You may need to provide a voided check when you set up automatic bill payments, deposits from your employer, or investments from your bank account. Your bank account information appears on those checks, and whoever asked for the voided check will use those details to set up an electronic link to your bank account. There is only one hitch, you need to know how to void a check, and you may not have done that before.
Fortunately, voiding a check is easy.
How to Void a Check
Write the word “VOID” across the front of the check-in large letters. Make the letters tall enough and wide enough to cover most of the check. But don’t cover the numbers at the bottom of your check—the recipient needs those numbers to establish the link with your bank account. Use a pen or a fine-tipped marker so that nobody can erase the word “VOID.”
Writing “VOID” across the front of the check prevents anybody from using the check to make a standard check payment (by filling in a payee and an amount).
If a thief gets their hands on the check, they won’t have a blank check, which they could use to spend your money—effectively stealing from your account.
Make a note of the check-in your check register so that you know where that particular check went. If you don’t, you’ll have a gap in check numbers, leading you to wonder what happened. Did you write a large check to somebody and forget about it, or did that check gets stolen? When will it hit your account? In your check register, write “VOID,” along with the check number, date, and a note about why you voided the check (such as who you gave it to).
Send the Check or Image
Your check is now ready to send. If you’re going to provide the voided check electronically, don't just send it out in the open, in a standard email message. Take steps to hide your account information from thieves and hackers. For example, consider encrypting the image or uploading it to a secure file vault.
If You Don’t Have Checks
How can you void a check if you don’t have any checks? You may have to get creative, wait for checks, or find an alternative way to link your bank account.
See if you can set up your bank account link entirely online. Instead of using forms, which require you to void a traditional check, try logging into your account (or ask if there’s an online system). In most cases, you need to provide your bank account information in an online form.
You may also be able to set up deposit or withdrawal instructions using a deposit slip instead of a voided check. A pre-printed deposit slip might be required—not the blank ones you grab at the bank and fill out by hand. You may have several of these pre-printed slips in the back of your checkbook.
Another solution is to visit a branch and ask for a “counter check.” The teller might be able to print a check with your account information on it. If so, try voiding that check as if it came out of your checkbook.
A creative solution is to have a check printer to generate an image of a voided check for you. This method won’t work if you need to mail the check, but it can help you get an electronic image of a check containing your account information. Start the process of ordering checks, and when it’s time to “preview” your order, you’ll have a customized check image that you can void.
If all else fails, you may be able to get official documentation from your bank or credit union instead of voiding a check. Ask for a letter, printed on bank letterhead, which lists your account number, routing number, and account type (checking or savings). Alternatively, some banks provide form letters for setting up direct deposit—print it while you’re logged in to the online banking system, and it should have everything you need.
Keep a Copy
Once you have the voided check you need, consider scanning or photocopying it. You may need to provide voided checks numerous times in the coming years. When an original check is not required (for example, if you’re going to fax in the instructions or submit an electronic image of your check), you can use the same copy repeatedly.
Be sure to keep images of your checks somewhere safe, like a locked filing cabinet or an encrypted storage container on your computer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you void a check that's already been sent?
If you already sent out a check without marking it as void or suspect that one has been lost or stolen, you could still put a stop order on the check to prevent your money from being stolen. You must first contact your bank and see if that particular check has already been cashed. If it hasn't, they should be able to put a stop payment on that check. You will need to know who it was for, how much it was for, and the check number. If you aren't sure of any of this information or get it wrong, the check could still be cashed, and the only way to avoid financial loss would be to freeze the account.
When should you void a check?
Typically, you'll need to void a check when you need to provide new account verification for setting up a direct deposit or direct withdrawal. You can provide written informaition about your account, but many companies require the voided check for verification.
How long can a check be cashed if its not voided?
Most checks are good for six months, but banks might still cash checks that are past this expiration date. Some checks might explicitly state a different period, such as three months or a year.