What is a Blank Check?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are several meanings to the term blank check. In the literal sense, a blank check can refer to any unwritten and unsigned check attached to a specific bank account. Until you sign the check and write it out for an amount, it’s only a potential document for paying money out of your account to someone else. In some cases, people will sign a blank check when they don’t know the amount they need to pay or repay to someone. If you send a friend to the store to pick up a few things for you, you might give them a signed blank check so that the friend can write in the amount, and hopefully no more, as a means of reimbursement.

A checkbook with a blank check.
A checkbook with a blank check.

Of course, if you hand a signed blank check to someone, there is the possibility they could write in any amount they wish. Provided funds existed in your account to cover that amount, you could end up with an empty bank account. This has led to the more symbolic meaning of blank check, or carte blanche, which is often used in politics.

A check is considered a blank check until it has a signature and an amount written on it.
A check is considered a blank check until it has a signature and an amount written on it.

When someone is given carte blanche, they are essentially being given permission to act in whatever way seems fit and appropriate, often in service to a government or government official. A person with carte blanche may not be bound by the same laws that apply to most other people, or they may be empowered to act or approve agreements with other governments, without going through official channels. Carte blanche might also be given to a person managing a business, so that the person thinks outside the box and does whatever he/she feels is necessary to make the business better.

In finance and investing, some businesses are referred to as blank check businesses. These are companies, which are usually new or in the developmental stages of opening, and they may not have a specific business plan. The success of the company may depend upon acquiring another company, upon which a business plan will be based. Alternately, they may be started in the hopes that another company will scoop them up and make them profitable. Such corporations run on a day-to-day basis and usually issue penny stock, which is sold at an inexpensive amount as an investment, since if the business becomes profitable, the stock can be sold at a high payout.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I wrote out a blank check one time and I lost it when I got out of my car. I didn't have a copy of my utility bill and I was planning on filling the rest of the amount on the check when I got inside. All someone would have had to do was write in their name and whatever amount they wanted. I stayed scared to death for a few days, fearing someone would wipe out my entire bank account. An employee at the utility company actually found it under a tree in the parking lot a week later.

I think I'd have to trust someone with my life before I'd ever give him or her a blank check. I'd have to make sure they understood "blank" didn't mean unlimited.


I remember when I first started at my company, my supervisor sent me to an office supply store to get things like copier paper and ink cartridges. I asked him how I was supposed to pay for all of the things on the list, and he handed me a blank check with the boss' signature on it. This was the first time I ever held a blank check in my hand, and I realized they really did trust me, even though I was young and new to the job.

The total order was only a few hundred dollars, and I only bought the items listed on my supervisor's piece of paper. I felt tempted to throw some bags of coffee or a jar of candy for my desk into the cart, but I didn't. When someone hands you a blank check, you have to assume they are going to keep an eye out for things like that.

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