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Guide to Business Checks vs Personal Checks

By Rebecca Lake · June 28, 2022 · 8 minute read

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Guide to Business Checks vs Personal Checks

While business checks and personal checks may seem like the same thing, there are actually some important differences. Sure, all checks can be used to pay bills or cover other expenses using funds in a linked checking account. But the main difference between a personal check and a business check is the source of funds. Personal checks are drawn on personal accounts; business checks are drawn on business checking accounts.

Each sort of check has its time and place. To understand how business checks vs. personal checks work in more detail, here you will learn:

•  What is a business check and how does it work

•  What is a personal check and how does it work

•  When to use a business check vs. a personal check

•  The differences between business checks and personal checks.

What Is a Business Check?

A business check is a check that’s written from a business checking account. Banks and credit unions can offer business checking accounts to sole proprietors, limited liability companies (LLCs), and other kinds of businesses that need a safe, secure place to keep their money. Business checks are often one of the features included with these accounts.

Business bank accounts can also offer a debit card for making purchases or cash withdrawals. They typically allow for ACH transfers of funds to pay bills or vendors. But there are some instances where it could make sense — or even be necessary — to use business checks instead. For example, you may need to write or print paper checks to cover payroll for employees.

How Does a Business Check Work?

When someone opens a business bank account, the bank may give them a set of business checks and a checkbook. If you are wondering what a checkbook is, they are simply a small folder or book that contains your checks and a check register, which is where you’ll write down deposits and credits for your account. Check registers can help you balance your checkbook.

To use a business check, you’d simply make the check out to the payee, then fill in the required information. That includes the date and amount of the check, as well as a signature. Business checks typically have a memo line where you can record what the check is being used for.

The payee can then take that business check to their bank to deposit it or cash it. The amount written on the check is then deducted from the business checking account on which the check is drawn. When the check is deposited, it typically takes two days to clear (or for the funds to become available).

What Does a Business Check Look Like?

Business checks look much like personal checks, in terms of the type of information they include. On the front of a business check, you should see the following:

•  Business name and address

•  Check number (in the upper right hand corner)

•  Payee name (where it says Pay to the Order of)

•  Date

•  Dollar amount, in numbers

•  Dollar amount, in words

•  Payer’s signature

•  Memo line

•  The bank’s routing number

•  The account number

•  Bank’s name and address

Business checks may also include room to include the business logo or a watermark.

There may be an attached transaction stub on the left hand side of the check. You can use this stub to record the details of the transaction, including the date the check was written, the amount, and to whom it was paid.

Business checks can be hand-written like personal checks, or they can be filled digitally and printed out.

What Is a Personal Check?

A personal check, on the other hand, is a check that’s drawn against a personal checking account. Most but not all checking accounts offer checks and check-writing; some even offer free starter checks to new customers.

Personal checks are paid using personal funds. So you might write a personal check to repay a friend you borrowed money from, for example, or to pay your rent. Likewise, you could receive a personal check made out to you that you could deposit into your bank account or cash it. In terms of where to cash personal checks without a bank account, the options include check cashing services, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

Personal checks are not the same as other types of checks, including certified checks and traveler’s checks. (If you’re unfamiliar with how to use travelers checks, these are paper certificates that can help you pay for things overseas without having to exchange hard currencies.)

How Do Personal Checks Work?

Personal checks work by allowing individuals to pay bills or make other payments to individuals, businesses, and other organizations. When you open a checking account, the bank may give you paper checks with your name and account number printed on them. You can then use these checks to make payments.
When someone receives a personal check and deposits it in their account, their bank requests the transfer of funds from the bank on which the check was drawn. These transfers are processed electronically. Processing times can vary, though it typically takes a couple of business days for a check to clear.

If someone writes a personal check and doesn’t have sufficient funds in their account to cover it, that check will “bounce”. When a check you write bounces, your bank can cover the amount for you but they can charge overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees for that convenience.

Bounced checks typically don’t show up on consumer credit reports or affect credit scores, though banks may report them to ChexSystems. A consumer credit reporting agency, ChexSystems collects information about closed checking and savings accounts.

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Can I Use a Personal Check for a Business Account?

Personal accounts and business accounts are separate banking products. That being said, you could use personal checks to pay for business expenses. For example, you could write out a personal check to pay a business lease or make payments to a business loan. And you could use funds in a business account to pay for personal expenses.

If you’re using personal checks for a business account or business checks for personal expenses, it’s a good idea to maintain good records of what expenses you’re paying. That can make it easier to add up your deductible business expenses when it’s time to file taxes. Also, if you ever need to review your business or personal account (say, for legal reasons or an audit), it can be hard to remember which funds were used where. This is a good reason to keep the accounts separate or make sure your record-keeping is very thorough.

