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Guide to Duplicate Checks

By Jacqueline DeMarco · October 06, 2022 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

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, including:

•   What are duplicate checks?

•   Where can you get duplicate checks?

•   Pros and cons of duplicate checks.

•   Alternatives to duplicate checks.

What Are Duplicate Checks?

So exactly what are duplicate checks? If you have ordered these, when you get a checkbook from your bank, you’ll see that attached to the back of each check is a thinner piece of paper known as a duplicate check.

When you write on a check to fill it out, your writing copies over to the duplicate check. In this way, the duplicate that is created can act as a record of the payment made, 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 should appear in the consumer’s online account, but it can be helpful to have duplicate checks on hand to quickly reference.

How Do Duplicate Checks Work?

What is a duplicate check and how does one work? A duplicate check is attached to the bank of a normal check in the form of a thin piece of paper. This acts as a carbon copy of the original check (also known as the single 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, so they can deposit it, cash it, or sign it over to someone else.) All of the information included in the payee, amount, date, and memo sections transfer over. The one area of the original check that doesn’t copy over is usually 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 use a duplicate check to gather the information they need to commit theft or 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 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 look exactly the same as duplicate checks (although the signature doesn’t transfer over to the duplicate check). The same check number is even on both checks. The main difference between single checks and duplicate checks is the thickness of the paper and that the duplicate check acts as a carbon copy of the single check.

Sometimes, a person may refer to single checks as the kind of checks that don’t have the duplicate behind them. In this case, a single check would be a “regular” check that arrived in a checkbook with no copies involved.

Pros of Duplicate Checks

Once the principle of a duplicate check is understood, 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).

Convenience

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 single checks.

Will Not Work Where Places Automatically Print Checks

Duplicate checks may not be easily available from all vendors. Not all check providers can create duplicate checks.

Checks Becoming More Increasingly Uncommon

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 or 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 for how to proceed.

•   Log in to an online bank account. Most banks and credit unions give customers an online bank account where you can access information about recent transactions 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 single check. Though it can’t be used to make a payment, a duplicate check makes record-keeping easier. When you write a single check, the attached duplicate check creates an automatic copy of the check that you can easily reference. While checks are in many cases losing favor, a duplicate check system can be a bonus for those who do like writing checks, as it can make keeping tabs on your account that much easier.

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FAQ

What is a single check?

A single check is the original check that the account holder writes on and gives to someone they want to make a payment to. What are duplicate checks? They are a thinner piece of paper that may be attached to the back of a single check and can act as a carbon copy of it.

What is the difference between a single and duplicate check?

For the most part, single checks and duplicate checks look the same. The main difference is that a duplicate check is a thinner piece of paper and that the signature doesn’t usually copy over from the single check to the duplicate check.

Can you cash a duplicate check?

No, it’s not possible to cash a duplicate check. Only single checks can be cashed. The duplicate check simply serves as a record of the single check.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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