What Are Duplicate Checks?

Definition & Examples of Duplicate Checks

Person writing a check in a checkbook
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Duplicate checks are a type of checkbook that makes it easier to keep track of the checks you write. Behind each check is a thin sheet of paper that records the checks you write.

Here's how duplicate checks work, why some people choose to use them, and alternative options to consider.

What Are Duplicate Checks?

When you order duplicate checks, you get a checkbook that keeps a copy of every check you write. These copies are recorded onto thin pieces of paper that are behind every check. Those pieces of paper are the "duplicates."

Having a duplicate makes it easy to see who you paid, how much you spent, and when the check was written. The entire check is copied, so can also see anything you've written elsewhere, such as if you added your phone number to the top of the check. However, your signature is generally blocked to prevent someone who steals your checkbook from duplicating your signature.

You could access your online account or order cleared checks from your bank to get this information, but if you like having the ability to see your previous payments easily, you might like having duplicate checks.

How Do Duplicate Checks Work?

Duplicate checks come in the same type of binding as single checks. This allows them to fit wherever you had been storing your regular checks. With duplicates, each check is followed by a thin sheet of paper that serves as a carbon copy. The copy has the same check number printed on it for reference. As you write a check, the pressure from your pen transfers everything you write to the duplicate.

After you write the check, you only tear out the check, leaving the duplicate sheet attached to your checkbook. This way, you always have a copy on-hand for easy reference. You're left with a record of everything you wrote on the check, including the payee, amount, date, and any memo you may have included.

Where to Buy Duplicate Checks

Your bank should have a check catalog at the branch or on its website. Use this catalog to view and purchase checks for your account. Reputable online check printers tend to offer lower costs for duplicate and single checks, so it pays to shop around.

Pros and Cons of Duplicate Checks

Pros
  • Easy to use

  • Allows you to control recordkeeping

  • Offline access to records

Cons
  • Security and privacy risk

  • More expensive

  • Checks becoming increasingly uncommon

Pros Explained

  • Easy to use: The carbon copy is created automatically by the pressure you put on the pen to write the check. It's easy to see check amounts and recipients.
  • Allows you to control recordkeeping: You're the only person who controls these duplicates. You can include as much detail on them as you want, and store them for as long as you want.
  • Offline access to records: Much of the information provided by duplicates is available online, but duplicates allow you to access the same information offline.

Cons Explained

  • Security and privacy risk: Duplicates have a lot of personal information about you, so if a bad actor obtains them, it could be troublesome for you. Duplicates contain your bank information, as well as information like how much you spend in a given week and where you spend it.
  • More expensive: Duplicates may be more expensive than single checks, depending on your bank or check provider.
  • Checks becoming increasingly uncommon: A major downside to all of this is that checks are becoming increasingly uncommon. If you hardly use checks, it might not be worth investing in duplicates. You might be better off simply building a habit of checking your account online more often.

Alternatives to Duplicate Checks

If you like the idea of keeping records, but you don't want to keep the paper, there are other options. Most banks have an online bill payment system that creates an electronic record of every payment you make. The record should include all of the information you'd typically find on duplicate checks.

Using online banking to make bill payments allows you to keep everything you need to know about each expense in a format that's easy to search and sort. Keep in mind that you might not be able to get an unlimited history of your checks online. You may want to download your transactions periodically from your bank to have a full record of your purchases.

You can also snap a picture or scan a copy of every check you write. With powerful cameras on most mobile phones, getting a good image should be simple. Make sure to store those images somewhere safe to avoid security and privacy risks.

Check registers are another option, whether you do your register on paper or electronically. Instead of a full-size copy of each check, you copy down the important details of each purchase. You'll be less likely to bounce a check if you balance your account with a check register.

Key Takeaways

  • Duplicate checks are a type of check that includes a small piece of paper behind each check that serves as a carbon copy.
  • Duplicates are automatically created for every check written, making it easier for someone to control their recordkeeping.
  • Much of the information included in duplicates can be accessed online, but some people may prefer to have a hard copy.