Get your finance in order, with wealth management's must-read stories everyday!

Crossed Checks: Purpose and Process

Susan Kelly

Oct 23, 2023

When dealing with financial transactions, checks are a common medium of exchange. One specific type of check, the crossed check, has unique characteristics and offers advantages and drawbacks.

What Is a Crossed Check?

When you encounter a check with two parallel lines, either stretching across its face or situated in the top left corner, you're looking at a crossed check. But it's more than just an aesthetic choice. Those lines carry a weighty meaning: the check must find its way into a bank account and not into someone's hands as instant cash from a bank or other financial entity.

Cross Check Meaning

The parallel lines safeguard, ensuring that the money mentioned on the check reaches its intended destination—a bank account. This mechanism acts as a preventive measure against potential fraud or misuse. With this design, banks receive clear instructions: deposit, don't cash.

The Historical Context of Crossed Checks

While the concept of checks dates back centuries, crossing checks emerged as a security measure in banking. As checks gained popularity and became a standard form of payment, a need arose to ensure their safe and intended use. Crossing a check provided that only the rightful recipient could access the funds, which would go directly into their bank account.

Over time, as banking systems evolved and international transactions became more prevalent, crossed checks spread to various countries, each adapting to its specific banking norms and regulations.

Key Features of Crossed Checks

Crossed checks are unique in banking since they prioritize transaction security. Two parallel lines, usually on the top left corner or straight across the check, indicate that the check must be deposited into a bank account. A basic design tells banks and financial institutions that the check cannot be cashed directly, ensuring a visible transaction trail.

Distinct Markings

The defining feature of a crossed check is its two parallel lines. Whether they stretch across the length of the check or rest in the top corner, these lines communicate an unmistakable message. Their presence mandates that the check's value be deposited into an account, making it a tool for secure transactions.

Restrictions in Handling

Cross-checking a check isn't just a customary practice; it's a strategic move. It offers clear guidance to banks, emphasizing that the amount must land in an account. This strategy ensures the check's purpose remains uncompromised, keeping the funds safe and directing them where intended.

Cross Checking Point to Ponder

Think of the parallel lines as barriers, not allowing the check to be processed anywhere but guiding it safely into an account.

Geographical Popularity

While not a universal practice, several countries, including Mexico, Australia, and parts of Europe and Asia, have embraced crossed checks as an integral part of their banking customs. These nations recognize the value and security such checks bring to the financial table.

How Do Crossed Checks Work?

Crossed checks aren't merely a product of banking tradition; they serve a functional and protective role in the financial landscape. In places where they enjoy popularity, these checks are not just pieces of paper; they are communication tools, telling banks exactly how to handle them.

Upon receiving these checks, banks know that an immediate cash-out isn't on the cards. Instead, they must process the check, ensuring the funds reach a bank account. This step might seem like a slight detour, but it amplifies security, insisting that the money undergoes a more controlled and traceable path before reaching its final destination.

The appearance and specifics of crossed checks can vary from one country to another. Yet, those two parallel lines are a universal symbol, signaling the check's restricted nature. Banks might sometimes come across additional indicators such as "& Co." or "not negotiable," further emphasizing the check's limitations. Less frequently, they might spot the phrase "account payee" inscribed on the check. This term reinforces the idea that the check's journey is predetermined, heading straight to a bank account without detours.

Differences Between Crossed and Uncrossed Checks

Checks have long been a cornerstone of our financial system, ensuring a paper trail and a means to transact without hard currency. However, the distinction between both payers and payees regarding crossed and uncrossed checks is crucial.

A crossed check, identified by two parallel lines, restricts its handling. Once a payer issues this check, the recipient cannot alter its status. Such restrictions mean that these checks cannot be transferred to someone else. When you receive a crossed check, you must deposit it into an account bearing your name. This aspect of cross checking adds an extra layer of security to financial transactions.

However, there's a twist. The person who issued the check can remove its crossed status. By marking "Crossing Canceled" on it, they revert its status. But remember, this change might strip away the protection cross-checking offers. For those in the United States unfamiliar with this practice, presenting a crossed check might need clarification in banks unaccustomed to this format.

The Advantages and Drawbacks of Crossed Checks


Security remains the hallmark benefit of the cross-check system. Think of it as a protective net for your funds. If someone intercepts or steals a crossed check, they will find it challenging to cash. The cross check meaning becomes evident when it is a deterrent against potential fraud. Depositing it necessitates an account, which establishes a clear link to a person, helping trace illicit activities.


Everything has its pros and cons. The cross check system, while secure, may be better for those in urgent need of funds. Since you must deposit the check first, there's a waiting period while the bank processes and clears it. So, for someone counting on instant cash, crossed checks pose delays. The cross checking procedure, while ensuring safety, can sometimes be a hindrance to instant monetary access.

Transferability of Crossed Checks

The world of finance is riddled with terminologies and stipulations, and the cross check system is no exception. One key feature to remember is its non-transferability.

Picture this: You receive a check with "not negotiable" or "account payee only" written on it, accompanied by the familiar parallel lines. This is the epitome of a non-transferable check. In plain terms, you cannot hand it over to someone else. The cross check meaning, in this context, becomes clear—it's exclusively for you and your bank account. Any attempts to bypass this would be violating the set norms.

Related Stories

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

© 2023

Contact us at: [email protected]