A good friend of mine loaned me a significant amount of money a few years ago when I needed some. Based on our agreement, I’m due to pay that as a lump sum in about a month. I trust the guy, and I’m not worried that he would ever claim that I hadn’t paid up, but it's a lot of money and I want a receipt anyway. How can I ask him for one without implying that I distrust him?

Edit: We do have a written contract, amended verbally to allow a lump payment. Which also introduces confusion to the mix.

  • 1
    where's the inherent distrust in a receipt? it's pretty standard in the US.
    – user20
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 1:55

9 Answers 9


You need a receipt as documentation that this was a loan being paid for, in case a government agency (like the IRS) ever comes knocking on your door.

So, just tell them this. "Trust" shouldn't even be relevant. This reason by itself should be more than a good enough a reason for anyone... whether it's your family, friends, pets...

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    Simple and genuine reason that should satisfy the closest friend! "Trust" shouldn't even be relevant." __ in an ideal world it shouldn't: but it complicates virtually every interpersonal interaction because human beings tend to have grand ideas about their own better selves and often not enough trust in others, I think. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:52
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    Not just the IRS - any job requiring a security clearance will do background checks. They WILL see the lump sum left your bank account, and will want to know where it went... blackmail? bribe? secretly funding a terrorist cell? Ohhh, just a loan repaid - not so bad. Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 3:58
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    @AlanCampbell Not just those but also to get a Visa for travel will require explaining recent cash flows - see Travel SE for many examples
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 15:11
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    I was saving a down payment for a house. My brother had a financial issue and I bailed him out with some of that savings. A few months later he paid me back. In talking with my bank, if I had found a house while that was still showing in my recent account activity, they would have required a letter from him stating the reason for it.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 18:30

Since you specified "without implying distrust", I think it's at the heart of the matter, and consider it worth noting that the concepts of personal integrity ("my word is my honor") and 'saving face' (avoiding humiliation) are central to the interpersonal issues related to how asking for a receipt can be interpreted as distrust or mistrust.

People all over the world are likely to believe that their own integrity is so high that there really is no need to issue a receipt for goods or money received. Asking for a receipt is thus often interpreted as questioning the trustworthiness of the individual, with all sorts of related emotional connotations, so that the interpersonal problem of perceived lack of trust becomes more serious than the practical financial matter of having a concrete record of the transaction.

The person who is asked to provide a receipt "loses face" if it appears that their trustworthiness is being queried. Rather more complicatedly, the person who asks for a receipt can also lose face by bringing up the whole issue of trust in an indelicate manner. It can create serious tensions between family members or friends, but in my experience is not usually so serious or emotive an issue between strangers.

This is such a widespread problem here in India, and asking someone for a receipt is typically interpreted as an insulting lack of trust, especially among people used to traditional ways of doing business. One pompous old gentleman actually collected a significant cash deposit on a land sale from my father and refused to give a receipt, saying

No question of giving receipt, my word is my honor. You can expect the land to be registered into your name within 2 days. If you doubt my integrity, you need not purchase my property.

That was 3 decades ago and luckily for us his word was indeed good as gold, but over the years I have almost always needed receipts mainly for my own sense of security. So while making various sizable purchases or payments I learned to achieve my aims by asking for a receipt in such a way that no mistrust was implied -- most commonly by suggesting that I needed it for my personal (or an organization's) financial records:

Could you please give me a receipt for that Rs.12,500 payment? I need it for my files, you see, when I calculate the annual financial statement.

I need to furnish a receipt to the company to prove for their files that I actually made this purchase in the expected manner...

I need a receipt for my financial records to claim an income tax deduction.

Someone I know would even go so far as to put the blame on his wife:

My wife absolutely insists on collecting and filing receipts to know where the money is disappearing every year!

Now, what is important is not that your whatever reason for requesting a receipt should be extremely credible, but that by expressing your need for a receipt with sincere goodwill, you do indirectly manage to convey to your friend that you absolutely do not mistrust him, while also being extremely careful not to mention trust anywhere in the conversation: personal loan situations are often complicated further by the 'debt of gratitude' element in that your friend was good enough to help you with a significantly large amount when you really needed the money, and actually trusted you to be able to repay it later; so if your friend appears reluctant to issue a receipt for whatever reason, you might consider not pressing him to do so, and that allows both of you to "save face" while completing the transaction.

Note: according to Psychology Today, "The phrase to "save face" has been around a long time. It's been part of English vernacular since the 19th century. The concept is a core social value in Asian cultures, among others. The meaning has remained stable across time. Saving Face signifies a desire -- or defines a strategy -- to avoid humiliation or embarrassment, to maintain dignity or preserve reputation."

