Your Paycheck: 7 Important Questions Answered

Everyone one who is employed receives a paycheck. However, although employees receive paychecks, there many questions about paychecks employees have that employers don’t always explain. Questions such as:

  • What information does your employer need before you can get paid?
  • What information should be included in your paycheck?
  • How frequently should you receive your paycheck?
  • How soon after a pay period ends does your employer have to pay you?
  • Can your employer pay you by direct deposit or payroll card?
  • Can you require that your employer to pay you by check instead of direct deposit?
  • When does an employer have to give you your final paycheck?

Below we answer seven (7) of your most important questions about your paycheck.

What information does your employer need before you can get paid?

Before you can get paid when get a job, your employer will need several pieces of information to set up payroll and ensure you are accurately paid. Here’s a list of common information your employer may require:

  1. Personal Information: This includes your full legal name, Social Security number (or equivalent identification number), date of birth, and contact information such as address, phone number, email.
  2. Income Tax Withholding Information: This includes a completed form W-4 issued by the IRS. The W-4 form will require you to provide information such as information on your filing status (single, married filing jointly, etc.), the number of allowances you’re claiming (e.g. spouse, number of children, or dependents), and any additional withholding you’d like to specify.
  3. Banking Information: If you choose or are required to be paid by direct deposit, you will be required to provide the following information:
    1. Bank account number
    2. Routing number (for direct deposit)
    3. Bank name and address
    4. Type of account (checking or savings)
  4. Benefit Elections: If your company provides benefits, you will need to make elections for those benefits so that proper deductions can be made from you paycheck. These benefits may include:
    1. Health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and other benefit programs
    2. Retirement plans like a 401(k) or pension
    3. Other benefits such as life insurance

Providing accurate and up-to-date information to your employer ensures that your payroll is processed correctly and that you receive timely and accurate payment for your work. It’s important to notify your employer promptly if any of your personal or banking information changes.

What information should be included in your paycheck and paystub?

The information include in your pay stub associated with your paycheck depends to a large degree on the state in which you work. Each state can establish the minimum type of information that must be included in a worker wage statement. However, employers are always allowed to include additional information if they choose. Moreover, as more companies rely on payroll companies for paychecks and pay stub, there is more standardization of the information included with paychecks. Here are some common types of information included in payroll statements:

  1. Gross Earnings: This gross pay is the total amount of money you’ve earned before any deductions are taken out. It includes your salary or hourly wages, as well as any bonuses, commissions, or overtime pay you may have earned.
  2. Taxes: Various taxes may be deducted from your paycheck, including federal, state, and local income taxes, as well as contributions to programs like FICA (the Federal Insurance Contribution Act) which cover Social Security and Medicare federal income tax requirements. The specific taxes will depend on your tax brackets, income level, tax filing status, and location.
  3. Deductions: Your employer may deduct certain amounts from your paycheck for benefits such as health insurance, retirement contributions (like a 401(k) plan), life insurance, or other voluntary deductions you’ve elected to have taken out of your pay.
  4. Net Pay: This is the amount of money you actually receive in your paycheck after all taxes and deductions have been taken out. It’s sometimes referred to as “take-home pay” or “post-tax pay” and represents what you can actually use for your expenses and savings.
  5. YTD (Year-to-Date) Totals: Your paycheck may also include year-to-date totals for various categories, such as gross earnings, taxes withheld, and deductions. This helps you track how much you’ve earned and how much has been deducted over the course of the year.
  6. Employer Contributions: In some cases, your employer may contribute to certain benefits on your behalf, such as matching contributions to your retirement plan or paying a portion of your health insurance premiums. These contributions may not be listed on your paycheck but are still part of your overall compensation package.
  7. Other Earnings: If you have additional sources of income or receive reimbursements for expenses, these may also be included on your paycheck or provided separately.

How frequently should you receive your paycheck?

