What is a single vs duplicate check? Which is better?

What is the difference between single and duplicate checks?

Duplicate checks make a carbon copy, which stays with the check pad. Single checks do not make a copy. Therefore, it is best to use duplicate checks if you need a record, such as, business expenses, itemizing tax deductions, or loan repayment.

Imagine, having a paper copy of all the checks you write. You have a record of everyone you paid and how much you paid them.

Duplicate checks can be very valuable, but not everyone needs them.

Luckily for you, I’ll show you what the difference is between single and duplicate checks. I’ll show you if duplicate checks are worth it and how long you need to keep records. You’ll be ready to order checks in no time!

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What is a single vs. duplicate check?

A single check contains only one sheet of paper, the check. Duplicate checks have a carbon paper which makes a copy of the check you can keep for your records. The carbon copy of the check stays with the checkbook.

Are duplicate checks worth it?

Duplicate checks can be worth it if you need to keep record of expenses or if you itemize your tax deduction. This information can come in handy if you are ever audited. The duplicates will contain a check date, payment amount, and who you paid.

Do I need to keep check duplicates?

You do not need to keep check duplicates, especially if the check clears and shows up in your online banking. However, the check duplicate provides a non-digital means of tracking expenses and payments. Therefore, you may consider keeping your checks if you itemize your tax deductions or business expenses in case of IRS audit.

The important thing to remember is that check duplicates provide a record of payment. You can use this record if there is ever a discrepancy, such as missing a mortgage payment.

How long should copies of checks be kept?

At a minimum, you should keep check duplicates between 5-7 years. Checks written that support a tax return should be kept for a minimum of seven years. Checks written for loan repayment should be kept for the duration of the loan plus 5-7 years.

What do I do with old duplicate checks?

Old check duplicates can be archived in your filing cabinet or shredded. Typically, you can take check duplicates to your bank who can shred them for you. Shredding your checks via your bank is typically considered a more secure method of disposing of check duplicates.

How much do duplicate checks cost?

Duplicate checks will typically cost between $30-40 when ordering through your bank. You may be able to find check duplicates for cheaper by shopping online at Costco or Walmart.

Summary: Single vs. duplicate checks

As you can see, the main difference between single and duplicate checks is creating a copy of the check. Single checks do not make a copy, but a duplicate check creates a carbon copy which stays with the check pad.

You don’t really need check duplicates unless you’re using checks for itemizing tax deductions, business expenses, or major loan repayment. Check duplicates can provide a paper trail for loan repayment, but this information typically shows up through online banking.

However, your bank may have an internal error that you need to dispute. Having your own records, such as check duplicates, can help you dispute any bank error.

You should keep your duplicate check records for 5-7 years. IRS audits may go back a full seven years. You’ll want to keep your check duplicates for the duration of large loans or mortgages, plus another 5-7 years.

Dispose of check duplicates by either archiving or shredding them. You can shred check duplicates yourself or take them to your bank to be shredded. Bank shredders and disposal process can be more secure than throwing them away.


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John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.