You may not write checks very often, but a checkbook can still be a useful thing to have.
There may be times when you need to pay for something with a check. Checks also serve other important functions, such as verifying your bank account information, offering proof of address, and providing purchase protection you may not get with an electronic transaction.
While you may have received some complimentary checks when you first opened a bank account, you will likely need to buy additional checks at some point.
Your bank probably offers this service, but it may not be the most cost-effective option.
Read on to learn how and where you can safely (and cheaply) order new checks for your account.
Why Do You Need Checks?
Some transactions still require a check. It’s not uncommon, for instance, for some landlords to require a check for a security deposit or for some smaller businesses to prefer cash or check payment. In a tap and app world, checks may seem like a byproduct of a past era.
While your parents or grandparents may have regularly broken out their checkbooks to pay for everyday purchases, you may have rarely or never used a check.
But checkbooks can still be useful.Checks can also protect your money. A transfer can be misdirected with a typo, and cash can get lost or stolen. A check made out to the recipient is challenging to cash if it gets into the wrong hands.
If a check is lost, you can stop payment on the check and reissue a new one. Plus, a check provides a paper record of payments made.
Checks can also be a way to verify identity. A voided check (a check you pull from your checkbook and write VOID so no one can cash it) can be necessary to set up autopay or direct deposit, or as a way to verify your address for certain services.
Of course, checks have their drawbacks too. There can be a significant delay between the day you write a check and the day it gets processed, which could cause you to accidentally overdraw your account if you don’t keep careful records.
And, checks can sometimes get lost in transit or stolen. Since a check is good for six months, it can be a good idea to cancel any checks that don’t get to the intended recipient in a timely fashion.
Checks can also come with fees (such as when cashing a check) and other costs (like having to buy checks).
Fortunately, there are ways to cash a check without a fee. And, if you look beyond your bank when it comes to re-ordering checks, you can often pay significantly less.
The Best Places to Order Checks
Many people will order checks through their bank simply because it’s convenient. However, you don’t have to buy your checks at your bank.
There are numerous online vendors, such as Checks In The Mail and Carousel Checks, as well as big box retailers (such as Costco and Walmart) that offer customized personal checks that include the same security features as bank checks.
But how do you choose the best vendor? Because you need to input sensitive information, such as your bank account number and the routing information for your bank, it can be a good idea to make sure you choose a vendor that takes security measures seriously–and also that the checks you buy are secure.
Some actions that can help maximize security:
• Making sure the site where you buy checks is secure. A lock image in the address bar of your browser indicates a secure connection and that any information transmitted, such as your bank account info, will be done in a secure manner.
• Choosing a reputable seller. It can be a good idea to vet any company you are considering buying checks from by taking a look at their Better Business Bureau ratings and reviews.
• Considering security features. Some check printing companies offer enhanced security features, including watermarks, hard-to-copy microprint, hologram foil, and thermochromic ink (ink that disappears with heat). These features can add to the cost of your checks, but can make your check payments even more secure.
How to Order Checks Online
To order checks online, you’ll need some key information at the ready. This typically includes:
• Your personal information. This is your name (or the name of your company) and address.
• Bank information. This includes the name and address of your bank, which you can find on your existing checks.
• Your checking account number. You can find this at the bottom of your existing checks or on your bank statement. Of the three listed numbers along the bottom of your check, your account number will be the second number from the left.
• Your bank routing number. Also known as an ABA number, this number serves as an address so the banking system knows which bank will pay the check. You’ll want to look for the nine-digit number on the bottom left of your checks.
• Check number. To keep your finances organized, it’s a good idea to have your new checks start with the next number in your checkbook series. For instance, if the last check in your last checkbook is 199, consider starting the new set with check number 200.
When ordering checks, you may want to keep in mind that, depending on the company, production time may take a few weeks. That’s why It can be a good idea to order checks well before you may need them.
Other Types of Checks
There may be times when you are asked for a cashier’s check or a certified check and wonder what these are and how they differ from the checks in your checkbook (known as personal checks).
Sometimes also called a bank check or official check, this is a secure payment used to make significant purchases.
A cashier’s check requires a teller to withdraw funds from your personal account and then cut a check from the bank to pay the recipient on your behalf.
With these checks, the bank is guaranteeing payment, so there is no chance the check will bounce. There is typically a fee for getting a cashier’s check.
A certified check is a type of personal check that the bank guarantees. When you write the check, the bank verifies you have enough money in your checking account to cover the amount, and may place a hold on that money until the check clears.
The bank will typically then stamp or print “certified” on the check. Fees vary depending on which bank you use and the size of the check.
If you’re like many Americans, you probably don’t use checks as often these days. But checks are still with us and it can be a good idea to always have checks on hand for those times when you need, or want, to pay by check.
Buying checks from the bank can be pricey though. Fortunately, it’s fine to search the web for cheaper options, provided you take some basic precautions.
Prefer to get all of your checks for free? SoFi Money® offers paper checks at no cost with your cash management account.
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