If the bank thinks that you are reliable and old enough, you should be issued with a chequebook that you can use to pay bills. The person you give a cheque to pays it into their bank account, and after a few days the money is taken (debited) from your account and added (credited) to the other person's account.
If you are 18 or over, you should also be issued with a cheque guarantee card. This is a guarantee that the bank will "honour" your cheque, provided it is not for more than the amount stated on the card, often £100. By writing your cheque guarantee card number on the back of the cheque, and checking that the details on your cheque match those on the card, the person you are paying can be certain that your cheque won't "bounce".
If there isn't enough money in your account to cover the value of the cheques you have written, you'll go "overdrawn" and will probably have to pay bank charges as well as interest. This can be expensive, so avoid writing out a cheque if you don't have enough money in your account to cover it.
When someone pays you by cheque, look to see that it is correctly made out to you, that it is for the right amount, that it has been signed, and that it is not "post-dated" (one with a future date on).
A Travellers Cheque is a piece of paper that you buy from a bank or a travel company. You can use it to pay for goods and services, or exchange for the local money of the country you visit.
These are safer than cash, because if they are stolen you can cancel them and receive new ones.
Remember that your signature binds you in law to whatever you have agreed to buy or borrow. Check small print carefully, and ask for clarification if anything isn't clear. If in doubt, don't sign!
This page was updated on 15 July, 2008