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I just got on-boarded today at a new job and I wasn't satisfied with the answer from HR about why a voided check was needed. The direct deposit form I filled out had my routing and account numbers, and all that was done with my check was to scan it on a flatbed scanner and immediately hand it back to me.

I originally asked if they could use a deposit slip at the back of my checkbook which has the same account numbers and which I never use, or if they actually needed the check to exploit the magnetic print on the check assuming they'd run it through a proper check scanning device.

Is there some legal aspect to the voided check that communicates some sort of authorization to access my bank account? What's the deal with this procedure? Seems like it wastes a good check for unclear reasons.

  • 1
    If they scanned it and handed it right back to you, then I would think they only needed the account numbers. Not sure why they couldn't use a deposit slip. I didn't even need a blank check at my company - I just typed the information into a web form. – David K Jul 28 '15 at 19:22
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    But they already had that information on my direct deposit form, so I'm confused what information beyond what was on the form the check provided. I suppose it had the address of the bank maybe? – jxramos Jul 28 '15 at 19:27
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    The answer to this is company specific. Different companies will have different payroll procedures. – Myles Jul 28 '15 at 21:43
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    My deposit slips have different routing numbers than my checks. That would not work. – Michael Hampton Jul 28 '15 at 23:35
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    FWIW, the bank that I have my account generated a 'this is all the information you need' form for my employer (getting a blank check was awkward because of a move, my checks in some box somewhere, and even if I had it, the address information would be incorrect). This form was part of their standard services. – user10042 Jul 29 '15 at 20:07
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A physical check is not actually necessary, however many companies do not trust employees not to mess up the routing and account numbers and they also like the verification that they're depositing into an actual, legal bank account. Direct deposit costs your employer for every transaction (depending on how their contract works) so failed deposits have a way of really messing with the accounting systems.

It's most likely that the physical check requested is merely a company policy for these or similar accounting safety issues to prevent mistakes on their end and to ensure that your timely payment does not lead to avoidable costs and delays because someone read a number wrong, left a number out or failed to fill in the proper numbers in the proper boxes.

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    Exactly. Also, routing numbers have a 3-7-1 checksum in them to avoid entry errors, but account numbers do not, so a physical check helps ensure accuracy. Besides, if you give anyone the routing and account numbers, they already have everything they need to print a "counter check." There's really no additional security risk to the account holder. – Wesley Long Jul 28 '15 at 20:38
  • My oldest recently experienced what happens when you provide a bad account number. It ultimately delayed his check by almost 2 weeks. – NotMe Jul 28 '15 at 20:39
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    A voided check also can eliminate keying errors by the company that's doing the direct deposit -- if you just submit the numbers on a form, someone has to re-key them into their system which could be a source of error. However, if you supply a check, they can use a MICR reader to read the check with 100% accuracy. – Johnny Jul 28 '15 at 21:54
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    As an aside, it is also possible to get the verification without having a voided check. When I started at my current job, they wanted more than just a hand-filled form. I just went down to a branch of my bank and got an official direct deposit letter of some sort that they were able to print out for me on the spot. So at least with Wells Fargo there's an alternative, and I'd be surprised if other banks didn't do the same. – Togashi Jul 28 '15 at 21:56
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    At least one marketing page for MICR boasts an accuracy of 99.7%, so it seems 100% MICR accuracy is a bit fantastic, although granted 99.7% must be much more than manual keying accuracy. digitalcheck.com/news-center/newsletters/micr-accuracy-dcom – Todd Wilcox Jul 29 '15 at 12:16
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Deposit slips are intended to be used only by the bank that issued them. As such, they do not necessarily have a valid routing number nor necessarily the appropriate account number on them.

I had precisely this problem once, trying to use a deposit slip to set up direct deposit. The slip had no routing number, and had an internal account number that did not correlate with what someone external to the bank would be able to use.

