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Is there any downside snapping a picture (or scanning a copy) of every check when writing vs. using a duplicate check? Or is the picture/scan as valid as a duplicate if used later on as some evidence?

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    Is there an up side? – quid Sep 21 '17 at 22:25
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    @quid less paper + electronic record – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 21 '17 at 22:26
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    @FranckDernoncourt Keep in mind that electronic records are less secure than paper and each check contains your bank info, account #, name and address. – DanK Sep 22 '17 at 12:37
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    @DanK, that's true but your account number has always been on your check and can't be considered that private. – JPhi1618 Sep 22 '17 at 14:01
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    @DanK: If you're concerned about these things, the solution is not "don't snap pictures of checks" but rather "ffs stop using checks!" They're the most backwards, insecure, potentially-trouble-causing (e.g. long outstanding uncleared ones) way to pay. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Sep 22 '17 at 14:55
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For me, the main benefit of using duplicate checks is that the copy is created automatically. If I had to take an extra step, whether taking a photo or writing on a stub, I would probably not always remember to do it. There is also the issue that you might need to write a check when you don't have your smartphone with you, or it is broken or has a dead battery, etc.

There are various pros and cons of having an electronic record versus a paper record. A paper copy of a check is more vulnerable to physical loss or intrusion, but an electronic record is more vulnerable to hacking. You also have to keep the images organized somehow, and take care of data security and backups for the images. You'll have to evaluate which is the greater concern for you.

A minor side point is that check duplicates often omit the account number and obscure your signature. A photo of the original check would include both of these.

As far as "evidence", it seems to me they're both equally good evidence that you wrote the check - but that's not really that useful. In most sorts of disputes, what you would need to prove is that you actually delivered the check to the intended recipient, and neither the photo nor the paper copy is evidence of that. You could have written the check, taken your photo / copy, and then torn it up.

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  • And of course all this can be avoided if you do all your payments on-line. I've written exactly one check this year, and one last year. – jamesqf Sep 22 '17 at 4:59
  • +1 for mentioning the security issue. To me an electronic copy is much more vulnerable than a paper copy. To get to a paper copy someone has to break into your house whereas to obtain an electronic copy all a hacker has to do is to crack your WiFi or set up a fake access point and let you come to them. – DanK Sep 22 '17 at 12:33
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No, there is no downside.

I personally don't use duplicate checks. I simply make a record of the checks I write in the check register. A copy of the check, whether a duplicate or a photo, isn't really proof of payment for anyone but yourself, as it is very easy to write a check after the fact and put a different date on it.

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  • Very much disagree... there is absolutely an associated security risk to saving your bank account # on an electronic device that can be remotely hacked. – DanK Sep 22 '17 at 12:34
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    @DanK Your account number is on every check that you hand out. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Sep 22 '17 at 12:49
  • But do you show those checks to strangers on the street or only to trusted companies that you are authorizing to deduct money from your account? Personally, I rarely use checks as they are far less secure than using a credit card. But if you do deem it necessary to use a check, most people only want the intended recipient to view it. – DanK Sep 22 '17 at 14:10
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    @DanK Which scenario is more likely? (1) Malware infects your computer and searches your computer for images that look like checks, then runs OCR to find the account numbers. (2) You hand a check to a crooked store clerk. (3) Your bank's system gets hacked. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Sep 22 '17 at 14:28
  • In order: 1) You hand the check to a crooked store clerk and your account is used in a check fraud scheme 2) The cloud service you use to back up your pictures gets hacked (or) you download malware on your phone and some hacker sells your info on the dark web. 3) Your bank forgets to patch Apache Struts on an external facing website and has a massive breach of customer data – DanK Sep 22 '17 at 14:53
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When banks would return the actual physical cheque, at least you had some printing / writing from the other bank on it, as some type of not-easily-Photoshopped proof.

Now many (most?) banks don't return the actual cheques anyway, just an image of it - sometimes a low quality shrunken B&W photocopy-like image too.

You'd have to check with a lawyer or court in your area, but I suspect any photocopy or image, as well as a written or carbon-copy duplicate, would not be good enough proof for a law court, since they could all be easily re-written or Photoshopped. So I don't think there's a real upside anyway.

Only an official bank statement saying that the name/people written actually cashed the cheque might be "good evidence" (I'm having doubts that the bank's own low quality "image" would even qualify, unless it's verified as coming directly from the bank somehow).


I'd agree with Nate (+1) that a big downside could be identity theft, either online or alongside phone loss/theft.

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