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/chronic-healing/201011/saving-face

  • 21
    Interesting this is a problem in India... there's a saying in Iran that roughly translates to "accounting is accounting, brother is brother" that people apply to these situations. i.e. everything has its own place, even when dealing with your own brother. I guess more-nearby cultures can still be very different :)
    – user541686
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:50
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    @Mehrdad that's a good saying
    – Nico
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 7:54
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    @amflare: There is one really important reason which you do not need to make up. If something bad happens to the lender and his legal competence ceases then there could be somebody else who could demand to pay the money. For such a situation you would need a confirmation that the loan was paid. --- Also in Czechia we say: "Order makes friends." en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Czech_proverbs#P Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 12:19
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    This is a good answer, but I feel like the first 5 paragraphs was simply restating the OP's concerns and didn't contribute to the actual suggestions at all. Additionally, the footnote isn't really necessary. Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 15:26
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    Thanks for the observation @maxathousand. This matter had been discussed in detail with another member, but you can't read it here because nearly the whole comments section later got removed. The summary of the discussion is, I think we are not concerned solely with giving OP tips to somehow state a plausible & neutral reason while asking for a receipt: IMHO the 'why' of it, which takes up so many paragraphs including the footnote, is just as important as the 'how', which takes up only a few, when we are addressing a potentially interpersonal problem and suggesting an 'interpersonal solution.' Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 15:39

I think this one is pretty easy, and accomplishes the goals of not implying distrust and providing a record that you have paid the loan back. There are three options:

  1. Write a personal check in the amount of the loan. In the memo field, write "repay of loan of $xxxx" or whatever is appropriate.

When your friend cashes the check you will have a record of the check, as well as the signature on the back. (Make a photocopy of the check before giving it to your friend, so you have that recorded too.)

  1. If you don't have a checking account, get a cashier's check made out to your friend and you can have the bank put a memo item with information similar to what I suggested you put in the memo of the personal check. There is a usually a carbon copy of the check for you to keep, so you don't have make a photocopy.

What I don't know is if you can have the bank send you a notice when the check is cashed.

Another potential problem is the money comes out of your account immediately, so it will be a hassle if your friend loses the check. But I believe you can have the funds returned to your account if the check is not cashed over a certain length of time - but double check with the bank what the rules are. This is a good reason not to use cash to pay for the check.

  1. Send money to your friend with something like Zelle (Wells Fargo fund transfer). You can put a memo item stating what the transfer is for. The transfer will appear in your monthly bank statement.

To do this, your bank will send an email to your friend asking for confirmation, and an account to put the money into. You will not see any of the information about your friends bank account, so it is secure for them.

In all three cases, you have a receipt and record of the transaction, without requesting a receipt or making up a bogus excuse as to why you need a receipt (and compromising your own integrity!) for why you need a receipt.

  • +1, make the effort to create the audit trail yourself and your friend is none the wiser. If he insists on cash you can make out the cheque to cash or yourself with details on the cheque or counterfoil to indicate what the money was used for. However if you hold the cash in your hand he can always deny receiving it unless he gives a receipt. Receipts are good for cash, anything else generates a paper trail. In Finland many people are not old enough to have seen a cheque but bank transfers are easy.
    – KalleMP
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 22:21

Prepare a receipt saying that this is repayment in full for the loan of D-Date and, after you have repaid the loan, hand him the receipt and show him where he should sign.

After he has signed, express your gratitude once again, and take him out to dinner or lunch, or whatever seems right to you both.

That is, assume that the last step in the loan repayment is the loaner's signing a receipt, and behave as though his signing a receipt is the normal thing to do. In my circles (US, middle class), it would be the business-like thing to do, and no one would be surprised or offended or question it.

You don't say what culture you are from, and if being being business-like in your culture implies distrust or rudeness or is not compatible with close friendship, my answer is not helpful. If that is the case in your culture, it would be interesting to know.

You may trust him absolutely, but if he is killed in a car crash tomorrow, would you necessarily trust his heirs? And if you didn't rust him, you would have the receipt witnessed and notarized. (Of course, you don't say this to him! This comment is to show you how normal asking for a receipt is.)

  • 2
    For what it's worth, I think anyone who's logical cannot trust anyone based on their word absolutely. I wouldn't even trust myself to remember whether/when/how I repaid a loan 6 years from now, and the same naturally goes for my family, friends, and anyone else on this planet. Even worse (but less relevant for this question), I can't trust anyone (again, even myself) to be 100% guaranteed not to fall for a scam related to a transaction later. It's hard to convince people that "trust" isn't merely a function of personal integrity though, so some people will be offended no matter what...
    – user541686
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:44
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    Really good suggestion: "hand him the receipt and show him where he should sign (...) assume that the last step in the loan repayment is the loaner's signing a receipt, and behave as though his signing a receipt is the normal thing to do." __ I found that thus method often works to obtain a receipt in general business settings @ab2, except when a trader has a vested interest in not providing a receipt. When the person paying the money acts like it is normal and natural to receive a receipt, many honest people are likely to just go along with the 'formality' to complete the transaction. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:59
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    An added benefit of this approach is that you reduce the inconvenience by the other party. Especially in a situation like this, they might not know how to provide a proper receipt or worry they would do it wrong. By making the effort yourself you remove the responsibility from them and you are less likely to meet resistance. Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 17:36
  • Or prepare the receipt while he is signing the money.
    – KalleMP
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 22:24
  • I was going to mention the point of him dying, and an heir finding the loan agreement. Without that receipt, it could be difficult to prove payment had been made, especially when it was a cash deal. +1. A copy for each person makes it all clearer.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 9:33

Make a wire transfer of the money. Then you'll have documentation of the payment. If that is not possible, send a confirmation e-mail to the guy "I just paid you XX dollars, thank you for lending me the money when I needed it. This is just for my own reference."

