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With so many mobile and online payment options, you might rarely have a reason to write a check. In the event you do need a check to pay a bill or put down a deposit, you could discover the checks in the back of a drawer have an old address.
The good news is this doesn't automatically mean you have to request a new checkbook. If your checks show an old address, you may still be able to use them.
When You Can Use a Check With an Old Address
You can still use a check with an old address if it has the correct routing and account numbers. Financial institutions use routing and account numbers to identify which bank and account money should come from to pay a check.
If these numbers are valid, financial institutions can typically process the payment, and you can use the rest of the checks in the book. In the meantime, it's still a good idea to confirm that your bank is aware of your new address to ensure you receive bank statements and other important account information.
Consider also letting the check recipient know the address on the check is old and update them with the new one. Otherwise, you may not get a receipt or any other form of follow-up correspondence they send because it could be sent to your old residence.
When You Can't Use a Check With an Old Address
If your routing and account numbers have changed along with your address, you can't use the check. Without an accurate way to identify your account, the financial institution attempting to process the check won't know where to draw the money from.
Closing an account and switching bank accounts is the most obvious situation where your routing and account number may change. In this case, you'll need to order new checks. Keep in mind that knowingly writing a check from an account that's closed or has insufficient funds could be considered "writing a bad check"—a form of fraud—so it's always best to confirm a check is good before using it.
Another situation where your routing number may have changed is if your bank merged with another one. The old routing number could be retired and replaced with a new one, so ask your bank if it's still valid.
What to Do if You Need a Check
If you can't use the checks you have, here are some other options:
- Order new checks. Often, you can order checks through your online or mobile account dashboard. Check the terms of the account for details on any fees the financial institution may charge for checkbooks.
- Get a counter check. If you're pressed for time and can't wait for checks to come in the mail, some banks offer counter checks. These are blank checks from your account that you can purchase at a branch for a few dollars.
- Get a cashier's check. If you can't get a counter check, banks may offer cashier's checks, which usually come with a small fee.
- Get a money order. Purchasing a money order from the post office or elsewhere could be another quick option in a pinch.
- Consider alternative payment methods. If you're trying to give money to someone you know, you could consider signing up for a peer-to-peer money transfer app, such as Cash App or Venmo, instead of using a check. If you're paying a merchant or service provider, you could ask if you can send payments through PayPal or another service with purchase protection.
While check usage is becoming less common, it's still a form of payment that some people or service providers may request. Pulling out your checkbooks from time to time to see if they're valid can help ensure you're prepared if you are asked to write a check.