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I am used to always pay with cash or credit card and I never had to pay with a cheque.

I am not comfortable with it and I would like to know what are the parts I should fill, if I have to be very careful with some things so that noone can falsify it.

Can someone describe this process to me?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

First, if you're paying in a shop, they often have a cheque printer. You pass the cashier the blank cheque, they print it, you read it and verify and you sign at the bottom.

If you have to write a cheque, here are the parts you have to fill:

  • Payez contre ce chèque (2 lines): the amount, spelled out. Don't worry if you make grammatical mistakes, as long as it means the right number. The number of eurors is followed by “euros et X centimes”, though if X=0 you can omit “et zéro centime”. Legally, this is the number that counts; the number written in digits is informative only.
  • : enter the amount, in digits, in the white box. It's common to write the number flush left and write a horizontal line after it so that digits can't be added. If the amount is not an integer, write ,00 after it.
  • à: write out the name of the recipient. If you're asked for a “chèque à l'ordre de X”, then X is what you need to write here. You can ask “À quel ordre ?”.
  • A: name of the city where you write the cheque.
  • LE: date when you write the cheque. Make it dd/mm/yyyy or dd-mm-yyyy (never use another order).
  • Sign below the “A ____ LE ____” line.

In practice, unless the amount is very high, nobody will look at anything on the cheque unless it is contested. The recipient will fill in a form at their bank where they enter the amount, and the barcode print at the bottom identifies the payer.

exemple de chèque rempli

(Original blank cheque image by the kind volunteers for Foyer Pinel. Écolier Court font by Jean-Marie Douteau.)

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I use this converter to give me what to write in French: euro-cheque.com/EC-fr.htm –  Nikola Kotur Mar 21 at 14:45

Gilles already described the process nicely but note that there is little you can do to avoid falsification. The cheques themselves have a few safety features but the cheque book can be stolen and I think that it's even legal to write a cheque on regular paper if your bank contract allows it. Of course, using your cheques would require forging your signature so that's something you could protect but it can usually be found on your credit cards, ID, etc. and isn't checked very thoroughly either.

You're really protected by the fact that you can always contest a cheque and that a “chèque barré” cannot easily be cashed (the payee therefore needs to have a bank account and reveal his ID to a bank, which is not very attractive to a fraudster). In fact, it can happen that the payee “sees” the money on his account but that his bank removes it a couple of weeks later if it turns out that the cheque was fraudulent or “sans provision” (i.e. the payer had not enough funds to back it).

All this costs the banks (processing, disputes) and merchants a lot and they don't like cheques for this reason but you, the user, are mostly safe. That's also why more and more merchants don't want cheques anymore or ask for one or two means of ID and write down your ID card's code and the like. If they have the right equipment, they can also verify the cheque against a national database to make sure it wasn't stolen and you are not “interdit bancaire”.

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While it's legal to write a cheque on blank paper, banks tend to charge a lot to cash them in, so most merchants don't accept them. Good point about needing ID — though today I imagine most expats will use a credit or payment card in a shop, and will only use cheques for things like rent, caution, etc. –  Gilles Mar 21 at 12:56
    
@Gilles That's certainly true and I have never actually seen anyone doing it, I just wanted to highlight the fact that the system is not based on the safety measures in the cheque themselves. –  Gala Mar 21 at 12:59

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