What Is A Starter Check?

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You just opened a new checking account and the bank employee gave you a few blank checks she called starter checks.

Confused, you wonder what is a starter check, but don’t ask because you have other things to do.

Now here you are, searching online for the answer.

In this post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about starter checks.

What Is A Starter Check?

Your First Set Of Checks

what is a starter check

So, what is a starter check?

As the name suggests, starter checks are a type of check that you start out with when you open up a new checking account.

You might also hear them called counter checks or temporary checks.

Why is this?

While the typical checkbook is what you will inevitably receive after you open an account, the bank or credit union won’t be able to produce these types of checkbooks on demand.

Personal checks require special paper and are personalized to include all the necessary bank information as well as your name and address, phone number, and your bank account information.

As you’ve just opened your bank account, the bank doesn’t have the means to produce a traditional book of checks with all this information on it.

Instead, they start everyone off with temporary checks commonly called starter checks.

Unlike regular checks, starter checks don’t have your personal information, like your name and address, printed at the top of the check.

And they aren’t made of the same check paper.

In fact, they most resemble deposit slips that you use to put money into your bank account.

However, they do include the bank’s routing number and your checking account number needed to conduct transactions on the bottom of the check.

Starter checks will traditionally have a low check number printed on them to indicate the types of checks that they are, and the bank won’t release too many of them to you at a time.

For example, you might expect to receive around 5 starter checks when you open up a brand new checking account.

This should be enough to hold you over until your regular checkbook arrives in the mail.

Once you have them, you can use them like regular checks.

You’ll just have to write your personal information in the top left corner in addition to writing out the check to make sure that they’re able to go through. 

Where Are You Able To Use Starter Checks?

using a starter check

While starter checks may sound like financial instruments that come with their fair share of limitations, the reality is that these checks can actually be used pretty much anywhere you would write a regular check.

For example, if you find yourself in a bind at the grocery store and can’t use your debit card, your starter checks may come in handy.

With that in mind, that doesn’t mean that every place that accepts them is going to necessarily take your starter check.

Why?

With permanent checks, retailers and other places know there is a good chance that the check is legitimate and is tied to your bank account.

While there’s always the possibility of a check bouncing, there’s less likelihood of them dealing with fraud because they know your checks come from your bank.

Starter checks on the other hand, carry much more risk because they could potentially be fraudulent.

Also, because everyone knows you get starter checks when you first open new accounts, merchants can be reluctant to accept them because they don’t know if the checking account tied to the check has money in the account to cover the check.

When a checking account has insufficient funds, the check gets returned to the person who tried to cash or deposit and they are usually charges a fee.

Also, because you write the personal information yourself, the merchant can confirm who the account holder truly is.

As a result, not everyone is willing to take starter checks.

Making sure that you have your debit card, credit card, or cash on hand is essential no matter what type of shopping trip you’re making. 

Looking to cash a check?

The best way to find out whether or not you’re going to be able to use your starter checks is to do a bit of online research or to reach out to the place you need to go.

Simply ask if they accept starter checks before you head over. 

You will find many places do not accept starter checks anymore, like many grocery stores, simply because of the risk.

For example, the answer to the question does Walmart accept starter checks, the answer is no they do not.

Retailers that do accept them go through a lengthy verification process to limit potential loss on their end.

This includes asking for photo ID, usually writing your driver’s license number on the check, and even calling the bank to ensure the account has funds available.

Some retailers might even ask you to write your Social Security Number on the back of the check.

The good news is that you can pay most of your monthly bills, including utility bills, with starter checks without issue.

What Should I Do With Starter Checks?

So, the best question to ask when you’re learning more about starter checks isn’t necessarily whether or not you can use them, but what you should do with them in the meantime. 

In this day and age, checks are almost obsolete.

The majority of the time, people pay with cash or credit card.

Even if you’re waiting for a new debit card to arrive in the mail, digital payment options like Apple Pay make it easy for you to access cards before the physical versions even get to you.

What about checks?

New checks might take a week or two to get to you as well, but you likely won’t need to write a check in that period of time.

If you do, you always have your starter checks to fall back on. 

However, the best piece of advice for those with starter checks may simply be to wait.

If you can go your first few weeks without having to use your starter checks, you don’t run the risk of being turned away by some retailers.

Nothing is worse than going through the process of shopping only to find out that the tools you currently have aren’t accepted.

Then, once your new checkbook comes in, you have the permanent checks you need that you can make out to someone with confidence. 

Another option is to ask the bank if they have access to an in-house printing solution.

Some banks are able to make temporary checks look like traditional checks by printing your name and address on them.

The downside to this is there is usually a small fee for doing so.

But if you know you will be writing checks before your checkbook arrives, this could be worth the cost.

Final Thoughts

Put simply, starter checks are simply to tide you over in the event that you need to write a check before your customized checks come in the mail.

They can be both great when you find yourself in a bind and not as useful if you find yourself trying to write one to a company that may not accept it.

While there are drawbacks to using starter checks, especially since most retailers won’t accept them, you can still use them to pay monthly bills.

And you can also use the information on them, like your account number and the bank routing number, to set up online bill pay services or direct deposit if interested.

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