Recently, I went to a casa de cambio (money exchange house) in downtown Guadalajara and started to write out a personal check to cash. Before I realized what I was doing, I had written the date and amount in Spanish. The clerk said, “No problem. The U.S. banks accept checks written in Spanish.”
In Mexico, they do too, but not in English or any other language.
At this newspaper we receive a fair amount of checks for deposit each week for advertising. And we come across a lot of mistakes from expat clients who still haven’t quite got the knack of Spanish when writing a check. With that in mind, here’s a primer on Mexican check no-nos to keep you from having to do it over again.
1) The Date: If you’re from the U.S., remember that Mexico follows the rest of the world when writing dates numerically. Today would be 2-3-13 (Day, Month, Year), not 3-2-13 (March 2, 2013 — U.S. style). If you write it in Spanish, the correct way would be 2 de Marzo de 2013.
2) Postdated check: Don’t assume that the bank will pay attention to a post-dated check and not deposit or cash it before that date. If you write a post-dated check, attach a post-it note AND a clip citing when the check may be cashed.
3) No Staples: Banks are getting fussy about torn, punctured and other-wise poorly treated checks. This has to do with the check reading machines they are using. Don’t staple notes to checks. They may be rejected.
4) The name of the payee: Make sure you spell the name of the person or business correctly and fully. (examples: José Luís Perez Martínez — both first names, both last names or The Guadalajara Newspaper S.A. de C.V. — without the S.A. De C.V. the bank won't accept the check)
5) The Amount in Numbers: If you are writing a check for more than a million pesos, then an apostrophe — instead of a comma — goes after the million, and a comma after the thousand. (1'0001,000.00) The centavos should be noted after a full stop (period) and include the two digits. No “/100” is allowed in that space nor are any words such as pesos or mx or mn.
6) The Amount in Words: Typically, the word “Un” goes before the first million (million) or thousand (mil) if it is for ONE un million or un mil pesos. That is to keep someone from changing the check to another amount. If the number is for 100 pesos write cien and if more than 100 pesos then the word changes to ciento diez pesos — 110 — or dos cientos diez pesos — 210).
You must put the word pesos after the amount of the check and before you write in the centavos, be they 00/100 or 99/00, ect. (example: $1,191.99 would be un mil ciento noventa y un pesos 99/100)
It’s a good idea to have a chart of Mexican numbers in words handy because they can throw you if you don’t know them by heart. Two tricky numbers are 500 and 900 pesos: It is not cinco cientos pesos, it is quinientos pesos; and it is not nueve cientos pesos, it is novecientos pesos. We found a good list at: http://www.spanish.cl/Vocabulary/Notes/Numeros.htm
7) The Signature: If you don’t sign your name the way the bank has it registered, the check may be returned. Take your time to do it right.
8) The costs of not checking your balance: Banks are allowed to charge 1,000 pesos to the issuer of a bounced check if there are insufficient funds available to cash it.