How safe is mailing a personal check?

I need to write a check to an individual for about $700. They are on the other side of the country, so I need to mail said check. He doesn’t have a PayPal account and does not trust PayPal for such large sums of money.

If I, say, fold it up in a few sheets of paper to make it look like a normal letter, and send it registered mail through the postal service, is it reasonably safe that the check will get there unmolested? Are personal checks even considered safe, or would it be better for me to see if my bank can transfer the money direct to his (different) bank? Is there some way to guarantee that only the recipient indicated on the ‘to’ line can deposit the check?

Apologies for the stupid questions, but it’s a very large sum of money and will be only the third check I’ve ever written in my life - I know how to keep credit and debit cards and online accounts safe, but no idea what to do with paper checks.

Of course, no one can guarantee a check’s safety but most people routinely mail large checks in plain first class mail. I have never had a check lost in the mail in over 20 years of mailing mortgage checks, property tax checks, checks for credit card payments, and checks to family members. The only time, in your case, I would worry is if he lives in a bad neighborhood and his mail doesn’t get dropped in a safe mailbox.

If it makes you feel better, or he does live in a bad area do send it in a way he has to sign to get it, it isn’t expensive to do.

I wouldn’t be worried. I’d just mail it. If you want to, you could put on the back “FOR DEPOSIT ONLY” so in theory it can only be put into a bank account. But really, I’m not even sure how someone would go about cashing a check that had someone elses name it it nowadays.

Why would you send it Registered, unless you enjoy needlessly forking over your money to the USPS? Just send it First Class.

Does your bank have online bill pay of some sort? Lots of banks versions of “online bill pay” isn’t wire transfer it’s actually you sending a request to the bank to write a check in your name from your account and physically mailing the check to the person.

My company’s account is with National City Bank and I send checks out like this all the time, to random people - no sort of official channels to go through, and it doesn’t have to be a company or anything. Just regular people getting regular checks from us.

Anyway, if you’re scared to send a check in the mail (which ain’t actually scary), see if you can go this route with your bank’s Web site.

Wife of a 24-year veteran letter carrier here. I’ve been mailing checks to pay bills for years now, some of them for huge amounts like for $2,000+ Discover card bills, and some of them incredibly important, like for mortgage payments, and have never had a single instance of having a check disappear in the mail.

You don’t even have to send it registered or certified mail. Just make sure there’s a legible return address, make sure the address itself is legible and correct, and don’t forget to put a stamp on it. Wrap it up in a piece of paper (doesn’t have to be a whole wad) so it’s not quite so obvious it’s a check.

If you’re just worried about the recipient getting the money, and not necessarily about someone stealing it in transit, then go ahead and send it either registered or certified. But ordinary first class, in my experience, works just fine.

According to the Better Half, postal thieves in the line of processing basically scan for birthday cards, which are easy to recognize by their size and shape, and which are statistically more likely to contain cash. They’re not interested in plain business envelopes.

But if somebody did intercept a check and try to cash it, then that would be a criminal proceeding, and would be the problem of (A) your bank, (B) the place where he cashed it, and © the Postal Inspectors, who, trust me, you do not want to have mad at you. Seriously.

Paper checks are actually safer than using plastic, because they leave a paper trail. Whoever cashes a stolen check leaves a trail of evidence behind him, such as a signature, sometimes a driver’s license or other ID, sometimes a picture on a surveillance video, whereas using stolen plastic is like finding money in the street.

But like I said, the Bad Guys who are sitting there scanning the flow of mail for something to steal aren’t interested in plain business envelopes, because there are just too many of them, and because they know it’s too much trouble to cash a stolen check, and that it leaves a paper trail.

Really, just stick it in an envelope, wrap it up in your choice of humorous Internet web page, and mail it. It’ll be fine.

Although I wouldn’t hesitate to mail a check, and I routinely do, I feel obligated to tell a personal story. In the 90’s, I failed to receive a payment in the $700 range, but the sender claimed the check had been sent and cashed. The issuing bank supplied me with a copy of both sides of the check, clearly made out to me and just as clearly signed by someone else with no attempt to copy my sig. How it happened, I do not know, as the bank clammed up from then on. They had me sign a notarized statement that I was not the person who deposited the check and I eventually got my money.

My guess is that it accidentally ended up in someone else’s mailbox and they thought a golden opportunity had arrived. In the neighborhood where I used to live, the most common delivery mistakes (UPS, USPS) were to deliver to the same house number but a parallel street. Once a shipment of computer parts was delivered that way (and signed for!), and the recipient put my parts in his next garage sale rather than attempting to find the rightful owner.

