When you open a checking account, you gain access to a wide variety of banking tools and features, including the ability to order paper checks. One of the subjectively cool things about ordering checks is that you can customize them. From design and color to font and the ability to upload your own background photos, your checks can be personalized to suit your taste. One option banks will also give you is whether you want single or duplicate checks.
The main difference between duplicate and single checks is that duplicate checks include a piece of carbon paper behind each check so that you can make a copy as you're filling out the details. Each type has its pros and cons, but there are several other considerations when deciding between them.
In this post, we'll properly define what each type of check is, outline the key differences, and explain the positives and negatives so that you can make an informed decision when choosing which to order. Without further ado, let's get started!
What Are Single Checks?
The difference between single checks and duplicate checks is small, but it's sufficient enough to cause confusion for consumers. With that in mind, let's begin by understanding what a single check is.
A single check is a type of check that consists of one page, typically without a duplicate. Therefore, only one version exists when you issue a check.
Although this type of check lets you transfer money successfully, it isn't necessarily the safest option since it doesn't leave proof behind that you issued a check in the first place. It's for this reason we have the duplicate variant.
However, single checks offer benefits duplicate checks don't, specifically with respect to value and cost. With single checks, you usually receive a larger quantity of checks than you do when ordering duplicates. This can be incredibly advantageous if you tend to write numerous checks regularly. Single checks are also generally cheaper than duplicates.
The downside to single checks is that you won't have a written record of the transaction amount or the recipient. As a result, you'll need to write additional details for recordkeeping purposes, usually in a check register.
A check register is a physical document that states payment dates, payee names, payment amounts, and check numbers for all check transactions. Some companies will include a check register when you order a box of checks.
Now that you know what single checks are, let's define duplicates.
What Are Duplicate Checks?
Essentially, a duplicate check is a type of check that makes it easy to keep a record of each check you issue. As mentioned earlier, there's a piece of carbon paper behind each check that conveniently makes a copy each time you write a check. While the original check is for the receiver, the duplicate is for you (the check writer) to keep for future reference should you need it.
It seems simple enough, but let's dive into the nitty-gritty of duplicate checks so that you can determine whether they're the right choice for you.
When Ordering Checks What Does Duplicate Mean?
When ordering duplicate checks, you'll receive a checkbook where every second page is made from a thin piece of paper with a dark substance on one side. This is the carbon paper, and it's the same size as the original check.
As you write on the original check, the pressure from the pen transfers your writing to the blank piece of paper beneath. Although critical information like your account details are not on the replica, the recipient, the amount, the date, and anything else you write will appear there.
The benefit of this is that you can easily control your financial recordkeeping and access these records offline when needed. Since you're in complete control, you can add as much additional information as you like and store the copies for as long as you like. In fact, it's recommended that you keep duplicates for at least 5-7 years, especially if you need the information for tax purposes.
When you do decide to dispose of them, keep in mind that the duplicate checks contain sensitive personal and financial information on them. You need to dispose of them carefully to ensure they're properly destroyed and cannot be used by someone else for nefarious reasons like forgery.
One way to do this is to use a paper shredder. If you have several years' worth of checks to destroy, consider hiring a trustworthy document disposal company to do it for you. Often businesses will make use of these services since they write thousands of checks each year. Whatever you do, make sure you understand the disposal company's practices for keeping your information private.
Unfortunately, there are some negatives to consider when deciding to purchase duplicate checks.
The first, and perhaps most important, is that they can pose a privacy and security risk. Since they contain information about your transactions, it could be a problem if you lose a checkbook or it's stolen. However, every form of recordkeeping poses some risk of exposure—including online databases that can get hacked. Ergo, you should weigh up whether having the convenience of duplicate checks is a risk you're willing to take versus the inconvenience of single checks where you'll need to write up a set of records (whether in a check register or otherwise) manually.
The second con is that duplicate checkbooks are more expensive than singles. Ordering them from your bank is also likely to be more expensive than purchasing them through an external provider—but this is true for single checks, as well. Therefore, you should decide whether it's worth, the extra financial outlay to opt for duplicate versions of your checks instead of singles.
At this point, you should have a better understanding of duplicate checks versus single checks. So, let's pit them against each other.
What Are Duplicate VS. Single Checks? Comparing Key Differences.
Although there is no functional difference between the two types of checks since they serve the same purpose, there are some basic features that set them apart. We've already covered some of these differences, but the comparison table below outlines them side by side.
|Differentiating Factor||Single Checks||Duplicate Checks|
|Number of pages||One piece of paper||Two pieces of paper|
|Carbon paper||Carbon paper isn't used, which means only a single copy is created||Carbon paper is used, which means one original and one copy of the check is created|
|Purpose||Ideal for smaller, personal transactions and convenience sake||Excellent for large transactions and recordkeeping purposes|
|Cost of checkbook||Generally less expensive than duplicates||Generally more expensive than singles|
|Bulkiness of the checkbook||Thinner book||Thicker book|
|Writing pressure||When filling out the check, it's not necessary to press too hard against the paper||Requires the writer to apply slightly more hand pressure to ensure a firm imprint is created on the carbon copy|
|Proof of transaction||No evidence of the transaction if a check is lost||Documented evidence is created by the duplicate|
Think you know which you prefer? If so, it's time to take the next step and place your order.
Where To Buy Checks
Besides ordering checks from your bank, you can save some cash by ordering through a reputable third-party printer instead. Here are some top options:
|Provider||Single Checks||Duplicate Checks|
|Carousel Checks||Starts at $6.99 for 100 checks||Starts at $9.99 for 100 checks|
|Checks In The Mail||Starts at $5.25 for 25 checks||Starts at $7.25 for 25 checks|
|Costco Checks||Starts at $16.53 for 250 checks||Starts at $13.50 for 200 checks|
|Walmart Checks||Starts at $7.46 for 150 checks||Starts at $8.46 for 150 checks|
|Bradford Exchange||Starts at $19.95 for 120 checks||Starts at $22.95 for 100 checks|
|Sam's Club Checks||Starts at $13.82 for 480 checks||Starts at $14.56 for 330 checks|
|Checks Unlimited||Starts at $18.99 for 100 checks||Starts at $24.99 for 100|
Delivery times and shipping fees vary, so be sure to review these before placing your order. Additionally, you may save more at certain places depending on whether you have a membership and your membership tier level. You may also find new customer deals, so be prepared to compare prices.
One final note about ordering: if you're ordering checks for personal use, order personal checks. If you're ordering checks for your business, then order business checks. The two are completely different in terms of the information they contain, so be sure to get the right ones whether you're ordering single or duplicates.
Although checks are becoming less popular thanks to the availability of debit cards, credit cards, and online payments, they still have their uses when it comes to things like managing individual and family finances. For this reason, it's important to understand which checks will best suit your purposes.
In the end, it boils down to this: if you want easy recordkeeping and a security factor in place (i.e, proof), duplicates are the way to go. If keeping track of your payments via check doesn't matter as much, single checks are likely the right choice for you. If you're unsure, you can always try both options to see which you prefer.
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Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author. He's been featured on Forbes, The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.