The depositor should come with money enough in cash or checks to open the account. He is asked to write his signature once or more on the bank's records, with which they can at any time compare the signature on a check, and the form of signature chosen - name in full or middle name or names by initial only - should be used on all checks. He is then supplied with deposit slips and a check-book and in most cases with a bank-book, in which is written the date and amount of his deposit, and is given any information necessary as to the rules and procedure of this particular bank.
The bank has several forms of check-book, with one, three, or more checks to the page, and often the smallest are furnished in a folding case, to make them more compact for pocket or hand-bag. Usually a woman and frequently a man thinks the one-check-to-a-page variety the best to choose, since it is less bulky, but the three-check-to-a-page is the most practical for ordinary family or individual use. The bookkeeping side is simpler, as the addition of the amounts of three checks and the deduction of this total from the total deposit is a little shorter and a little less liable to error than the deduction of each check total separately and the continual carrying forward of the balance. The book is also easier to handle in checking up an account or looking back to verify a payment. Bulk is not of importance, as one does not ordinarily carry a check-book about, but keeps it on or in one's home desk, where accounts are also kept. If checks may be needed away from home or in traveling, it is easy to tear a few from the book (taking care that they are numbered) and when each is filled out, to make a note of number, date, amount and payee to be transferred later to the check-book stub. The check is an order on the bank, in this form for convenience, but any written order to the bank will be accepted. The bank has on its desks for customers "counter checks" for the convenience of those who wish to pay or draw money and have forgotten their own checks. The danger of using these or an order in the form of a letter is that one may forget to enter them. Note must be made at the time and when the checkbook is obtainable, they must be entered in the margin in the proper chronological order and numbered - with a supplementary "a" (103a) if the numbering is already on the stubs.
The checks are to be consecutively numbered. There are usually fewer mistakes if numbers are written ahead in fifties or hundreds or through the book, rather than one by one as the checks are written. The stubs are numbered to correspond with the checks. This numbering is not essential to the banking transaction, but is a time-saver in checking the account, as will be seen later. It is also more business-like and enables one to refer to a check by number in a convenient way. In order to avoid long numbers, a new series must be started from time to time. An excellent rule is to start each year with fresh numbering. Check 24 is then 24 of 1920, or 24 of 1922, easily identified and looked up.
In the column allowed for Deposits the sum on hand should be at the top of the column, and it is more convenient to enter deposits made while the page is in use directly under the top figures. There is a column at the left for the date of the deposit.
In writing a check accuracy and clearness are of first importance. The handwriting should be the most legible the writer can attain. The date, amount in figures, name of payee and amount written out should all be so written that there is no mistake. If there is a household typewriter, the monthly checks can be made out at one time on this, leaving only the signature to be written. The name of the payee should be full enough for certain identification; Mary L. Anderson is better than M. L. Anderson or Mary Anderson, even though the check is collectible under any of the three forms. Even Mrs. John Q. Anderson is collectible, but it is not a business way of making a check. Mrs., Miss or Mr. have no proper place on such a document. They are courtesy titles, for social use. A slight variation in spelling - Andersen for Anderson, Marie for Mary - may not prevent the payment, but such variations, if evidence of general slipshod ways, may some day lead to serious consequences.
The amount should be so written that the check can not be raised - that is, the amount made more by the addition of a word and figures. To do this, begin writing at the extreme left. This space cannot be properly filled by a line drawn by the pen. The courts have held that in case such a check is altered there is "contributory negligence" on the part of the person who so wrote it. When the whole sum is easily written in full, that should be done, but the dollars written out and the fraction at the end are sufficient if connected by a line. For example:
If the writing does not begin at the extreme left, but an inch in, the check can easily be changed and if the figures are written with the same lack of care, the check can be changed to
To be sure, there is not much danger of such raising in the checks of the ordinary individual, since the sums are not large enough to pay for the risk, the deposits are not large enough to warrant a "worth while" raise and the other difficulties are too great, but when one is conducting any kind of business transaction it should be done in the business way, for the establishing of good habits. To write a check badly does not ordinarily mean that it will not be honored by the bank or that it will be altered by a forger, as any bank man will tell you. The results will be a nuisance to the bank, and to the writer another step on the path of carelessness.