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How to endorse a check for mobile deposit

Many people think of checks as an old-fashioned payment method that stopped being hip long ago. However, the U.S. Federal Reserve collected nearly 3.4 billion commercial checks in 2022, proving that you shouldn't give up on checks just yet.

If you receive a check and don't feel like going to the bank, mobile deposit is a more convenient option. Before you make a deposit, however, you'll need to endorse the check and make sure everything is good to go. Keep reading to learn how to endorse a check for mobile deposit.

What is mobile deposit?

Mobile deposit, also known as remote deposit capture (or RDC), allows you to deposit a check in your bank account by taking a photo of it. Today's high-quality phone cameras can capture all the details a bank needs to verify that the check is legitimate and ensure the money ends up where it's supposed to be.

To use mobile deposit, download your bank's app on your smartphone or tablet. Once you log in, you can usually access a variety of services, such as mobile deposit, bill pay, and account transfers. You may even be able to download account statements, apply for a loan, or access tools to help you better manage your finances.

How to endorse a check for mobile deposit

Before you deposit a check, you need to endorse it, or sign the back of it. Endorsing a check helps verify that you're the intended recipient. It also gives your bank permission to process the check and deposit the funds in your account.

Follow these steps to endorse a check for mobile deposit and reduce the risk of having it rejected.

1. Review the check details

Take a look at the front of the check. It should have the following:

  • Date

  • Your name

  • Amount written in numerals

  • Amount written in words

  • Account holder's signature

  • Memo (optional)

If anything doesn't look right, you may have to ask the person who wrote the check to issue a new one. For instance, if they made out a check for $829.00 and then wrote "eight hundred and 92/100 dollars" on the next line, that's an error that needs to be corrected.

The name on the check should also match the name on your bank account. This is a common problem for married people who change their names without updating their bank information. If you can't get a replacement check, your bank may ask to see a marriage certificate to help confirm your identity, preventing you from making a mobile deposit.

2. Sign the back of the check

Wondering what to write on the back of a check for mobile deposit? Most of the time, it's as simple as signing your name. Keep your eye out for a line or a blank space that says, "Endorse Here."

It can get a little tricky if the check is made out to more than one person. For example, if the "Pay to the order of" line has your name and your spouse's name, both of you may need to sign it. It depends on how it's written.

A check made out to John Smith or Sue Smith needs just one signature—either John's or Sue's. If it's made out to John Smith and Sue Smith, however, both people need to sign it.

If the check is made out to a business, only an authorized business representative is allowed to deposit it. To endorse a business check, follow these steps:

  1. Sign the name of the business (e.g. Acme Anvils).

  2. Sign your own name.

  3. Write your job title below or next to your signature. Something like "Penny Lane, CFO" should suffice.

Checks usually have a statement that says "Do not write, stamp, or sign below this line." When you endorse a check, make sure you follow these instructions. The check police won't come after you if you don't, but the bank may reject your deposit.

Pro tip: Don't sign the back of the check until you're ready to deposit it. If you lose an endorsed check, there's a chance someone else could cash it before you realize it's missing.

3. Write a restrictive endorsement underneath your signature

A restrictive endorsement sets limits on how a check is used. Once you write it, no one else can cash the check or use it to pay for goods or services.

Many banks have specific phrasing you must use to deposit a check with their mobile apps. For example, Varo Bank asks account holders to write, "For mobile deposit at Varo Bank only." Make sure you use the exact wording required by your financial institution.

4. Make sure everything is correct

Review the check one more time to make sure everything is correct. Spending an extra minute or two to verify the information can save you from having a mobile deposit rejected at an inconvenient time.

5. Deposit the check.

If you're sure everything is correct, use your bank's mobile app to deposit the check. The process is a little different at each bank, but you usually log in, click on the deposit icon and follow the instructions.

When it's time to take a photo, make sure you're in a well-lit room. You should also place the check on a dark background. If the photo is blurry, try again, or else the bank might reject your mobile deposit.

Review everything carefully before you hit submit. If any of the information you provide doesn't match what's on the check, there's a good chance the bank will reject your deposit. For example, if the check is for $427.00 and you accidentally type in $47.00 or $4,720.00, the deposit won't go through.

After you’ve deposited the check, don’t discard it until you can confirm it’s been properly received by your bank and the funds are available in your account. If the mobile deposit fails for any of the reasons outlined below, hanging onto the check may help you resolve those issues. Once you’ve received confirmation of the funds, you can go ahead and discard the check.

