Guide to Duplicate Checks

By Jacqueline DeMarco · June 18, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Guide to Duplicate Checks

Because check writing is a less popular form of payment these days, it’s easy to get confused about how the whole process works. When someone writes a paper check, there may be a carbon copy attached to the back of each check. These are known as duplicate checks.

But what exactly are duplicate checks? How do you use them? And when do you need them? Keep reading for more insight.

Key Points

•   Duplicate checks are carbon copies attached to the back of paper checks, serving as a record of the payment made.

•   Duplicate checks contain the same information as the original check, except the signature, and can be used for quick reference.

•   Banks and some online check printers provide duplicate checks.

•   Advantages of duplicate checks include being safer than carrying cash, ease of use, convenience, and the ability to cancel if stolen.

•   Alternatives to duplicate checks include online bank accounts, digital copies, and check registers for record-keeping.

What Are Duplicate Checks?

Duplicate checks are a type of checkbook you can get from your bank that makes it easier to keep track of the checks you write. Behind each check is a thin sheet of paper that records what you write. This check is known as a carbon copy or “duplicate”.

When you write on a check to fill it out, your writing transfers over to the duplicate check. In this way, the duplicate that is created can act as a record of the payment made, including the check number, how much was spent, the day the check was written, and to whom the check was given.

The same information found on the duplicate check can also be found by logging into your account online, but it can be helpful to have duplicate checks on hand for quick reference.

How Do Duplicate Checks Work?

A duplicate check is attached to the back of a normal check in the form of a thin piece of paper. This acts as a carbon copy of the original check. All duplicate checks have the same check number printed on them as the original. The pressure from the check writer’s pen transfers what is written on the original check to the duplicate check.

Once you are done writing a check, you only pull the original check out of your checkbook and leave the duplicate check in the checkbook so you can reference it when and if you need to. (The original check goes to the person or business you are paying). All of the information included in the payee, amount, date, and memo sections transfers over. The one area of the original check that doesn’t copy over is the signature. This is to protect you, the account holder, from identity theft in the event someone steals your checkbook. Basically, a duplicate check mirrors the information and can help you verify the check you just wrote. You can see all the details right there, on the carbon copy.

Are Duplicate Checks Legal?

Yes, duplicate checks are legal and simply serve as a record of a check that the account holder already wrote. Where legal issues arise is if someone were to steal a checkbook and try to cash it or use the information on the check to commit bank fraud.

Where Can I Get Duplicate Checks?

If you have a checkbook, you may already have duplicate checks on hand. If not, you can order this style of checkbook from the bank or credit union where you have a checking account. It can also be possible to order duplicate checks from select reputable online check printers who may charge less than a bank does for checks.

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Single vs Duplicate Checks: What’s the Difference?

Single checks are the type of check you typically receive in a standard checkbook. The checkbook contains a series of individual checks that are ready to be written out and used for payment. Duplicate checks come in a special checkbook that is pre-assembled with carbon paper and two copies of every check.

Pros of Duplicate Checks

Once you understand the principle of a duplicate check, you may wonder if these are right for you. Here are a few advantages of using duplicate checks.

Safer than Carrying Cash

While someone can easily steal cash out of a wallet, checks are not as simple to steal. This is especially true if you take steps to manage your checkbook well and keep it in a secure place.

Ease of Use

You don’t have to do anything to create the duplicate check thanks to the carbon copy function. No writing the check number, date, payee, and amount in your check register (unless, of course, you want to do so).


The whole point of a duplicate check is to make staying organized and tracking former check payments easier. While most check information is available through online bank accounts, having a paper copy can act as a helpful backup.

Checks Can Be Canceled If Stolen

If you have reason to suspect a check was stolen, you can stop payment on the check before it is cashed. Again, that’s a big advantage over cash; once bills are stolen, they are gone.

Cons of Duplicate Checks

Of course, there are also some disadvantages associated with duplicate checks worth keeping in mind.

Security and Privacy Risk

Because duplicate checks have important information on them about your bank and your spending habits, it’s important not to lose a check and minimize the possibility of your checkbook getting stolen.

Cost More Than Regular Checks

Some banks or check providers charge more for duplicate checks than they do for single checks.

Not all Check Printers Provide Them

Not all check vendors can create duplicate checks, so they may not be available from the company where you normally order checks.

Checks Usage Is on the Decline

Checks (including travelers checks) are becoming a less popular form of payment as people shift to online payments, electronic checks, and other options. In many cases, it may not be worth the fuss of ordering and managing a checkbook for the occasional payment.

Alternatives to Duplicate Checks

If you want to keep good records of checks you have written but don’t want to hold onto duplicate checks, you have a few options.

•   Log into your account online. Most banks and credit unions give customers an online bank account where you can access information about your transaction history, including the information one would find on a duplicate check. A warning: This is not a reliable way to keep track of every check ever written as banks eventually stop sharing old transactions. But it is possible to download these statements and save them electronically.

•   Make a digital copy. You can take a picture of or scan each check you write and store them digitally.

•   Use a check register. To keep all information about written checks in one place, it’s possible to use a check register. These registers can be on paper or can be digital; they capture the check number, payee, when a check was written and for how much. This process can make it easy to balance, say, your high-yield checking account by copying down check-payment information and subtracting the amounts from your balance.

The Takeaway

What is a duplicate check? In short, a duplicate check is a carbon copy of a regular check. Though it can’t be used to make a payment, a duplicate check makes record-keeping easier. When you write a check, the attached duplicate check creates an automatic copy of the check that you can easily reference. While checks aren’t as widely used as they once were, a duplicate check system can be a bonus for those who like writing checks, as it can make it easier to keep tabs on your checking account.

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What is a single check?

A single check is the type of check you get in a standard checkbook. The book contains a series of numbered individual checks that you can write out and use a payment.

What is the difference between a single and duplicate check?

Single checks are the kind of check you receive in a standard checkbook. Duplicate checks come in a special checkbook that is pre-assembled with carbon paper and two copies of every check. This makes it easier to keep track of all the checks you’ve written.

Can you cash a duplicate check?

No. A duplicate check is simply a copy of a check you’ve written that stays in your checkbook and cannot be cashed. Only the original check can be cashed.

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