The Death of Cheques

Unpopular opinion here, personally I still really enjoy going down to the bank and actually talking to a human being. I’ve used internet banking with my bank since 2009, however, every now and then I actually enjoy going down to the bank and see what’s going on, which usually isn’t a lot but hey… at least it gets me out the house. The last time I was in my local bank i was greeted and asked what I needed, to which I replied I needed to bank a cheque, which was subsequently met by the following question:

“Birthday is it?”

I wondered and asked how the guy working at the bank knew it had been my birthday recently.

“Grandparents are the only people left that use and send cheques, typically for birthdays and Christmas”

The chap who worked there obviously encountered this situation a lot as he was completely correct. I was there to cash in a cheque I had received from my grandparents for my birthday. So I duly cashed my cheque headed home and made lunch. But the conversation, the comment the guy at the bank made has stuck with me. He’s got a point. I can’t really think of a situation in the last 5 years, or even the last 10 years, where I’ve received a cheque or had to write a cheque for somebody. Traveller’s cheques which were all the range in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s have pretty much died a death. The likes of Monzo, Starling and Tide have made accessing cash in foreign countries both free (or at least cheap) and easy as using your normal debit card. Here in the UK it’s only been a birthday or Christmas where I’ve received a cheque. Even when I was a student with a variety of different overdrafts and thus having a need to physically be present at a number of retail bank locations I scarcely remember anyone holding a cheque or writing one out on the counter.

This led me to think about the “Why?” behind cheques, as a mechanism and form of payment have died out. Sure, there’s the obvious introduction of debit cards and then “Chip and Pin” but this still would only, in my view, account for relatively small transactions. My guess and thinking is that previously if you were going to be conducting a large expenditure, say over £500, you would and could do this with a cheque as it offered a form of security. Even in the early 2000’s “Chip and Pin” was still relatively new and we were all wary of it as a form payment, as opposed to the trusty old cheque.

The main reason seems to be the ease of online banking and just how easy it has become to transfer large sums of money for those higher value purchases. Combine this with the fact that we all now buy the majority of our purchases online, which obviously negates the need for physical cheque and you can see why they have died out. Actually I don’t even know if places other than banks still use cheques, as in, are they even an acceptable form of payment anymore? I doubt it and it does still make me laugh when I see the occasional shop sign “Cheques Not Accepted” as if they get 5 customers, or even 1 customer per day who wants to pay with such a method.

So this new year I’ll be hoping to head back to the bank to cash my cheque in the knowledge that sometime in the next 10, maybe even 5 years, this antiquated form of money exchange will be gone.

Cheques are dead. Long live the cheque.

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