Whenever a new bank customer opens a new checking account, he or she often receives a small supply of generic checks, commonly known as starter checks. These checks rarely contain any of the customer's personal information, but they will contain all of the checking account's routing information necessary for processing. The new account holder may have to fill in the areas normally printed with his or her personal address, phone number, driver's license number and other identifiers.
Starter checks are considered by the bank to be negotiable instruments, no different than the customized printed checks customers order at a later date. But many recipients may be wary of accepting them as payment, especially if the check number is below a certain amount, typically 300. Because a checking account may be very new and the customer may not have started regular banking practices, there is a risk that the presented check could bounce due to non-sufficient funds. Some merchants have specific policies not to accept such checks from unfamiliar customers.
This reluctance to accept certain starter checks does not mean the new account holder is out of luck, however. Many people use them primarily for regular payments, such as for utility bills, rent, and loans. Companies that receive a significant number of checks on a regular basis are generally less concerned that checks of this type will be returned for insufficient funds.
Once the supply has been exhausted, the customer is free to order customized checks containing all of the essential routing and personal contact information. Some starter checks do not even have pre-printed check numbers, so the user must be especially diligent about writing and recording them in order. The new printed checks should have sequential check numbers, but there may be a gap between the number of the last starter check and the first printed check.
Starter checks may continue to have that "new car smell" for checking account holders, but it is usually best to pay only those bills that are due, and wait a few weeks for a new pack of printed checks to arrive before paying for other things by check.