Where to Find Free Check Registers, and How to Use Them
Free Templates and Instructions
A check register helps you keep a personal record of your checking account. This allows you to see (and continually update) your account balance, any withdrawals or deposits to your account, and transactions that have not yet hit your account.
Iven if you trust that your bank, it’s wise to keep your own records—because you might know more than your bank does about upcoming transactions.
What is a Check Register?
A check register is a list of transactions in your bank account, along with a running balance that tells you how much money you have available to spend.
You can use paper, apps, or spreadsheet templates to keep these records. As you spend money or add to your account, you update the list, and it’s best to compare your register with your bank records periodically.
Check registers usually come with every order of checks. Look in the back of your checkbook for a few sheets of paper that resemble the photo on this page. But check registers can also be electronic or homemade, which allows you to customize your system and track your account without buying new registers.
A register typically has several columns or fields, which are described at the bottom of this page.
How to Get Check Registers
If you didn’t get a check register with your checkbooks—or if you need to get a new one—you have several options:
- Use a template like this free Google Docs check register.
- Order a new register from an online check printer or your bank.
- Grab a check register from the back of an old checkbook, or anywhere else you find one (registers are not account-specific).
- Build a simple register in your favorite design or spreadsheet tool (see below for column headers).
Print Your Own Check Register
Designing your own register on paper or a spreadsheet is fairly easy, and you can customize so that everything fits exactly where you want it (make it wallet-sized or add any other features you want).
To make a check register, create a document with the following columns across the top:
- A small 'checkbox' field to check off items you’ve verified
- Check number (or category)—see where to find check numbers
- Description— any helpful notes such as where and how it happened
- Payment/Debit (-)— for payments, fees, and withdrawals
- Deposit/Credit (+)—for deposits, interest, and deposits
- Balance—your new account balance after the transaction
Why Use Check Registers?
A check register helps you stay on top of transactions in your account. Even if you check your account balance online, your available balance might give you misleading information. But banks sometimes make mistakes, and you might occasionally forget about transactions too.
Your check register will help you:
- Identify bank mistakes (which are rarely in your favor).
- Catch identity theft. If you see something you didn’t expect, report it as quickly as possible to get full protection under US law.
- Avoid bounced checks, as well as the expenses and potential problems that come with them.
- Know how much you can afford to spend, and whether you need to transfer money to your checking account. For example, you can avoid overdrafts by moving funds from savings to cover upcoming expenses.
- Remember whether or not you paid somebody, how much, and when.
For more details, see Four Reasons to Keep a Check Ledger.
When to Use Your Check Register
Update your check register with every transaction that you’re aware of.
When you write a check or use your debit card, record the transaction in your check register immediately. At the very least, save your ATM and debit card receipts and enter those transactions weekly. The more problems you’re having with insufficient funds, the more often you need to update (and check) your check register.
You should also review your check register every time you get a statement (or at least monthly). Bank statements show items that may not be in your check register yet, including:
- Fees you paid the bank (learn how to pay less in fees)
- Interest payments from the bank
- Automatic/ACH transactions (such as direct deposit of your paycheck or bills that you pay automatically paid from your bank account)