A checkbook might feel like a financial relic, but it has a relevant place in today’s world. It serves as a hard copy of your financial moves and allows you to time when your bills are paid. Automatic payments are convenient, but can cause chaos if they’re scheduled at an inopportune time. To reap all the benefits a checkbook can offer, it’s important to keep it safe.
Protect your records
Thieving hands are greedy, so be sure to carry your checkbook in your purse or bag only when necessary. It contains personal information, and thieves would relish the opportunity to get a hold of your account number and address to drain your funds or use your identifying details to open their own account or credit card.
Online payments are efficient, but can be somewhat cumbersome to track. Yes, you can still get a statement from your credit card company, but you’ll need to wait until the end of the month. An emailed receipt is nice, but do you take the time to file it or does it just float in your inbox? A checkbook register, however, is an immediate and concrete record of where your money went and when.
“If there is ever a question about whether or not you paid a bill or received a refund for an item, referring to the check ledger keeps everything (no pun intended) in check,” writes The Balance writer Erin O’Neil.
Back in the day, choosing what color, cartoon character or pattern to distinguish your checks was of utmost importance. And even though you can still choose your favorite team logo, landscape picture or other design to personalize your checks, it’s more important that the checks you choose boast specific security features.
To avoid becoming a victim of check fraud, you’ll want checks created by a trusted financial institution or printer. A website offering the “cheapest checks in town” is not the right place to hand over your money, even if the deal seems too good to miss. Your checks should boast security features such as holographic seals not easily reproduced, complex designs on the back and microprinted words that thwart counterfeiting efforts, according to Bankrate writer Claes Bell. Other measures include ultraviolet-reactive paper, which reveals information only accessible from a black light used by a bank teller; and markings, ink or paper that react in specific situations.
“Most personal checks don’t have all these features, but they usually do have enough to meet the industry standard for check security: certification by the Check Payment Systems Association, or CPSA, denoted by a padlock icon on the front, next to the amount line,” Bell writes.
A checkbook may not be the fanciest tool to manage your funds, but sometimes putting pen to paper and doing the math is the best way to make sense of your budget and finances. And whatever tool you use to manage your money, on and offline, should be fortified with safeguards you can see and trust.