Using Business Checks vs. Personal Checks

When you need to write a business check vs. personal check can depend on the circumstances. For instance, some of the most common uses for business checks include:

•  Employee payroll

•  Federal and state tax payments

•  Making payments to vendors

•  Paying operating costs, such as rent or utilities

•  Repaying a business loan

•  Making any large purchases that are necessary for the business.

Personal checks can be used to meet a different set of needs. Examples of when you might write a personal check include:

•  Paying utility bills, rent, or the mortgage

•  Buying groceries

•  Repaying personal debts

•  Making payments to loans

•  Covering school-related expenses if you have kids (like lunch money or PTA fundraisers)

•  Paying college tuition

•  Covering doctor bills.

You can also sign over a personal check you receive to someone else. That’s a type of third-party check.

Recommended: How do I sign over a check to someone?

Whether you need business checks or personal checks, it helps to know where to order checks safely. You can get checks online from check-printing companies or order them through your bank.

Differences Between a Business and Personal Check

Whether you’re using business checks or personal checks, one thing is true: They can be a dependable, convenient alternative to using a debit card, credit card, ACH transfer, or wire transfer. But if you’re still wondering how are business checks different from personal checks, here are a few other noteworthy distinctions.

Size of the Check

Personal checks are usually somewhere around 6″ x 2″ x 3″ in size. Business checks, on the other hand, may be larger in size. For example, they may be 8″ x 2″ x 3″ instead. The larger size allows for easier printing and more room for writing out checks by hand.

Security of the Check

Check fraud can threaten a business’s bottom line. For that reason, many check printers include built-in security measures to minimize the chances of a business check being stolen or otherwise used fraudulently. Those measures can include watermarks, thermochromatic ink, fluorescent fibers, chemical sensitivity indicators, and special security on the back of the check. These features all help to verify check authenticity.

How Much Each Check Costs

As mentioned, banks can sometimes offer starter checks for free when you open a new checking account. This benefit may not be included with business checking accounts, which means you’ll need to buy checks yourself. The amount you pay can depend on the type of check, any added features you choose to include, and the number of checks printed. You might pay three cents per check or a quarter or more per personal check, depending on where you order from, the features you want, and how quickly you want them printed and delivered.

Business checks range from about $28 for 600 checks (barely a nickel each) to 20 cents or more per check.

There can be other charges associated with checks. For example, you may also pay separate fees when purchasing cashier’s checks for a business or personal account. Cashier’s checks are drawn against the bank’s account, not yours. In terms of what does a cashier’s check look like, they’re similar in appearance to personal and business checks. However, they’ll typically have the words “Cashier’s Check” printed on the front in an area that’s easily visible.

Check Conversion Protection

Check conversion is a process in which paper checks are converted to electronic ACH debits. Both consumer and business checks can be converted in this way. Converted checks usually clear faster, but it’s possible that you may not want this for checks written from a business account. In that case, you could order business checks that include an optional Auxiliary On-Us field to exclude them from conversion.

Why to Consider Having Separate Checks

Using one bank account for business and personal expenses might seem less stressful, since you’re moving money in and out of the same place. Having a business checking account and a separate personal checking account can offer some advantages, however.

Here are some of the most notable reasons for having a separate checking account for your business:

•  Writing checks with your business name can add credibility to your venture, since it looks more professional.

•  Maintaining separate accounts can make it easier to keep track of business finances and expense reporting for tax purposes.

•  Establishing a business checking account could make it easier to get approved for business loans or lines of credit if you have a good banking history.

You may also prefer to have separate business and personal checking accounts as an added protection against creditor lawsuits. Depending on how your business is structured, money in a personal checking account may be safe from collection efforts if you’re sued by a creditor.

The Takeaway

Business checks and personal checks serve similar functions; they both transfer funds from one account to another. However, they do have some important differences, and knowing when to use a business check vs. personal check can help keep your finances organized.

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FAQ

Can you cash a business check?

You can cash a business check if your bank allows it. You’ll need to endorse the check properly and show proof of identification to cash it, the same as you would with any other type of check.

What should be on a business check?

A business check should include the business name and address, the payee’s name, the amount of the check, the date, and the payer’s signature. The check will likely be pre-printed with the bank’s name and address, a routing number and account number, as well as a check number. A business check may also include a memo line to record the purpose of the check.

Do checks need to say LLC?

Checks do not need to say LLC unless your business is structured as an LLC. If your business operates as a sole proprietor, partnership, S corporation, or anything other than an LLC, then you wouldn’t need to include that designation.


Photo credit: iStock/fizkes
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