It seems like hardly anyone uses checks anymore. Once standard issue at banks all over the world, checks rarely make an appearance at stores. Many bank account holders don’t even bother to order checks. With automated services like BillPay and instant money transfer services such as Paypal and Venmo, there are simply few opportunities to use a check.
Because checks are rarely used, you might not know the difference between a personal and business check. If you’re starting a business or you’re opening a new checking account, you’ll want to make the distinction.
The easiest way to distinguish between personal and business checks is the size. Business checks are much larger than personal checks. They’re usually the size of a half a sheet of standard 8.5”x11” paper.
The size is primarily to make it easy for companies to print them right in the office using special software and paper. Cheap business checks like this make it easier for businesses to meet payroll. Everyone used to get paid via a business check, so when corporations had to print hundreds of paychecks, it was easier to make it the size of a standard sheet of paper. It also makes it easier to mail because it fits in a legal-sized envelope.
Personal checks are typically about the size of a US dollar bill. This makes it easy for them to fit in your wallet. It also makes it easy for you to carry around a checkbook just in case you need to write a personal check.
Handwritten versus printed
Business checks have a professional appearance. They are almost always printed instead of handwritten. Usually, a company will print a check that’s all filled out directly from the computer. In some cases, the check details can be handwritten, but the outline of the check will be printed. In every case, the signature must be real and present to validate the business check.
Personal checks, on the other hand, are almost always handwritten. This can present some challenges because you have to get the amounts and details just right or it can invalidate the check. Children used to learn how to fill out a check in school so that they would make fewer mistakes when writing checks from their personal accounts one day.
Another key difference is the appearance. Personal checks are typically more fun to look at. You can select pretty much any style and pattern. Many personal check printers also allow you to personalize your checks with photos of your family or your pets.
Business checks are much less visually interesting. They’re supposed to look professional, typically with a plain blue or green background. The design is simple, yet functional, so that it lends to the credibility of the institution that it came from.
The design really has no bearing on the validity of the check. A business could print a design on their checks if they chose to, and the transaction would still be valid. However, most choose not to because they don’t want to appear unprofessional.
Another important feature of business checks is the enhanced security features when compared with personal checks. Businesses must protect their accounts and employees from fraud, so the technology to print valid checks is quite sophisticated.
Business checks may include a variety of security features including fluorescent fibers, holograms, heat sensitive ink, or watermarks. Since business checks can be printed, this prevents forgeries from unauthorized users. Because of the complexity of security measures, this is one reason that business checks are often plainly designed.
Personal checks often have a layer of security on the signature box on the back side, but it’s not as sophisticated or as intense as what you’ll find with business checks.
If you own a business, it’s important to know the difference of having separate business and personal checking accounts for the safety and security of your finances.