Even though online payment solutions provide fast and secure ways to pay bills (like via ACH), business checks are still a staple of many businesses' bill pay. In 2019, checks accounted for 42% of business-to-business (B2B) transactions.
So if checks are still a part of your day-to-day, this article is for you. Here are some commonly asked questions about business checks and, better yet, the answers.
What's the difference between business checks and personal checks?
First, the name gives it away: Personal checks are for personal use and are drawn from an individual's account. Business checks are written against a business checking account and used for business payments, such as paying expenses, utilities, and buying goods and services from vendors and suppliers.
Other differences between business and personal checks are in:
- Size and appearance: business checks are larger (8″ x 3-5″) than personal checks (5″ -6x2″) and aim to look more professional. They usually have the business' logo printed on them as part of their branding.
- Security: business checks usually provide an added layer of security to the standard protection measures in personal checks, such as anti-copy technology, watermarks, holograms, and thermochromic ink.
- Cashing the check: while cashing a personal check is pretty straightforward, it's trickier to cash a business check. Business checks are made out to a business, so some banks won't easily allow you to cash them even if you're the business owner. It depends, among other things, on how your business is formed (sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC) and if its DBA (Doing Business As) name is identical to your own name.
Are checks safe?
According to the Association for Financial Professionals, checks were the payment method “most impacted by fraud activity in 2020,” with a 66% share of all payment fraud cases. Researchers at Georgia State University also found that mail-related check fraud has increased by 300% since August 2021.
Checks do have various protection measures, but they carry an inherent risk as they're still physical pieces of paper. They can be misplaced, lost, stolen, or tampered with. For more on the risks and security measures related to checks, read our comprehensive article on the safety of checks vs. ACH and wire transfers.
Can I pay business expenses with personal checks?
Theoretically, yes, you can. But you really shouldn't. When using personal checks, you're mixing your business and personal accounts, which is a recipe for a mess. It can lead to bookkeeping mix-ups and affect your credibility as a business owner. Business checks also have more safety features than personal checks, making your transactions more secure and fraud-proof. So we generally recommend you stick to business checks for your business.
Do checks expire?
Yes… kind of. Article 4-404 of the Uniform Commercial Code allows banks to refuse to pay a check if more than six months have passed from the check’s date of issue. Still, they have the discretion to pay, if they decide to.
How much do business checks cost?
The checks themselves aren't that expensive and can start from a few cents per standard check when buying in bulk. Naturally, the more features and security measures they have, the more they cost.
However, the cost of using business checks doesn't end with buying them. You still need to fill them out, sign them and mail them. It all adds up to time and money. Bank of America found that the aggregate cost of sending a single check is $4-20. Now, if you pay most of your business expenses with checks, that's a hefty expense.
Can I print my own business checks?
Yes, you can! And it's not even that complicated. You'll need a printer, suitable paper, magnetic ink, and check-printing software, but once you're set up, you'll be able to print checks in no time.
But it begs the question, why would you? The main cost of checks is not buying the actual checks but all the other stuff that comes with them. So if you only use a few checks a month, setting up this entire operation makes little sense. On the other hand, if you need to use lots of checks, get ready to spend time and money stocking up on paper and ink, and paying for printer maintenance. You probably have better things to spend your time on.
Is there a better way to use business checks?
Yes, there is. Instead of buying checks, printing them, sending them over the mail, getting them lost in the mail, and all that, Melio's free service takes care of all check delivery for you.
With Melio, you can control how you pay your vendors and the way they get paid. For example, you can pay an invoice online with an ACH transfer (for free) or a credit card* (2.9% fee), and Melio will send a paper check for the amount to your vendor. This means:
- No more wasting time on writing, sending, and tracking checks.
- No more wasting money buying checks, stamps, and envelopes. Sending checks with Melio is free, and there are no monthly costs or subscription fees whatsoever.
- Way better security since the check doesn't have your banking details on it, and check forgery or alteration is not a problem.
Hopefully, with these questions answered, you'll know how to make the best decision about the payment methods most suitable for your business.
*Subject to card network limitations