11

I recently opened an account at a credit union here, which includes a checking account. They gave me a book of checks on the spot.

Are they valid and usable? They simply came out of the drawer and don't have my name on it or anything.

  • 5
    I'd be a bit concerned about the professionalism of the credit union if they didn't explain to you that those were starter checks, and that you can use them until you get your printed checks (as well as when you should expect the printed checks). – Doktor J Jul 19 '15 at 7:07
14

Checks like these are called starter checks. You are meant to use them until you have time to order real checks.

They are completely valid. You should have no trouble using them for paying your monthly bills, as utility companies and the like do not hand process payments. Their computers scan the banking information and read the payment amount entered in the numeric display.

  • 4
    But paying people with them might be harder, depending on the person. Computers are chill, but people are kinda spazy sometimes. – MrChrister Aug 18 '10 at 19:39
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    @MrChrister: Yes. Individual people generally have no problem accepting them. Small businesses on the other hand tend to have bigger issues. It's that middle zone that causes trouble. I don't think this is an issue for most people as checks are less and less welcomed at businesses of all sorts as debit cards become the most common method of bank-transactions. Long story short, you probably want to get checks printed as soon as you can. – theo Aug 18 '10 at 19:43
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    Theoretically, anything piece of paper (and some things which are not paper) can be used as a check. Practically, a lot of places don't want starter checks. For instance, my online bank account won't let me deposit any starter checks from other people. – user296 Aug 18 '10 at 22:35
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    @theo - ING Direct; you mail them in. Presumably it's an anti-fraud issue. – user296 Aug 19 '10 at 22:06
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    @fennec have you tested that policy? I would also assume it's an anti-fraud policy, but I suspect they tell you not to do it because they don't want you to be angry if the check bounces. I'm willing to bet that if you follow procedure and send it in with the correct type of deposit slip that is computer readable it would go through with no issues. Provided of course the check writer didn't write you a bum check. – theo Aug 20 '10 at 14:45
11

A lot of places will not accept checks without your printed name/address on them.

However, if they have your account number and routing number at the bottom, then yeah they are real checks.

  • 3
    I've been allowed to use checks like these by writing my name and address in by hand. – justkt Aug 17 '10 at 17:34
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    Checks like these are called starter checks. You are meant to use them until you have time to order real checks. They are completely valid. You should have no trouble using them for paying your monthly bills, as utility companies and the like do not hand process payments. Their computers scan the banking information and read the payment amount entered in the numeric display. – theo Aug 18 '10 at 0:41
  • @theo - thanks for the clarification. If you want to post it as an answer, I'd gladly accept that instead of this one. – Corey Aug 18 '10 at 7:14
7

As far as I know, there is no legal standard for a check. It is in effect just an IOU in the standard form that a bank will pay out for you. If you can get a merchant to accept it and your bank to honor it you could write a note on a napkin that says:

I authorize my bank to pay merchantABC $500 from my account.

Love, Snookums.
(Your Signature and the current date)

Some funny stories about weird checks in this Straight Dope article: Can you write a check on any old piece of paper?

  • 1
    Curious about the down-vote. Am I mistaken on one of the facts? – JohnFx Aug 21 '10 at 22:24
  • The laws have drastically changed since 9/11 on the handling of, and requirements around, checks. The inability to move checks by air after the terrorist attacks of 2001 prompted a complete redesign of check processing. That's why, among other things, you don't get paper checks back anymore. They must now be digitizable to be processed. So the rules are now totally different and all those old stories inapplicable. – David Schwartz Jul 6 '17 at 9:20

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