As you say, once they have the routing and account number, they do not need the voided check. However, having a copy of it provided them with documentation that they have the correct numbers, in case a problem occurs.

A similar issue comes up if you go into a bank and ask a teller to read you your account number or to write it down for you, if you authenticate using a debit card. They are not allowed to do so; if they did and wrote something down wrong, the bank could be held liable for whatever problem that caused you down the line. Instead, they have the system print out the account number on a slip and hand you that.

  • I can understand that documentation aspect, same justification when you go get medical/vision/dental procedures done. Whenever there's a change of coverage they scan your medical card, because those things can change annually and not having all the nitty gritty group number, member ID, and customer service numbers and addresses on hand can be a nightmare while chasing claim snafus. My family now keeps a scanned copy of our cards after experiencing one of those snafus with a super late to file claim. – jxramos Jul 28 '15 at 19:56
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The voided blank check is not necessary, no matter what the person said, just the routing and account numbers are needed.

You can easily prove it by blanking out (with a permanent marker) everything on the check but the routing and account number and handing it in. I've personally done this and it was fine at several different shops.

It may also be that there have established onboarding procedures that actually require collecting a voided check from the new-hire and the HR/Payroll people are following them to the letter. In such situations, employees who don't follow procedures are often let go, so this is why they would adhere to such rules.

You are correct in noting that said rules are stupid -- you're already providing the number! All I can say is "welcome to the world of corporate work." Changing procedures is hard, but possible, providing you still care in a week.

  • That's sound advice, redact all the other stuff just in case it winds up in malicious hands! – jxramos Jul 28 '15 at 19:59
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    The last paragraph is key If you get fussy about stupid, inane illogical rules and focus on them you're going to have a rough time at work. If it doesn't hurt you and you have a check, give them it and move on and spend your time saved earning it (or having fun). – Michael Durrant Jul 28 '15 at 23:57
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There is nothing besides company policy that requires a blank check. They need 4 pieces of information:

  • routing number
  • account number
  • Name on the account
  • checking or savings account

Note that the last one is interesting. Yes, direct deposits can go into a savings account. Of course, those savings accounts don't have a blank voided check.

My sons have checking accounts but have never written a check, they use the debit card for everything. They have had multiple jobs and have had direct deposit with all of them. In some cases they just provided the numbers, in other cases they filled out the form themselves or even did them online.

Providing the voided check also gives the employer a verification that they didn't typo the routing number. Modern systems will immediately look up the name of the institution when the routing number is entered. One company recently used the info entered on the HR system to verify the bank, and the name associated with the account.

They are stuck using an old set of rules.

  • I had exactly the problem your sons had. In my case, the company insisted on the check. My bank gave me a slip (hand-written!) with the information on it, and that was enough to satisfy HR. – Kevin Keane Jul 29 '15 at 18:12
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Many people no longer use checks, and some banks have even stopped providing "starter checks" for certain account types and for customers that don't explicitly request them.

When faced with this situation, explain to them that you do not have a check to give them, and that you will provide the account information as required, but a voided check is not available.

This isn't an unusual situation for them to deal with, and while they use the word "required" you'll find they are generally fairly flexible about this once they understand you don't have checks to give them and aren't interested in ordering checks just to give them information you can give them without a check.

Whether you consider the difference between "I don't have any checks" and "I don't have any checks to give you" a lie or not, the reality is that they don't need the voided check.

0

Some banks use different numbers on the bottom of checks than your "account number" --- for example, your checks may prepend 0's (zeroes) before your "account number".

Some banks (as per another answer) use a slightly different number between checks and deposit slips.

A given company may request/require a copy of an actual check to ensure they don't have a problem processing the direct-deposits — which would require additional paperwork, time to resolve the matter.

From their point of view, this provides a streamlined process --- from your point of view, if the other information on your checks is something you'd prefer to keep private -- such as your driver's license number, home phone number, partner's name (if present) -- this is understandable but you may want to consider having "plainer" checks printed.

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