Different companies pay workers with different frequency. However, in many states, there are some restriction on how long an employer may go between paying employees. Common paycheck frequencies include:

  1. Daily: Paychecks are issued each day. Daily paychecks are usually restricted to daily or short-term temporary workers.
  2. Weekly: Paychecks that are issued every week and typically on the same day each week.
  3. Bi-weekly: Paychecks that are issued every two weeks, usually on the same day every other week. Usually, employees who are paid bi-weekly end up with 26 pay period each year.
  4. Semi-monthly: Paychecks that are issued twice a month, often on specific dates such as the 1st and 15th or the 15th and last day of the month. Employees who are paid semi-monthly have 24 pay periods each year.
  5. Monthly: Paychecks that are issued once a month, typically on the same day each month.

An employer should inform their new employees their established pay frequency, pay periods, and paydays. Also, employer may have different pay frequencies for different classifications for employees if permitted by state law. For example, a company may pay hourly workers more frequently than salary employees.

How soon after a pay period ends does your employer have to pay you?

The timing of when an employer must pay your for work performed during a pay period is typically governed by federal and state labor laws. These laws can vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Many states require that employees be paid within a certain number of days after the end of the pay period. This can range from a few days to a week or more. However, some states are more lenient and allow employers more time to issue paychecks, such as a week or two after the end of the pay period.

Again, an employer should inform new employees about how long the employees will be required to wait to get paid after a pay period ends.

Can your employer pay you by direct deposit or payroll card?

Many employers offer direct deposit or payroll cards as methods of payment for their employees. These options are increasingly common and offer benefits for both employers and employees. Moreover, some states allow employers to require employees to be paid by direct deposit or payroll card.

  1. Direct Deposit: With direct deposit, your paycheck is electronically deposited directly into your bank or credit union account. This method is convenient because it eliminates the need for physical checks, reduces the risk of lost or stolen checks, and allows employees to access their funds quickly on payday. Employers often require employees to provide their bank account information to set up direct deposit.
  2. Payroll Card: A payroll card, also known as a prepaid debit card, is a card issued by the employer onto which the employee’s wages are loaded. Employees can then use the card to make purchases, withdraw cash from ATMs, or transfer funds to their bank accounts. Payroll cards are becoming more common and are particularly useful for employees who do not have bank accounts or who prefer not to use direct deposit.

Most states that permit direct deposit or payroll cards prohibit employers from requiring employees from pay for the fees related to the deposit of the employees wages to their direct deposit bank or payroll card administrator.


Can you require that your employer to pay you by check instead of direct deposit?

In most states, employees have the right to choose how they receive their wages. While most employers offer direct deposit as a convenient option for paying employees, they typically cannot require employees to use direct deposit if the employees prefer another method of payment, such as receiving a physical paper paycheck.

However, it’s essential to check the specific labor laws and regulations in your jurisdiction, as they may have provisions regarding payment methods. For example, some states may allow employers to require direct deposit but only if they offer an alternative method, such as paper checks or payroll cards, for employees who do not wish to use direct deposit.

When does an employer have to give you your final paycheck?

The timing of when an employer must issue a final paycheck to an employee on separation from employment can vary from state to state and based on the circumstances of the separation. However, there are some general guidelines that apply in many states:

  1. Voluntary Resignation: If an employee resigns voluntarily, employers typically have until the next regular payday following the employee’s last day of work to issued the final paycheck.
  2. Involuntary Termination (e.g., Layoff or Dismissal): If an employee is terminated involuntarily, the timing of the final paycheck varies from state to state. Some states require employers to issue the final paycheck immediately upon termination, while others allow a certain number of days (e.g., within 72 hours) for the employer to provide the final wages.
  3. Contractual Agreements: Employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements may specify the timing of final pay upon termination, which could override general legal requirements.


In this article, we have discussed paychecks and wage payment questions. We also discussed several legal topics that may depend on state law. To find out the specific state laws regarding these and other issues, below are state law links and explanations.

AlabamaKentuckyNorth Dakota
ColoradoMichiganRhode Island
ConnecticutMinnesotaSouth Carolina
DelawareMississippiSouth Dakota
District of ColumbiaMissouriTennessee
IdahoNew HampshireVirginia
IllinoisNew JerseyWashington
IndianaNew MexicoWest Virginia
IowaNew YorkWisconsin
KansasNorth CarolinaWyoming
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