What is a check?

A check is a security by which the issuer instructs its bank to pay a fixed amount to the check taker. However, in times of online transfers and card payments, checks are hardly ever used in everyday life. However, there are occasional opportunities for people to receive checks, which they then have to redeem at their bank. So it makes sense to know the most common check types, the deadlines and the specifics of this means of payment.

Check out: This is what a check looks like

Check out: This is what a check looks like

Who wants to issue a check, cannot use any piece of paper, but usually only the completed check forms of his bank. This is regulated in the check agreement between bank and customer. Each check must contain specific information:

  • the clear identification as “check”
  • a money order for a certain amount of money
  • the name of the drawee (the one who is to pay the sum, ie the debtor’s bank)
  • Place of payment as well as date and place of issue
  • the signature of the exhibitor


A blank check eliminates the second point because here the beneficiary sets the amount to be himself.

How long is a check valid?


For the bank to pay, a check must be honored within certain time limits. In Germany, this is eight days from the date of issue. For checks issued in other European countries or in the countries bordering the Mediterranean, the presentation period is extended to a total of 20 days. For checks issued in overseas countries, 70 days apply. After these deadlines, most banks will still settle a check, but they are legally no longer obliged to do so.

Which types of checks are there?

Which types of checks are there?

Checks differ in terms of the method of payment and the terms to which they may be paid.

Cashier’s check and crossed check

In the case of a check, the recorded amount is paid out in cash. In a crossed check, the money is credited directly to the giro account of the beneficiary. A crossed check can only be redeemed at the payee’s house bank. A cashier’s check, on the other hand, can be redeemed at a foreign bank, but this usually costs fees.

Order check and owner check

An order check is only payable to a recipient named on the check, who must identify himself at the check. This creates security – both for the issuer of the check and for the recipient. An order check is ideal for mailing because if it is stolen or lost, it can not be redeemed by unauthorized persons. In most cases, an order check is marked by a red border strip – at least for domestically issued checks. Checks issued abroad are automatically treated as order checks by most banks. That is, they will only be redeemed if they carry the name of the recipient who has to identify himself on redemption.

Although the order check is particularly secure due to its individuality, it can nevertheless be transferred to others. For this purpose, an alternative recipient must be indicated on the check as part of a so-called endorsement (a special note). A type of check very related to the order check, where this is not possible, is the name check. However, this hardly occurs in payment transactions in Germany.

The counterpart to the order check is the bearer or owner check. Instead of the recipient’s name, it contains the instruction to pay the said amount to the person who carried the check. Since this type of check does not contain any personal information about the beneficiary, it can easily be passed on and presented without presentation of an identification.

Checks and direct banks

In most cases, checks are personally cashed by the recipient in the branch of his bank. For some banks, it is necessary to submit a check form in addition to the check, which can be found in the ticket booths of most branches.

If you have an account with a direct bank that operates exclusively online, you will send your check and, if applicable, a completed form for redemption by post. Suitable forms are provided by the banks to their customers for printing. The postage paid by the check owner, so there are additional costs – even if the check is redeemed at the house bank. Since the bank always has to have the original document, there is currently no way to redeem a check online.

check fraud

check fraud

Check fraud is mostly an uncovered check. In particular, checks from abroad should only be accepted by trustworthy people. Even if the check has been cashed at the bank and the money has already arrived in the account, it may even happen that it bursts.

The money which the recipient finds in his account after the check has been redeemed is, so to speak, a loan from his own bank until the money is received from abroad. If the foreign bank finds out that the check is uncovered, it does not transfer money to the German bank, which consequently reclaims the money from the check recipient. Therefore, in case of doubt, a transfer by check is always preferable.