CAR/LAR check diagramCAR/LAR is an abbreviation for Courtesy Amount Recognition / Legal Amount Recognition, a technique used in the electronic check clearing process to determine the value of the check.

The courtesy amount is the dollar value of the check written in numerals, in a small box at the right-hand edge of checks in the United States.

The legal amount is the dollar value of the check spelled out in long-form words, on a line below the courtesy amount. Both the courtesy amount and the legal amount can be either handwritten or printed by machine.

In cases where there is a dispute over the value of a check, or when the two amounts do not match, the legal amount is the one considered to have official standing, and “wins” between the two. There are very rare exceptions to this rule; for example, instances of fraud such as alterations to the legal amount, or check washing — the practice of erasing the amount on a check and rewriting it.

The “Recognition” part of the abbreviation CAR/LAR refers to the various Optical Character Recogntion (OCR) technologies that machines use to read the letters and numbers on those parts of the check and convert them to strings of characters.