“Can I write a check to myself?”
Yes, people do it all the time. It’s almost as easy as sending money to someone else. You can write yourself checks to move money between accounts, cash out, and even get “free” money. Here’s how.
How Can I Write a Check to Myself
This process isn’t different from writing any other check:
- Fill out the fields with the amount you want to send
- Write the payee (same name as the sender)
- (Optional) Endorse the check so that only you can cash it
Then you’re ready to cash the check! Go to any bank or mail them the check. The funds will be available in 1-2 business days. The last step is to claim the money, assuming you have enough balance as the sender.
Why Write a Check to Yourself?
With so many payment options, it’s hard to imagine why someone would want to send oneself the money. It makes sense when owning multiple accounts, but what if that’s not the case?
Some people believe that sending money to yourself can be a loophole that saves you money. And while it can happen (check kiting), more often than not, you overpay.
So why write yourself a check?
Move Money Between Accounts
Checks can be an emergency transfer method when everything else is unavailable. Let’s say your closest ATM doesn’t work, your local office is closed, or the website is unavailable. You could instead bring your check to the bank or mail it to them.
The funds should be on your account in less than 2 business days. However, some banks (e.g., Chase) will immediately pre-fund your check if it’s less than $200. So if you cashed a $200 check, the bank is paying from their accounts while your actual check clears.
If you’re using accounts of the same bank, you could find the funds available almost immediately. You could even safely send above $10,000 without reporting it to the IRS since the money hasn’t changed hands. More than paying, you’re re-organizing your balances.
Get Money Out of the Bank
You can move money between different banks with checks. And while they don’t clear as fast as ACH transfers, you don’t need to wait that long to use the money.
Suppose you cash it today, Monday. The bank finishes processing it on Tuesday-Wednesday, but it won’t clear until next week. You can access that money as soon as Tuesday anyway.
To get money out of the bank with a check, you could:
a. Visit your local branch and ask to cash out the check (if it’s less than $5,000, it should be possible)
b. Visit a credit union and convert your check into cash
Note that most credit unions won’t accept checks with high amounts, especially endorsed checks.
It’s also possible to cash a check in a bank branch outside the country. While there may be fees involved, it can benefit you if that country isn’t less strict with transactions. It allows you to manage money in ways you couldn’t do in America.
Enjoy Free Unauthorized Credit?
Also known as check kiting, it means you’re using money from a check that hasn’t cleared yet.
- Suppose you have $1000 in one account and $0 in another one. You want to write a $1000 check and cash it for the second account.
- Since the amount is above $200, this may take 24-48 hours to complete.
- The bank will try to verify that your first account has the $1000 (it does). Let’s say it goes through and your second account receives $1000. However, your first account may still have $1000, and it won’t be deducted until your bank clears the transaction in a few days/next week.
- Let’s say your bank verified your $1000 on the first account. But right after, you spend it on something else and now have less than $1000. When the check clears, it will bounce back due to insufficient balance.
- The bank will deduct $1000 from the second one, including a bounce-back fee, whether you have a balance or not.
As you can see, there’s a small window where you can use money that you don’t have. And as long as you can bring the money on time, there is no consequence. If you time it wrong, however, you pay both overdraft and bounce-back fees.
How it works:
After the transaction processes, you may see $1000 in both accounts. You now have $2,000 of purchasing power
- If your sender account has +$1000 when it clears, $1000 will deduct
- If your sender account has less than $1000, it deducts $1000 plus fees from your second account
You can cash the check after 1-2 days, maybe the same day if you go to your branch. It takes 5 business days to clear it, or more if there are lots of requests. That’s 3-4 days to enjoy unauthorized $1000, but make sure your first account has $1000 before clearing.
For good or for bad, it’s considered fraud to spend money you don’t have. You may first get away with it. But the bank may limit your account further to prevent check kiting.
It’s also fraudulent, for example, to write a fake check and use that money, even if you can pay it back on time.
Note: Here’s our guide to prevent check fraud.
Why Not To Write a Check to Yourself?
While checks are easy to use, they have more limitations than electronic transfers. Generally, only $200 is available after cashing out (or the whole amount if it’s the same bank). You can send up to ~$5,000 per check, and the bank will report any deposit above $10,000.
Larger amounts take longer to process, and these may fail for security reasons, not necessarily for being fraudulent. Are checks worth it when having better options?
It’s Not Faster Than Conventional Methods
It takes time to write a check, deliver it, process it, and clear it. With electronic transfers, however, it’s faster. It can be immediate for a fee (sometimes free).
To cash checks faster, you would go to the bank and ask about the check. But in that case, why not request a simple withdrawal, make a cash advance, or use an ATM? There are less complicated ways to turn digital dollars into cash.
Can Lead to Cashflow Issues
If you’re short on money, you may want to use faster transfer methods. When using checks, you’re risking any of the following:
- You may cash the check and have the money on hold on both accounts
- There may be a processing error and your check bounces back for no reason
- You may forget to keep a balance for when the check clears. If so, the bank will cancel the transaction and charge overdraft fees
To keep your money always available, choose faster methods and liquid assets.
Funds Aren’t Available Immediately
If you make an ACH transfer, you could get the money immediately. If you withdraw from an ATM, it’s even faster. If you ask for a debit-card cash advance, you can withdraw thousands of dollars in minutes.
It’s not that you can’t use checks for yourself. There are simply not that many benefits in using checks. Why wait for days for the payment to go through, maybe weeks to cancel the transaction?