The Basics of Duplicate Checks

Do you need a copy of every check you write?

person writing a check in a checkbook with duplicate checks
••• Dennis O'Clair / The Image Bank / Getty Images

When you order duplicate checks, you get a checkbook that keeps a copy of every check you write. Having a duplicate makes it easy to see who you paid, how much you spent, and when the check was written. 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.

What Are Duplicate Checks?

Duplicate checks come in the same type of binding as single checks, which allow them to fit in your checkbook easily. 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, and the pressure from your pen transfers everything you write to the duplicate.

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

You can also see anything you've written elsewhere, such as if you added your phone number to the top of the check because the entire sheet is copied. However, your signature is generally blocked to prevent someone who steals your checkbook from duplicating your signature.

Pros and Cons of Duplicate Checks

Some people love the idea of having duplicate checks, while others don't want a record of their past purchases lying around for just anyone to see. Deciding between duplicate vs. single checks is an easy decision once you understand the pros and cons of each option.

Pros of Duplicate Checks

  • Record of your purchases at your fingertips
  • Easy to see what a particular check was written for
  • Online banking might restrict access to older checks
  • A less expensive option since some banks charge a fee for check copies
  • Check request could take several days to process

Cons of Duplicate Checks

  • Security risk because the duplicate copies include your bank account information
  • Privacy concern since duplicates leave behind a detailed picture of your spending
  • Duplicates are more expensive vs. single checks

Where to Buy Duplicate Checks

Your bank should have a check catalog at the branch or available online where you can 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. If you need a suggestion, Carousel Checks provides both personal and business checks with carbon copies.

Alternative Ways to Track Spending

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 text format, making it easy to search and sort. Keep in mind that you might not be able to get an unlimited history of your checks online. In this instance, you can 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 or 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. Plus, you'll be less likely to bounce a check if you balance your account with a check register.