Check Registers - Where to Find Free Check Registers

What's a Check Register and Why do I Care?

Check Register
Christine Balderas/Photodisc/Getty Images

A check register is your personal record of your checking account, separate from the records your bank keeps. 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.

It’s a good idea to use your register as a backup system even if you trust that your bank is keeping track of things for you.

What is a Check Register?

A check register is a list (on paper or electronic) that tells you how much money you have available to spend. You’ll update this list as you spend money or add to your account. Check registers usually come with every order of checks – at the back of your checkbook you should see a few sheets that resemble the photo on this page.

Check registers can also be electronic or homemade, which allows you to track your account without buying new registers.

A register typically has several columns or fields, which are described at the bottom of this page.

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. If you use a check register, you’ll know more than your bank knows about your account balance.

Plus, sometimes banks make mistakes, and you might occasionally forget about expenses too.

Your check register will help you:

  • Know how much you can afford to spend, and whether you need to transfer money to your checking account (from savings, for example) to cover upcoming expenses

For more details, see Four Reasons to Keep a Check Ledger.

How Often?

You should use your check register as often as possible. Enter every transaction into it.

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 in your check register weekly. The more problems you’re having with insufficient funds, the more often you need to update your check register.

You should also review your check register every time you get a statement (or at least monthly). On your statement you’ll find important items that may not be in your check register yet:

How to Get Check Registers

Check registers often come with checkbooks (when you order checks or open an account). Registers are not account-specific, so you can use registers from old checkbooks and accounts you’ve closed long ago.

If you prefer to work electronically:

  • Build a simple register in your favorite program (see below for column headers)
  • Use pre-built spreadsheets
  • Download Microsoft Excel or Google Docs templates for check registers (here’s another Google Docs template)
  • Use a complete package such as Quicken

Print Your Own Check Register

Paper checkbook registers have worked for years, and some people prefer to keep doing it by hand. If you just want to print a basic register, try this PDF or this one.

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 whatever you want). To build your own 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
  • Date
  • 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 account balance calculated after the transaction