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My bank has sent me a check book. Apparently it is a standard feature of my account, included at no extra charge.

Odds are I am never going to write a check in my life. Due to dysgraphia, I have difficulty with my handwriting, and even if I could, merchants hate them.

Keeping the checkbook around just wastes space and opens me up to another avenue of vulnerability should it ever be stolen.

What should I do with the book?

  • Throwing it out seems insecure.
  • Shredding it is an option perhaps?
  • Maybe I can just return it to the bank and say I don't want it?

To be clear this question is not about the practicalities of accessing facilities for shredding. But as to if that is even the right thing to do. (e.g. are there consequences of not being able to present my unused checkbook to the bank, if there is money stolen from my account.)

  • Just shread them, or keep them in a safe place. If you are going to throw them out, at least write "VOID" on each check. – Pete B. Nov 14 '18 at 11:37
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    You can usually take them to a branch of your bank and get them to dispose of unwanted chequebooks/debit cards etc. – Roy Nov 14 '18 at 12:23
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    Writing VOID on each check is far too much wasted effort when shredding accomplishes the task in under ten seconds. – Bob Baerker Nov 14 '18 at 13:03
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    And because you don't know anyone with a shredder that means that hardly anyone else does as well? If using a shredder poses such problems for you, choose one of the other suggestions. There is more than one way to resolve the problem. – Bob Baerker Nov 15 '18 at 16:18
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    What are matches ??? – Bob Baerker Nov 15 '18 at 18:02
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You can try returning it to a local branch of your bank, though you can't be entirely certain they'll accept it - it's probably not a very common request and the staff may not have a procedure for handling it.

If that doesn't work or you don't want to try it, then shredding them would work. You could also get away with writing "VOID" or similar on them and tearing them in several pieces, if you don't have a shredder.

Ultimately, if they are misused, as long as you keep an eye on your bank account and report it in good time, you shouldn't be held liable. But dealing with that would create extra effort for you.

You shouldn't ever need your unused chequebook nowadays. Many years ago when there were limits on daily withdrawals and no means to track it electronically, the branch staff would mark a calendar in the back of your chequebook, but that hasn't been needed for a long time. If something was stolen from your account, there's nothing that possession of your chequebook would help you prove.

  • +1, though "real" checks (some banks issue "starter checks" first) have the routing and account number printed on them, and those aren't things you want generally floating around, so definitely advisable to try a physical-destruction method rather than just writing VOID. While you can still cancel/dispute ACH-processed requests, it's not something you want to have to watch for. – phyrfox Nov 14 '18 at 13:16
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    This is the UK, so it'd be a sort code + account number (and they'd definitely be pre-printed on the cheque). Those can be misused in theory, e.g. to set up unauthorised direct debits, but it's not very common. – Ganesh Sittampalam Nov 14 '18 at 13:21
  • Yeah, definitely not common, but not impossible, either. I guess it depends on your level of paranoia (I come from the US, so definitely biased towards paranoia). – phyrfox Nov 14 '18 at 13:28
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    Staff may not have a procedure for handling it, but you can be sure that any bank anywhere has procedures for what to do with their confidential trash. – xyious Nov 14 '18 at 15:47
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Why not simply place them in a fireproof container and apply a match?

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    I can't resist commenting that if they were in a fireproof container, there would be no point applying a match as they wouldn't burn. – Vicky Nov 15 '18 at 13:36
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    Certainly they would, unless the container also excludes oxygen. – jamesqf Nov 15 '18 at 17:53
  • Good luck with your charring – Bob Baerker Nov 15 '18 at 18:15
  • @Vicky The goal here is to burn the checkbook, not the container. The fireproof container is recommended to be neither airtight nor closed on all sides, that's something you imagined. – Money Ann Dec 9 '18 at 1:07
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Regarding the added information to the question:

To be clear this question is not about the practicalities of accessing facilities for shredding. But as to if that is even the right thing to do. (e.g. are there consiquences of not being able to present my unused checkbook to the bank, if there is money stolen from my account.)

Having a checkbook does open up a avenue of somebody getting money from your account. Destroying the checkbook if they are not needed closes most of that avenue. The risk of the checkbook is that if somebody gets a hold of it they can easily write themselves a check, and cash it. But that also means they need to have a fake ID or an accomplice who will unknowingly help them. But the true exposure is the info on the check that can be used to setup electronic transfers.

Even if there is no checkbook or in fact no checking account, there is still a large risk of money being transferred from a bank account by fraud or by mistake. My son had several mistakes made by his bank where they accidentally withdrew money from the wrong account. He caught it when he reviewed his next statement. The account was a checking account where he has never had a checkbook.

If you want to protect yourself. Contact the bank, ask what you should do with the checks. Ask what you can do to protect the account based on your situation.

If they don't want the checkbook then you should shred them, but you might not need your own shredder.

Some banks, and some communities organize a "community shred" that allows customers or residents to drop off a box or bag of documents they want shredded.

At a community shred the sponsor hires a shredding company to spend a day crosscut shredding documents while the people dropping off the documents watch. They can have shredded old bills, bank statements, tax documents and medical records. I have used this type of service several times in the US and a quick google search shows these are also in the UK.

Generally the shredding company then takes the shredded documents to a recycling center.

  • At least in the US, destroying a checkbook does not close the avenue of writing a check against the account. The bank will process any check with the correct routing numbers (public information) and account number. Consumers can order checks from third-party printers, and companies print their own checks by computer. The only way is to block check access on the bank side, which is done for people who are not creditworthy enough for checkwriting. – user71659 Dec 9 '18 at 19:57
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Ironically, some people end up having to pay quite a bit to get checkbooks at all. Guess your bank was doing you a favor.

There's no point to keeping a checkbook you won't use, except maybe in case you thought you wouldn't use it but were wrong. The one thing it's good for is to quickly see your account number and similar useful bank information - but you could just write those down in a notebook, you don't need the checkbook for it.

Keeping it won't really do you any harm either. You can't do much with someone's blank checkbook. The checks are useless if not signed, and you could easily go to the bank and dispute a fraudulent check. Banks advise being careful with the checks, which is a good idea, but relying on you to keep the checks secret is really their security policy. For one, anyone you write a check to can see them. I would suspect that if you simply threw it in the trash, chances are 99% that absolutely nothing would happen.

The standard way of voiding checks is to cross them out and writing VOID across them. No bank would accept such a check even if filled out and signed. You can do this on all your blank checks to make them unusable, even for you.

If you really want to, you could shred them. You might need to do only a few at a time if your shredder is low capacity.

For a more exciting option, there's always fire. But unless you have a place to burn them, I'd recommend against this as it's impractical: It's a fire hazard, the checks might not burn well, if you do it in something like BBQ they might release harmful chemicals, and burning generally is bad for health and the environment.

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