If you want to set up automatic bill payments, direct deposits, or investments from your bank account, you may need to provide a voided check. That is because your bank information gets printed on your checks, which will then get used to set up an electronic link to your bank account.
If you have never set up these types of financial transactions before, it can seem intimidating. But, fortunately, voiding a check is relatively straightforward.
- If you want to set up direct deposit or auto-pay, you will typically need to void a check. When you void a check, no one can use it to make a payment or withdraw money from your bank account.
- There are three simple steps to void a check.
- If you do not have any physical checks on hand, you have a few alternatives.
What is a Void Check?
A void check is simply a physical check with the word “VOID” written on the front. When you void a check, the check cannot get deposited or cashed out anymore. So, even if you or someone else fills out the payment amount or other information, the check is considered financially empty.
How to Void a Check
Voiding a check is a simple as 1, 2, 3.
1. Get a Blank Check
If you want to set up direct deposits and automatic payments, you need to get a blank check.
2. Write “VOID” on the Check
Once you have a blank check ready, use a blue or black pen to either write “VOID” in large letters across the front or smaller letters in the date line, payee line, amount line, signature line and amount box. If you choose to write “VOID” across the front of the check, make sure the word covers the bulk of the check without covering the routing or account numbers at the bottom as those will get used to identify your account.
We recommend using a blue or black pen rather than a pencil because you want the ink to be permanent and not let anyone erase the text. If you used a pencil, someone could erase the word “VOID,” fill out your check for any amount of money and then cash it out.
3. Make a Copy of the Check
After you void the check, note it down in your check register, including the check number, date, and reason it got voided. If you do not jot this down, you will have a gap in your check numbers and may end up forgetting about it. Also, if the check number gets posted to your account or gets stolen, you will know that something went wrong.
Finally, save a copy of the voided check for whoever else may need it in the future by scanning or photocopying it. You can reuse it for different situations and keep it as a reminder that the check was not used for any specific payments. If you decide to store the copy, keep it somewhere safe, such as putting it in a locked filing cabinet or encrypted folder on your computer.
Tips to Consider
If you are sending your voided check electronically, do not simply email it in a standard email message. It’s best to hide your account information from potential thieves and hackers by encrypting the image or uploading it to a secure file vault, for example.
Do not hand someone you do not trust a blank check. If you do not write the word “VOID” across the front of the check, anyone can fill it out and withdraw money from your checking or savings account. That is why employers ask for a copy of a voided check when setting up a direct deposit for you and not a blank check.
Reasons for Voiding a Check
There may be several situations where you will need to void a check. Let’s go over some of the most common scenarios in more detail.
1. Direct Deposit
Most people these days prefer getting paid through direct deposit rather than physical checks. If you want your paychecks to get deposited directly into your checking account, your employer may ask for a voided check to get all your bank information. Once they get the name of your bank or credit union, account number, and routing number, they can then establish a link to your bank account to set up the direct deposit.
2. Automatic Payment
If you struggle to stay on top of any recurring bills, such as rent, utilities, or credit card payments, you can use a voided check to set up auto-pay. That way, you will never have to worry about making late payments or missing a payment. If you run a business, chances are your vendors prefer to get paid electronically rather than in cash or physical checks. In those situations, sending them a void check will typically be part of the process to set up payment schedules.
3. Stop a Check Payment
If you accidentally give a signed check to someone or the check gets stolen, you will need to rely on the honor system if you decide not to take action. The only way for you to stop it from getting cashed or deposited is to request a stop payment from your bank. The stop payment instructs the bank or credit union not to honor the check if it gets processed. But, to stop payment on a check, you need to give your bank more information, including the check number, check amount, check date, photo ID, and recipient name.
Once you submit the request, you need to send the official paperwork either by mail or in person at your bank within 14 days. Otherwise, your stop payment will not get honored. When your bank has received all the relevant information, they will pay close attention to the canceled check for six months, at which the stop payment expires. Note that some banks will charge a $15-33 fee for this request.
4. Mess Up
If you are filling out a check and make a mistake, you need to void the check and start over. For example, if you notice that you wrote the wrong dollar amount or recipient name, voiding the check prevents others from cashing or depositing it.
What If You Don’t Have Any Checks?
If you do not have any checks on hand, you will need to find an alternative. If you want to set up direct deposit, ask your employer for other options. If you are setting up automatic payments, ask your biller. Otherwise, we have a few other ideas below you can try out.
Try setting up your bank account link entirely online instead of using forms. Most employers and businesses nowadays allow you to connect your bank account online by using your login credentials or your bank information. By submitting all your details online, you can bypass the need for voided checks.
Platforms like Rippling and Gusto have made it much easier to set up direct deposits with an employer. If your company uses these types of platforms, all you need to do is to add your banking details to your profile to get paid. When I first started working in high school, I had to give my employers voided checks, but now all I need to do is to link my checking account to my profile. Alternatively, you can try to preview a check on your bank’s website, print out the preview image, and then write “VOID” on the check (though this does not always work).
If you need to fill out an online form, the information you will need includes your routing number, account number, and the name, city, and state of the bank or credit union. Before submitting this information, double-check it for accuracy. Your routing number is specific to your bank, while your account number is specific to your account. The city and state should be the bank’s headquarters, not your local branch.
If your bank offers deposit slips, you may be able to link your account by using a deposit slip instead of a voided check. The deposit slips should contain your routing and account numbers. Sometimes a pre-printed deposit slip is required, which is different from the blank ones you can grab at the bank. You may also have some of these in the back of your checkbook.
Starter and Counter Checks
If you recently opened an account or have never used a check from your bank before, you can try to ask your bank for a starter or sample check. Sometimes, they will print one out with your routing and account numbers for you at no cost. When I opened a checking account for the first time, my bank provided me with a starter check for free.
Another solution is to ask for a “counter check” at your local branch. Instead of giving you an entire checkbook, your bank will provide you with a single check that you can void for a small fee.
If you want to get creative, try generating an image of a voided check using a check printer. While this method will not work if you need to mail a physical check, it can help you get an electronic image of a check with your bank information. To do this, start the process of ordering checks at your bank and when you get to preview your order, take an image of the customized check.
If none of the solutions above work, consider getting official documentation from your bank or credit union. Ask for an official letter, printed on bank letterhead, with your bank information. You can use this letter in place of a voided check. If you do not want to go to the bank, see if they will provide form letters for you through their online banking system.
Things to Consider
Not every bank offers checks for their checking accounts. For example, Chase offers checkless checking, so you may need to sign up for a new checking account as a last resort.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, there were no surprises here. As we mentioned earlier, voiding a check is an easy process. All you need to do is get a blank check, write “VOID” on the front, and make a copy of it for reference.