Common reasons why mobile check deposits fail

Despite your best efforts, a mobile deposit may fail once in a while. It's not a reflection on you, just a fact of life. These are the most common reasons for this type of failure.

Lack of endorsement

If you don't endorse the check, the bank can't deposit it in your account. That's why it's so important to verify that everything is correct before you begin the deposit process.

Endorsement errors

Remember how we said that the name on the back of the check has to match the name on the front of the check? We meant it! If the names don't match, or there's some other problem with your endorsement, the bank is likely to reject your deposit.

Technical issues

Sometimes, a bank rejects a deposit simply because there's a technical issue with the mobile app. Once you receive confirmation that the deposit didn't go through, give it another try.

If your bank's mobile app isn't working, make sure that your smartphone or tablet has a strong Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

Duplicate deposits

These days, people are busier than ever. With everything you have going on in your life, no one would blame you if you deposited a check and forgot about it.

A duplicate deposit occurs when someone tries to deposit a check that's already been deposited. You can't double-dip, so the bank will reject the second attempt.

Account restrictions

Banks don't usually limit the amount of money you can deposit, but your account may have restrictions that cause a mobile deposit to be rejected. For example, if you've ever bounced a check at your bank, you may not be able to deposit checks exceeding a certain amount.

If you recently filed a fraud claim, there may also be a freeze or some other type of hold on your account. This may prevent you from making a mobile deposit until the bank completes its investigation and restores your access.

Many banks also prohibit customers from depositing certain types of checks via mobile deposit. This may include traveler's checks, checks from international banks, and checks written against a credit account. For example, if your credit card company sends you a convenience check, you may not be able to deposit it with your bank's mobile app.

Poor photo quality

Your bank's computers need to be able to read the data on the check to make sure it's processed correctly. That's why it's critical to take high-quality photos. In addition to following the tips provided above, here's what you can do to reduce the risk of having your deposit rejected:

  • Make sure the check is lying flat when you take a photo. If it's tilted at an angle, you might not capture everything your bank needs to process it.

  • Keep all four corners of the check inside the photo.

  • Hold your smartphone straight above the check instead of tilting it. Holding the phone at an angle may create shadows that make it difficult for your bank's computers to read everything.

  • If you're in a bright room, turn off the camera flash to prevent the photo from looking washed out.

  • Hold the camera a few inches away from the check to prevent blurriness.

  • Don't include other objects in the photo. If your cat steps in front of the camera just as you capture an image, you'll have to do it again.

Check damage

When you receive a check, resist the temptation to fold it up and put it in your wallet. Folds, rips, tears and other types of damage can cause your deposit to be rejected, as they can prevent computers from reading the data on a check.

Stop payment

Your bank may reject a check if the original account holder made a stop payment request. This request tells a bank not to cash a check or process a recurring debit transaction. Stop payment requests are often made if there's an error on the check or if the person who wrote the check decides to use a different payment method.

Insufficient funds

Some checks are rejected due to insufficient funds. This means that the person who wrote the check doesn't have enough money in their account to cover it. For example, someone with a bank balance of $400 doesn't have enough money to cover a check written for $500.

Refer to maker

"Refer to maker" is a phrase banks use to tell their customers that they need to talk to the person who wrote the check to find out why it was rejected. Financial institutions may use this code for any of the following reasons:

  • A bank representative has concerns about fraud.

  • The person who wrote the check didn't sign it.

  • Someone wrote the check without the account holder's permission.

  • You didn't fulfill a required condition, such as having a second person sign a check made out to two people.

The bottom line

Now that you know how to endorse a check for mobile deposit, the possibilities are almost endless. Well, your banking possibilities anyway. Just to recap, here's what you need to do:

  1. Review the front of the check to make sure everything is correct.

  2. Sign the back of it.

  3. If necessary, add a restrictive endorsement.

  4. Review it again for good measure.

  5. Follow the instructions in your banking app to complete the deposit.

Even if you do everything right, there's a chance the deposit could be rejected due to circumstances beyond your control. That's why you need to hold off on spending the money until the bank confirms that the check has settled. If you spend the money right away and the mobile deposit is reversed later, you could end up with a negative account balance.

If you're looking for a new checking or savings account, Varo has you covered. Open an account today and find out what perks could be yours.

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