So it can happen, but only the truly paranoid should worry.

But you did eventually get your money. :wink:

So only the excruciatingly paranoid need worry. :smiley:

Now I’m feeling old. There are people that have never sent a paper check through the mail? I pay all my bills through paper checks. Including credit card bills and mortgages. The credit card bill for one month (for example when the whole family went by plane to Europe) can be thousands of dollars. And I’m sure many people write checks for much more than I ever do. In all my past years of writing checks, I can’t think of a single time where the check did not arrive at its destination. In fact, the only time I can remember any mail really getting lost was two years ago when two people from our holiday card list both said that they didn’t get my season’s greetings (interestingly enough, my father and my brother were the only people who didn’t get it.)

I remember last year being at the grocery store with a 20-year-old and she was astounded to see me pay at the grocery store with a paper check. She said “I have never seen anyone do that.” Come ON! I refuse to believe that I’m ready to be put on the scrap-heap of history.

Remember before using registered mail, doing so means your friend has to go to the post office, or be at home during business hours to get their mail. It adds a day, or more to the time it takes, and costs them the effort and cost of doing so in many cases. For me, it would mean at the very least getting the check two days later, and perhaps longer.

The increase in security is mostly imaginary. Send a one page letter along with the check, folded around the check itself. One first class stamp, and a bit of care with the addresses, and you really only worry because you wish to worry.


The Hope Diamond was mailed to the Smithsonian…

By the way, statistically speaking, if we had a million anecdotes of first class letters not being delivered in the last year, that would represent a 0.001% chance that your letter would be lost.


Me too. Thirty-five or so years of sending checks through the mail as an adult. It’s like being asked, I’ve never taken a ride in a horse-drawn carriage before. Are they safe? Will the horse turn around and devour me?

No offense to the OP. It’s just astounding even for those of us who have lived through it to realize the incredible rate of change the world has experienced.

I second that. On the rare occasions that I actually need to cash a check at the bank, I feel like I’ve been through an FBI background check (no pun intended) in order to verify that I am the person to whom the check is made out to.

I remember the days when the signature card on file at the bank was used to verify your ID. Now, all of you damn kids be quiet and get off of my lawn…

I hate to say it, but it sounds plausible to me. I think it’s very likely I haven’t seen someone write a personal check at the grocery store in several years. I’m 29, and it wouldn’t suprise me if that “several years” just mentioned was as long as a decade or so.


Put me down as another person who thinks sending personal checks through (regular first-class) mail is a normal, everyday thing, and who has never had a problem or thought there would be a problem.

Ok, my mild paranoia has been soothed. Regular first-class mail it is.

Well, I’ve only had a situation where there’s a bill I would need to pay for the past four years or so, since starting school, and the only things would be my one credit card and the horrid sums of money I give to the school. The credit card is linked to my bank account, so it takes all of three clicks to make a payment whenever I want and it transfers nearly instantly. If I wanted to write a check to the school, rather than putting it on my debit card (for small fees) I would just walk into the office I was paying, since it’s right there. Cash or debit/credit is just so much easier than writing out a check.

NinjaChick, mailing checks is so common that they even make envelopes specific to that purpose. They’re called “security envelopes”, and they are harder to see through to identify the contents. If you’re truly concerned, buy some of them and wrap the check in a piece of paper. I see you’ve already decided to mail the check first class, but this might further ease your mind a bit. They’re not at all expensive, even compared to non-security envelopes.

Really? Could you please get those people to move here, and shop at our local Safeways? I often find myself behind someone scribbling a check.

<ASIDE>Why does it seem to be a female trait to use checks for small amounts? I’ve loaned $5 to female coworkers who refused to simply remember to pay it back, and insisted on writing me a check for $5. Which is a pain in the ass, because I then have this piddly little check to deposit. Once I had a bunch of T shirts printed and sold them, at cost, for $7 each. Several women paid me with checks. I don’t think any men did.</ASIDE>

I am familiar with those - the same type that bank statements and stuff come in, right? I don’t think I’m going to use one of those, simply because they don’t sell them individually (if at all) in the bookstore here on campus, and I’m not going to make the trip all the way into town (I don’t have a car) to buy a box. At the rate I send mail, a box of even 25 would last me until well into my 30s. Thanks for the suggestion, though.