The thought of writing a check may seem a bit archaic, but there are still many that use personal checks at the point of sale to make purchases. Furthermore, some have no problem writing checks each month, heading to the post office, and mailing them off to their lenders and service providers to cover bills. 

And there are some instances where you’ll need to provide a voided check to make a special arrangement, such as setting up direct deposit or online bill pay.  

Keep reading to learn more about how voided checks work, when it makes sense to void a check, and how to void a check if the need arises. 

How Voided Checks Work

If you’ve been handling your finances for some time, chances are you’ve seen a personal check with the word “VOID” written boldly across the front. All this means is that the check is now invalidated and can’t be deposited or cashed by the intended recipient. 

When It Makes Sense to Void a Check

But why would you want to void a check? Several instances warrant the need to do so.

Errors

There are many elements to a personal check, including: 

  • Date of transaction
  • Your personal information, including your address and phone number
  • The intended recipient’s name
  • The amount of the check expressed in numbers
  • The amount of the check written out 
  • The name and address of your bank
  • The memo
  • Your signature 
  • Your routing number
  • The account number

But what if you write a check from your checking account and later discover that you’ve made an error? Maybe you misspelled the recipient’s name, entered the wrong amount, or used the incorrect date? These scenarios would call for you to void the check and rewrite another one using the correct information. 

Wondering what happens to a check that contains errors but is presented for payment? If the date is incorrect, it may still go through as long as too much time has not lapsed. Personal checks are valid for six months from the date written on the check. (Some banks may choose to honor personal checks after this point but are not legally obligated to do so). 

Or maybe you wrote a check for $1,000 but you only intended for it to be $10 and spelled out this amount. Chances are the check won’t go through at the bank because of the discrepancy. 

Electronic Payments 

Do you prefer to set up autopay so you won’t have to worry about going in and scheduling payments to come out of your account each month on the due date or a date that you’d prefer? You can do so by setting up autopay. But for automatic payments to start, they may request that you send over a voided check so they can have your official routing and account number on file. Doing so also minimizes the chances of numbers being transposed or other issues arising when it’s time for the payment to be processed. 

Direct Deposit 

The days of receiving paper payroll checks and taking them to the bank to have them cashed are long gone. In most instances, your employer will prefer that you enroll in direct deposit so they can send your earnings directly to your bank account on payday. 

To enroll, your employer will give you a form that includes information for you to enter your banking information and preferred account(s) that funds should be deposited to. There will also be a section for you to attach a voided check. 

Your employer will confirm that the information you enter matches the information found on the check. And they will also use the voided check to input your routing and bank number into their payroll system. 

Quick Note: if you want your earnings to be deposited to multiple accounts, it will be necessary to attach multiple voided checks. 

Lost Checks

Maybe you ran across a check that was misplaced at your place of employment and weren’t able to return it to the rightful owner? In this case, it would make sense to void the check and toss it to prevent fraud from occurring. 

How to Void a Check

Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to void a check and you won’t spend a dime. All you have to do is grab a black pen or marker, write “VOID” using all capital letters, and you’re all set. 

A few important tips: 

  • If you’re planning to hand this check over to your lender or service provider to initiate electronic payments, be careful not to write over the portion of the check the contains your routing and account number. The same rule applies for personal checks provided to your employer to set up a direct deposit for your earnings. 
  • Write the word “VOID” largely and conspicuous enough that the lettering can’t be altered. And don’t forget to use a pen or a fraudster could simply erase it. 
  • Keep the check for your records and enter it into your check register, spreadsheet, or whatever financial record-keeping system you use so you’ll know it’s been taken care of and should not be accounted for in your withdrawals. 

What If You Don’t Have a Personal Check to Void? 

If you happen to need a blank voided check solely for information purposes but don’t have one at your disposal, don’t panic. Ask the requester if they’ll accept a deposit slip or letter from the bank containing your account information in its place. If not, your bank may be willing to issue you what’s referred to as a counter check. 

Your name, address, and phone number won’t be listed at the top of the check. But your routing and account number will be present. If this won’t suffice, you may have to order a batch of checks overnight from your bank or a third-party and opt for overnight shipping. 

The Bottom Line 

Despite the decrease in popularity for personal checks, many entities still use voided checks for many reasons. So it’s important to understand what purpose they serve and how to void a check if there’s a need to do so. 

Author

Allison Martin is a syndicated financial writer, author, and Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI). She has written about personal finance for almost ten years and holds a master's degree in Accounting from the University of South Florida. Allison's work has been featured on The Wall Street Journal, ABC, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, Fox Business, Credit.com, MoneyTalksNews, Investopedia, The Simple Dollar, and a host of other reputable publications. She also travels around the nation facilitating financial literacy and business workshops to individuals from all walks of life. In her spare time, Allison enjoys traveling, cuddling up with a good book, and spending time with family. She lives in Florida with her husband and two young sons.

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