to administer them over fully electronic systems.