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Single vs. Duplicate Checks: What Are the Differences?

Last updated 03/20/2024 by

Jamela Adam

Edited by

Fact checked by

The main difference between single and duplicate checks is that duplicate checks create a carbon copy behind each original check, while single checks do not. If you own a small business or make a lot of payments, duplicate checks can be an effective way to keep track of your transactions.
Most people don’t think twice about the kind of check they use, but there are actually two main types to be aware of — single and duplicate checks. Whether you’re writing a check to yourself to transfer funds between accounts or writing a check to someone else, it’s important to keep track of where your money is going.
This is where duplicate checks can come in handy. Using a duplicate check allows you to see who you wrote the check to, what the purpose of the check was, and how much money was involved. This can be helpful if you need to reconcile your bank statements or if you have any questions about a particular check later on.

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How do duplicate checks work?

If you’ve never used or heard of duplicate checks before, you might be wondering how they work. In essence, when you write a check in duplicate checkbooks, a permanent reference copy is automatically created underneath it. So instead of creating just one copy when writing a regular check, duplicate checks allow you to create two.
Duplicate checks usually come in the same type of binding as single checks. However, unlike a single check, duplicate checkbooks pair each check with a thin sheet of carbon paper behind it. This sheet of carbon paper records the information inputted onto the original check so that you can keep a backup copy of it for later. Because there’s a duplicate sheet attached behind each original check, duplicate checkbooks are usually much thicker and also more expensive than single checkbooks.

Pro Tip

One of the best ways to make sure your check is mailed safely is to restrict it. This means to write “for deposit only to account of payee” in the endorsement area on the back of the check. This way, no one can steal the check and deposit money into their account without your consent.

Pros and cons of duplicate checks

Deciding whether to use duplicate checks will depend on your individual circumstance. Weighing the pros and cons could help you figure out what’s right for you.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Great for record-keeping. Without a doubt, one of the most compelling reasons to use a duplicate check is that it can automatically create a carbon copy underneath. This is great for keeping track of your finances and making sure that everything is in order ⁠— which can reduce the chances of bouncing checks and paying penalty fees.
  • Offline access to records. Another advantage of duplicate checks is that they provide a physical record of your recent transactions. In the event that you can’t access your online records, duplicate checks can give you peace of mind knowing that you still have the information offline.
  • Generally cost more than regular checks. Duplicate checks contain carbon paper and have twice the number of pages. For this reason, they’re generally bulkier and costlier than regular checks.
  • Security and privacy risk. Keeping duplicate copies of checks on file means that if the duplicate copy isn’t properly stored, it could be stolen. This means that your personal information and bank account information could potentially be accessed by someone you don’t know.
  • You have to press hard when writing. When you’re writing a duplicate check, you need to use a fair amount of pressure to leave a clear impression on the carbon paper underneath. If you forget to do so, the information might not transfer well and, as a result, could be difficult to read.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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Duplicate checks alternatives

When you have a lot of bills to keep track of, duplicate paper checks can quickly become cumbersome. And if you accidentally misplace your checkbook, it can be difficult to track down all of the information you need. Fortunately, there are alternatives to consider if you’d rather go the paperless route.
  • Online budget tracker. These tools, such as Mint or Personal Capital, allow you to track your spending and income in one place, and many also offer features like goal setting and bill payment reminders.
  • Accounting software. Another option is to use accounting software like QuickBooks. This is especially great for small business owners who need to manage payroll and create invoices.
  • Excel spreadsheet. You can create an Excel spreadsheet yourself to keep track of your spending. And if you’re not tech-savvy, there are tons of spreadsheet templates online that you can download and use for free.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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Which is better: single or duplicate checks?

Deciding whether to buy single or duplicate checks is mostly a matter of preference. Some people like the convenience of having a carbon copy of every check they write, while others find duplicate checks unnecessary and prefer the simplicity of a single check.
One advantage of duplicate checks is that they can be used as a backup in case the original gets lost or damaged. They can also be helpful for keeping track of expenses since you’ll always have a record of every check you write. However, without properly disposing of the carbon copy, your personal information could be stolen from the check register, including your checking account number.
On the other hand, single checks are typically less expensive than duplicate checks and are more secure since you won’t have to worry about the copied information being stolen. Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both options, so it’s really up to you to decide what works best.
Pros• Single piece of paper, so cheaper and less bulky
• No carbon copy, which helps protect personal information
• Don’t need to press hard while writing
• Carbon copy produces evidence of transactions, great for bookkeeping
• Can view copies offline with a physical copy
Cons• More difficult to keep track of finances
• No evidence of payee or amount is written in case of a lost check
• Typically bulkier and cost more
• Have to press hard when writing check so information is copied
• Carbon copy could create a security risk if not disposed of properly


Are duplicate checks worth it?

If you’re looking for a simple and efficient way to better organize your finances, duplicate checks can be worth it. Though they are generally more expensive than regular checks, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your finances are well-organized is worth the extra cost.

How long should you keep duplicate checks?

Technically, you can throw away the carbon copy of a check after it has been cleared by the bank and all payments have been deposited or cashed. However, the federal tax rules require taxpayers to have documents that could support items on a return in case they need to be audited.
So if the check is for expenses that have some tax significance — for example, home renovation or home purchase — the FDIC recommends saving a copy of it for at least 7 years.

How do you dispose of duplicate checks?

Having your sensitive financial information fall into the wrong hands can be a disaster. This could happen if you don’t take the right steps to ensure your duplicate checks are properly disposed of. Luckily, safely getting rid of your duplicate checks is quite simple.
One of the best options is to shred them. This will prevent anyone from being able to piece together your personal information. You can also tear them up into small pieces or burn them. And if you have piles of duplicate checks that would take ages to destruct by yourself, you can also hire document destruction services to do so for you. Whatever method you choose, just make sure that your duplicate checks are completely destroyed before throwing them in the trash.

Key Takeaways

  • A duplicate check allows you to automatically create a paper copy of the original version when you write a check, while a regular check does not.
  • Though duplicate checks are a great way to keep track of your finances, they are generally more expensive than regular checks. Also, if you don’t properly store your duplicates, your personal information could be compromised or stolen.
  • If you prefer to not use duplicate paper checks to manage your finances, budget trackers like Mint and Personal Capital can be great alternatives to consider.
  • It’s recommended that you keep duplicate checks for expenses that have tax significance for at least seven years.
  • Make sure to properly dispose of your duplicate checks by shredding them or hiring a document destruction company to do so for you.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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