Personal checks and paper currency: sizes
May 22, 2005 9:36 PM   Subscribe

In the U.S., personal checks and paper currency are the same size. So I've been wondering- is there an international standard size for personal checks? Or, do checks issued in one particular country match up with that country's currency? (And what about places like China, where the bills are all different sizes?) Thanks in advance for helping me sleep at night.
posted by elisabeth r to Society & Culture (11 answers total)
I can only speak for Japan where there is no standard size for personal checks as they do not exist.
posted by mexican at 10:32 PM on May 22, 2005

I believe that there is no legal standard for check size, in the US at least. Even those monstrous bristleboard checks shown at charity events are actually legal (although they are just for show and followed with a regular check in reality). Check size is mostly a matter of convenience for the banks so that they can automatically process them.
posted by caddis at 11:10 PM on May 22, 2005

Check sizes aren't standard in the US. Bill sizes are all varied with the Euro.
posted by Goofyy at 11:32 PM on May 22, 2005

Cheques are a standard size (or at least, most of them are the same size) in the UK but I don't think they correspond to any paper currency. Our bill sizes vary with denomination, which is an infinitely better system to rummaging around for a twenty in a wallet full of dollar bills.
posted by cillit bang at 3:08 AM on May 23, 2005

Not every country uses checks as much as in the US. The only place I have been that uses checks as much is France. In Hungary, for example, there are no personal checks, and outside of France I have never seen them in use in continental Europe.
posted by zaelic at 3:23 AM on May 23, 2005

While standard-issue chequebooks in the UK are all the same size, legally there is no set size.
The cheques my company issues to suppliers each week are all slightly larger than standard personal cheques.
posted by anagrama at 3:37 AM on May 23, 2005

Under the Uniform Commercial Code, a negotiable instrument is "an "unconditional promise or order to pay a fixed amount of money, with or without interest or other charges described in the promise or order." If both your bank and the payee's bank allowed it, you could write a letter containing the order instead of using a standard check. (They might not allow that, however.)

I don't imagine you would have any trouble whatsoever using a personal check in the U.S. that was on larger-than-normal stock, such as that sometimes used for business checks.
posted by grouse at 5:25 AM on May 23, 2005

Daytime TV game shows have led me to believe that checks can be any size.
posted by alana at 6:04 AM on May 23, 2005

Yes, checks can be any size, on any paper. If you write one on a paper towel using crayons, it's legal in the U.S., so long as you include the account number and all the other information that's on a regular check. IIRC, somebody paid their income taxes with a check written on toilet paper.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:04 AM on May 23, 2005

They don't do checks in Germany either. Instead, personal bank transfers are initiated, which are different from checks, somehow (less paperwork involved, no signature?) but I don't know the details.
posted by Rash at 7:42 AM on May 23, 2005

Yes, checks can be any size, on any paper.

Which, while true, does not change the fact that the large majority of personal checks in North America are, in fact, a standard size. Banks will charge you additional fees if you don't use standard sized, properly encoded cheques with all the information in all the expected places.

In Brazil, 10 years ago when I lived there, personal cheques were very common. The cheques were very long compared to North American ones, and slightly thinner. They bore no relationship whatsoever to the size of any of the recent currencies, so far as I could tell. They were certainly not the same size as the Real, which they had just begun using at the time.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:10 AM on May 23, 2005

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