Even better: wire the money, then send an e-mail "now I sent you the money, can you please confirm that you have received them".


In a comment you said

We do have a written contract, amended verbally to allow a lump payment. Which also introduces confusion to the mix.

So simply take the contract, write on it or on a separate paper, "Repaid in full as a lump sum of [Whatever] on [Date]", and take it to your friend to sign. If not on the original contract, you might have to give details identifying the original contract (amount borrowed, original payment plan, date of contract/loan).

If your friend asks you why you need it, just explain that you want the status to be clear. People have advised you never to leave a signed document lying around stating that you owe money without a counter. In case of tragedy, it could result in his heirs trying to get money from you. This way, everyone's clear that it was paid. If anyone denies that, you just produce your copy.

If your friend doesn't ask, there's no need to say.

This way, it's not you distrusting him. It's other people distrusting the situation and how yet other people might behave.

If he wonders if he needs his copy signed, offer to sign it as "All obligations discharged." But really, he could just shred his copy. He has the money. You were the one who was obliged to him by the initial transfer of money from him to you.

  • This is the best answer. As the receipt is for the payment to repay the specific loan, having them together makes everything clear. Also if there was paperwork to open the loan there can be paperwork to close the loan. All is proper. Give him a photocopy for his records.
    – KalleMP
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 22:28

You make agreements when on good terms before things can go bad.

You prefer a confirmation of your payment, so that no misconceptions can arrise in the future. This way, both of you have something to fall back on as it is on paper, so that your friendship does not have to suffer.
You're on good terms now, best to come up with something both of you agree on. When you get into an argument, you often loose the perspective of the other, and reading back your original agreements can save you a lot of energy and possible friendships.

Apart from that, if you give your transaction/cheque a description which is obviously relating this subject, you can always check back your bank records.


"A good friend of mine loaned me ... Based on our agreement, I’m due to pay that as a lump sum in about a month. ... How can I ask him for one without implying that I distrust him?".

Loaned or lent is different.

Based on your agreement he gave you the money and you will give it back.

Changing the terms of the agreement to impose additional actions upon your friend, especially when you hold the advantage (the money), is dishonest. You should be more worried that he will distrust you.

Whether or not he believes that there's an implication of distrust is entirely his decision and is independent of your actions.

You need a reason to alter the terms of the agreement. If the law had changed regarding private loans you could quote that. If you've married and your spouse is an Accountant (receipts are required for the harmony of your household) you can say that.

If a receipt is refused do you intend to refuse to repay; that would be most ungrateful and dishonest.

Imply and infer are also two different things. You imply, they infer. So you simply do not imply, and thus you do not, whether they infer is something that they do.

Simply thank them for helping you and repay at the correct time unconditionally; then they won't infer that there is a problem of any description.

Paying by Cashier's Check creates a paper trail and they might prefer cash if they gave you cash. Similarly it's polite to pay in the same (or at least large) denominations, repaying using one dollar bills is either an insult or an indication that the money ought not to be paid but is being done reluctantly.

Similarly asking for a receipt for a personal lending is implying distrust if it was not part of the original agreement. It's possible that no matter what you do that your friend would never question that you would distrust them.

You can only state plainly that you imply nothing by asking your friend for a receipt; what they infer from your actions is their decision.

  • 1
    What practical distinction are you trying to make by saying "loaned or lent is different", I have looked them up in dictionaries, and they are listed as synonyms? Are you attempting to draw attention to the difference between an informal and a formal agreement? In any case I disagree with the assertion that asking for a receipt necessarily implies distrust - a receipt is a useful record for oneself and a valuable proof to third parties, as many other answers have pointed out.
    – user9910
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 13:02
  • @Ben - Short version (scroll to the bottom of the webpage): elearnenglishlanguage.com/blog/english-mistakes/… --- Long version: legaltemplates.net/blog/… .
    – Rob
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 16:17
  • As far as I can tell, those links only serve to demonstrate that "loaned" and "lent" mean the same thing (apart from the figurative use that the former lacks, which isn't relevant). I'm curious too, can you explain what you see as the difference?
    – Rupe
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 15:17

Good accounts make good friends.

Written contracts and receipts are the way how a trade is done. Period. Yes, this prevents double requirements but it also prevents awkward questions like "Did I repay you the money already?"

Also keep in mind that mixing money and friendship is not a good idea at all. Reasonable people know that. That's why you wrote and signed the contract in the first place, right?

In other words, the only people insulted by demanding written contract/receipt are the ones who wanted to abuse your trust in them. Reasonable people will check the receipt and sign. Good friend will welcome that.

Just give them the receipt with appropriate wording (official if they like the official style, something creative if they like informal jokes, etc).

True businessmen are really uncomfortable when "friendship" and "love" are mixed with the business and when the terms are not clear. Maybe your friend is preparing the receipt too.

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