How to Get a Copy of Canceled Checks
There are rare occasions when you want to see a past check that was issued from your checking account.
When you deposit a check at a bank, the bank will use that check to request payment from the bank that issued that check.
Because checks rely on there being a paper trail to prove the identity of the payer and payee, banks will keep copies of deposited checks in their records.
You’re allowed to visit your bank and ask for a copy of checks that have been deposited by the people you’ve paid.
Though it’s not common, there are a few reasons that you might want to see an image of the deposited checks -- and there are fees involved.
Here’s the best way to go about getting a copy of a canceled check.
What is a Canceled Check?
The term canceled check can be a bit confusing when you first encounter it.
A canceled check sounds like a check that you wrote and then "stopped" (known as a stop payment) so that the recipient cannot deposit it into their bank account. However, the opposite is true.
A canceled check is a check that was successfully deposited. When someone deposits a check at a bank, the depositing institution will go to the bank that issued the check.
It will use that check to show that the issuing bank owes money to the depositing bank.
Once the depositing bank receives the money, the check has been fulfilled.
It cancels the fulfilled check so that it cannot accidentally request payment for the same check twice.
So really, a canceled check is a check that has been deposited successfully, not one that cannot be deposited.
Canceled Check vs. Returned Check
Another term you might hear when discussing checks is “returned check.” This is another term whose meaning is not immediately clear.
A returned check is a check that is returned to the depositing bank without payment. The depositing bank will take the check to the bank that issued it.
If the issuing bank finds that the person who signed the check does not have enough money in their account to cover the amount on the check, the check will be returned to the depositing bank without any money.
This is bad news for everyone involved.
Usually, the process of getting a check returned takes longer than it takes for banks to credit someone’s account for a check deposit.
The depositing bank will have to remove the money from the depositor’s account and explain the situation.
The person who wrote the check will also face trouble. Banks don’t like it when you write a check that is returned. Usually, there are hefty fees when you write a check for more than you have in your account.
Don’t forget that the person who you gave the check will also be coming back to get the money that you owe them.
How to Get a Copy of Canceled Checks?
Now that you know what a canceled check is, you’ll want to know how you can get a copy of your canceled checks. You have a couple of options available to you.
Ask the bank
The most direct way to get a copy of your canceled checks is to ask your bank. The exact process will vary from bank to bank.
To get the process started, visit the local branch of your bank and ask a teller if you can get a copy of your canceled checks. It helps if you know what timeframe you’d like checks from, or if you know the specific check that you are looking for.
The teller will either be able to provide the canceled checks to you after a short wait or will be able to tell you the process for requesting copies of canceled checks.
You may have to send a request through the mail to the bank’s main office to get the copies.
Often, there is a fee for getting a copy of canceled checks. The size of the fee varies from bank to bank, but they tend to be sizable enough that it’s only worth requesting copies of canceled checks if you have a reason to need them.
Comparing Fees for Copies of Canceled Checks
|Bank||Copy of Canceled Check Fee|
|Bank of America||$3 (called the check image fee)|
|Citibank||$5 (waived for Citigold and Citi Priority Account Package)|
|Fifth Third Bank||$5|
|Union Bank||$5 ($3 by phone)|
|BMO Harris||$5 (first three checks are free)|
Check Your Online Account
With the advent of internet banking, many financial tasks have gotten far easier.
Most banks have started digitizing canceled checks and storing them electronically rather than keeping physical copies.
If you have an online account that you can use to access your bank account, there’s a good chance that you can access your canceled checks through your online banking account.
Typically, when you view your statements, you’ll see your check transactions listed alongside all of the other transactions made in your account.
If you check the transaction details for check payments, you should be able to view an image or scan of the canceled check. You can download or print that image and store it for your records.
Most banks do not charge a fee for getting copies of canceled checks through your online account, so this is the way to go if you want to avoid fees.
Why You Would Need a Copy of a Canceled Check
So, why would you need to request a copy of a canceled check in the first place? There are a few reasons.
Proof of payment
One of the most obvious reasons that you would want a copy of a canceled check is that it functions as proof of payment.
Imagine this scenario:
Your landlord is claiming that you didn’t pay your rent. You log into your online banking account and download an image of a canceled check made out to your landlord, for the full amount of your rent. This image will prove that your landlord deposited a check that you wrote, and will show the date that the check was deposited.
In this way, you can use canceled checks to prove that you paid someone using a check and that the person received the payment.
Verify the check was deposited by actual payee
Canceled checks can be used to prove that a check was deposited properly, by the correct person.
When you request a copy of a canceled check, an image of the front check isn’t the only thing that you’ll see.
You’ll be able to see the signature of the person who deposited the check and, possibly, information about who deposited it and where it was deposited it.
You might find that the wrong person deposited the check, or that the money was credited to the wrong account.
You copy of a canceled check can be useful when it comes to correcting these types of errors, or figuring out whether a check was given to the wrong person.
Review details written on the check
The front of a check is uniform from bank to bank.
You have to write the name of the person you’re paying, the date, and the amount that you are paying the person. You also have to sign the check to prove that you are the person who wrote it.
Most checks also contain a memo field. This field is optional but can be used to write notes about what the check is for.
Returning to the landlord example we used above, maybe your landlord claims that the check he deposited was for the previous month’s rent and that he simply took some time to deposit it.
If you include a memo on each check indicating which months’ rent you are paying, you can use your canceled checks to see the memos and show which months you made payments for.
Being able to view the details from the front of a canceled check can also be important for other reasons.
For example, if the wrong amount of money is removed from your account you can read the front of the canceled check to see whether you made an error when writing it or if the bank made an error when transferring funds.
Check fraud or forgery
You can use copies of canceled checks to check for fraud or forgery.
If money is removed from your account because someone deposited a check that you don’t remember writing, ask for a copy of the canceled check.
You can compare the way that the check is written with the way that you usually write checks.
You might be able to notice a difference in the handwriting or simply a difference in the style that is used when putting details on the check or using the memo field.
Being able to show that the canceled check differs significantly from other checks that you have written can be helpful when conducting an investigation into check fraud or forgery.
Most people don’t have a reason to need copies of canceled checks, but there are situations where they can be useful.
Understanding what a canceled check is, how to get one, and when you might need one, can save you some headaches if you ever wind up in a situation where you need to provide one.