DEFINITION of 'Carte Blanche'

Carte blanche is a French term that means "blank document." Carte blanche is commonly used in English to refer to a check that has been signed but does not have a dollar amount written in. The recipient of such a check then writes in whatever dollar amount he wants or needs.

BREAKING DOWN 'Carte Blanche'

The term "carte blanche" is more commonly used figuratively than literally. It usually means someone in power has given someone else the unconditional authority to spend money in a given situation or make decisions about that situation. This term is commonly used in politics and business. Carte blanche arrangements are often a bad idea because of their high potential for abuse.

Sometimes a person provides a blank check to a trusted agent, such as when making payment on a debt for which she does not know the amount. In the United States, the legal term for a blank check is "incomplete instrument." Blank checks are dealt with in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC does not make the issuance or acceptance of a blank check illegal. However, if a person accepting such an instrument enters an amount on the check that is unauthorized by the issuer, the UCC considers it an illegal alteration.

A counter check is sometimes referred to as a blank check. A counter check is a check that banks sometimes provide to customers who are making withdrawals or who have just opened an account and haven't had time to order pre-printed checks. Typically, these checks lack some of the information commonly printed on checks, and many businesses refuse to accept them due to their high incidence of abuse.

Carte Blanche in Politics and Economics

Sometimes "carte blanche" is used in politics, economics or law to refer to full powers, a term in international law referring to the granting of authority to a designated person or entity to take the actions or spend the money necessary to achieve a result.

For example, the U.S. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson full powers to "take all necessary measures" to prevent aggression by Vietnam against the United States and its allies. This resolution has been called a blank check and a carte blanche. These terms have also been widely used to describe the powers granted to U.S. President George W. Bush to "to use all necessary and appropriate force" to hunt down the people responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Check

    A written, dated and signed instrument that contains an unconditional ...
  2. Altered Check

    A check or another negotiable instrument that has been materially ...
  3. Negative Float

    The period of time between when a bank customer writes a check ...
  4. Rubber Check

    Another name for a "bounced check." A rubber check is a slang ...
  5. Blank Endorsement

    A signature by the creator of an instrument, such as a check, ...
  6. Certified Check

    A type of check where the issuing bank guarantees the recipient ...
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How to Write a Check

    Our simple step by step guide, and video, for How to Write a Check, for all of you who have never had to pay the old school way.
  2. Personal Finance

    Explaining Checking Accounts

    A checking account is an account at a financial institution, usually a bank, that allows for deposits and withdrawals.
  3. Personal Finance

    Top 5 Reasons Banks Won't Cash Your Check

    Learn the top reasons that a bank won't cash your check, and find out what steps you can take to prevent those scenarios from happening.
  4. Personal Finance

    What is a Bounced Check?

    Bounced check is a slang term to describe a check that cannot be processed because its writer has insufficient funds.
  5. Insights

    New CAR-T Cell Therapy May Cure Tumors (JUNO, KITE)

    Novartis partner University of Pennsylvania has identified a new possibility to treat solid tumors with CAR-T therapy.
  6. Investing

    What is a Cashier’s Check?

    A cashier’s check is a check written on a financial institution’s funds.
  7. Investing

    Novartis, Kite Race for Next-Gen Cancer Drug (NVS, KITE)

    Rivals Kite and Novartis are both racing to market their leukemia drug first.
  8. Small Business

    How To Do a Background Check on Prospective Employees

    Discover why background checks can be extremely costly, tips for small businesses conducting checks on a budget and if professional checks can be avoided.
  9. Investing

    A Guide to Bank Accounts

    Find out which type of bank account suits your specific needs.
  10. Insights

    Novartis' Leukemia Drug Secures Priority Review

    CTL019 marks Novartis’ first regulatory submission for a CAR-T therapy.
RELATED FAQS
  1. When do checks expire?

    There is a legal grace period for cashing checks, but depositors and issuers may risk overdraft fees if a late check is presented ... Read Answer >>
  2. How do government-issued stimulus checks affect the economy?

    Stimulus checks are payments given to individuals by the government based on taxes paid in the previous year. The hope is ... Read Answer >>
  3. What US banks offer free checking accounts?

    Quit wasting money on monthly fees associated with your checking account and get a free checking account from reputable national ... Read Answer >>
  4. Do stimulus checks work?

    In theory, stimulus checks are intended to increase the amount of capital in the economy. By giving back tax dollars in the ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center