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I have some checks that were printed in error with duplicate check numbers. All of the other information is correct. Would it be OK to correct the check numbers with a sticker or correction tape?

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    Please add a country tag. Law are different for different countries as to what corrections on checks are allowed. – Dheer Jun 19 '15 at 2:59
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Even where national law might allow such a practice, the law in an individual province or state (either for issuing or receiving bank) might not; or if that does then the receiving bank may have its own regulations or compliance practice which may not permit them to accept an altered cheque.

In any case, printed numbers are usually machine-readable, and a corrected cheque would not be.

The question needs a specific answer which addresses the specific circumstances involved (which are not stated, at the time of writing this), but for the general question “Should I alter a printed cheque?” the answer must be no.

Cheque numbers are used for identification of the cheque. In many cases, there is no verification of uniqueness and it would be perfectly acceptable simply to use cheques with duplicate numbers: a cheque is merely an order to the bank to make a payment. But you would not be able to identify a particular payment on your statement, and neither would the issuing bank if you wanted one stopped.

Where the number is verified as unique, then clearing the payment may be refused or at best delayed in order to be queried.

Making an obvious amendment to a cheque’s details is likely to raise a red flag. The receiving bank would not be able to tell if you did it, or the payee; they would not know why. They may suspect that it was done in order to render the cheque unidentifiable [even though the opposite is in fact the case] and refuse to accept it. They may refuse to accept it because it could not be read automatically. Any refusal would sour your relationship with your payees.

Presumably your printing house (or your bank, if they printed them) has made the error: raise it with them and have them reprint the batch. Ask your bank what to do with the incorrect cheques: they may want them returned to the bank, or they may be happy for you to keep (and even use) them. If the latter, I suggest you shred them.

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Probably a bad assumption, but I'm assuming your in the United States.

Keep in mind, that the check number is printed in 2 places on the front of each check. First, in the upper right corner, and also along the bottom edge on of the check. Since the check number is scanned by the bank from the bottom edge of the check, covering or otherwise modifying the check number on the upper left corner will have no effect on the check number that is recorded when the check is processed.

And, you can't modify or cover the numbers or place any marks in the area of the numbers along the bottom of the check as this will likely interfere with processing of checks.

So, modifying the check numbers will not work.

Your choices are basically to:

  1. Destroy the duplicate numbered checks.
  2. Wait until you have completely used one set of the checks, then start using the second set.

The check numbers are not used in any way in clearing the check, the numbers are only for your convenience, so processing checks with duplicate numbers won't matter.

The check numbers are recorded when processed at your bank so they can be shown on your printed and online statements.

The only time the check number might be important is if you had to "stop payment" on a particular check, or otherwise inquire about a particular check.

But this should not really be an issue because by the time you have used up the first batch of checks, and start using the checks with duplicate numbers, the first use of the early duplicate numbered checks will be sufficiently long ago that there should not be any chance of processing checks with duplicate numbers at the same time.

You didn't mention how many checks you have with duplicate numbers, or how frequently you actually write checks so that may play a part in your decision. In my case, 100 checks will last me literally years, so it wouldn't be a problem for me.

  • I wondered how this differed from my answer, but then I realised you are assuming a duplicate batch (that is, a second batch of "unique" cheques numbered the same as a first, so you have a batch of 1-100 and a second of 1-100), and I had assumed a single batch of identical numbers (all cheques the same number). – Andrew Leach Jun 23 '15 at 16:01

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