Short Answer: The only reliable way for individual payees to verify funds before cashing a check is to contact the issuing bank directly and ask whether the payor’s account has sufficient funds. Third-party, membership-based check verification services are also available for small businesses. Below, we explain how to verify a check.
How to Verify a Check
The only way for payees to verify that a check is real and the funds are available (to ensure that a check will not bounce) is to contact the issuing bank on which the check is drawn. You can visit the issuing bank in person or call its customer service department. Most banks will be able to tell you whether or not there are sufficient funds in the payor’s account to cover the check if you cash it immediately.
If you need to verify checks for your business, there are additional third-party and online verification tools available. However, these services do not always verify the availability of funds; some will only confirm that the account and routing number are legitimate, the payee and amount are correct, and no one has altered the check.
We gathered this information by contacting representatives at a variety of banks and credit unions, as well as viewing policy documentation for online services and contacting their customer service departments.
Contact Information for Major Banks and Credit Unions
The table below includes the number you should call at each major bank and credit union for check verification. You can also visit in person if it has physical branches; click each bank or credit union’s name to visit its branch locator (if applicable).
Note that while many banks will verify funds before you cash a check, some may not be able to give out this information due to their privacy policies.
Additional Options for Businesses: Third-Party Verification
Companies like BetterCheck, Check 21, and CrossCheck allow you to enter a check’s details online or use special in-store equipment for check verification. These services may or may not verify funds availability, as noted above, and they are only available to financial institutions or merchants — not individuals who receive checks.
If you run a business, online verification can help save you time compared to repeatedly calling banks. Note that these options do charge fees; customer service representatives were unable to share exact fee information with us since it varies by plan, but you can contact each company to request a quote. We detail your options in the table below.
What Happens If a Check Bounces?
Banks are not required to verify funds before processing a check, so checks can and do bounce. If you cash a check and it bounces, the majority of the responsibility for the bounced check will fall on the payor, but there may also be consequences for the person who cashes the check. See our related research for information on what happens if you cash a check that bounces.