/ Money

Why’s it so hard to get hold of a chequebook?

Chequebook and bank card

I remember a time not so long ago when my bank sent me a new chequebook on a semi-regular basis. Does your bank still send you chequebooks?

When the cheque was saved last year there was much rejoicing from both consumers and businesses. But new research from Which? Money has found that banks are making it more difficult for people to get hold of a chequebook.

When we called 18 banks and building societies, just two (Nationwide and the Co-operative Bank) said that they send out a chequebook automatically to their standard account customers.

All the others say you have to request one, apart from Coventry Building Society which doesn’t offer a chequebook. It says you can request a cheque over the phone or in branch whenever you need one.

I’m going to throw it out there; I personally don’t think this is such a bad thing.

Do you like cheques, mate?

I found the steady stream of chequebooks dropping on my doormat a little annoying, especially as I don’t tend to make much use of them. I thought it a waste of money, postage and packaging.

However, I am someone who prefers to do the majority of my banking online and I realise that my view is unlikely to be shared by all, especially those who told us on Which? convo that you write cheques on a regular basis, either for personal payments or for business.

While I might agree with the principle behind the banks’ move, I think they are going about it in the wrong way.

By simply putting a stop to chequebooks being sent out automatically to all customers seems short-sighted, especially when confidence in the banks is at an all-time low.

Writing off the cheque

Many people don’t want to have to make regular journeys to their local branch or pick up the phone just to order a chequebook, so why don’t the banks just ask us whether we want to keep receiving them automatically?

A cynic (me!) might suggest that the decision not to send chequebooks out is a way of causing cheque usage to decline at an even more rapid rate than it currently is. And by discouraging the practice it will help add weight to industry calls to write off cheques once and for all.

Do you think banks are right to stop sending out chequebooks automatically, or are you happy to just receive a chequebook at your request?


Banks should charge for chequebooks. It’s wrong that customers who don’t use costly paper-based payments are subsidising those who do. Cheques are archaic, costly to administer and no longer necessary given the number of less costly alternatives.

I have only 3 cheques left in my chequebook and the year space is prefixed with “19”. The next full chequebook is the same. That’s how long ago I stopped using cheques because better alternatives were introduced.

No, cheques are not archaic. I was one of the many who argued that they should be saved. Sometimes there are charges to use credit cards and even debit cards but I have never encountered charges for using cheques.

Dominic says:
22 May 2013

Some people seem to be suffering from an “I am the World” fallacy, if you don’t use cheques then fine but whether you like it or not there are many services I encounter where the only alternative would be sending cash or postal order (if they even exist now) through the post. When I have offered to pay using Paypal etc it is enlightening how many people do not have a computer and that is before you consider that all these kinds of methods are not free – even though it is popularly assumed that they are.
It is simply not good enough to say “don’t do business with them then” – a valuable and flexible free method of payment that does not need complex systems in place is always going to be required – whether the banks like it or not. This is why their attempt to get rid of cheques failed.

Audrey Polkinghorn says:
10 December 2016

I’m afraid you’re wrong as cheque payments to energy companies and other service industry do charge more for this payment method. The energy industry charges around £200 a year more. Surely its all our choices to pay the way we want. Many older people do not or can not use modern methods, IT etc. so give us a break and let us pay the way we want to. I’m 74 years old and refer to pay bills as I have always done.

I don’t use cheques much and had not realised that cheque books are not sent out automatically. I have just logged on to Natwest electronic banking and ordered one, which was very easy. It’s easy to order one by phone too.

I have banked with Nationwide BS for many years, and still visit B&B’s and use local traders who don’t accept cheques. I certainly wouldn’t carry enough cash to pay them.
Nationwide only sends new cheque books when the present one is almost finished – simples !!
My wife banks with one of the big 5 banks and they operate the same system.

Re my last comment.
It should hsve read b&b’s and local traders DONT Accept credit cards.
Sorry about that.

nfh mentions the existence of plenty of alternatives to cheques without actually spelling them out. I am very conscious that with on-line electronic systems being shown repeatedly to be fallible there is not much of a safety net.

I use cheques sparingly and my Bank does not seem to send them automatically. But cheques are useful for sending money for birthdays when asking for a persons Bank details may seem presumptuous and spoil the surprise element. I prefer to pay tradesmen by cheque as there is always the chance to stop a cheque if required.

There are many good reasons for people to have an alternative paymnet system rather than go electronic and effectively pay a levy to the card companies. A credit card payment will be 1.5 to 4.5% of a purchase price. Who do you think ends up paying that?

Get rid of cheques – if you are a banker with a card payment services arm you would be stupid not to push cards as it earns you money whereas cheques do not. Which? seems a bit blind to this.

BTW whats with “convo”? An ugly abbreviation. Cannot Which? think of something better for these threads on this bulletin board?

I must admit, I’m not a fan of cheques, Got a couple for my birthday 3 weeks ago, and I still haven’t been near a bank to pay the in yet. Certainly cash would have been much better. Having said that they’ll get cheques for Xmas now, giving me a few extra days interest on the money.

Thanks for reminding me that I have to bank some cheques. I just put them in the branch letterbox when I’m passing.

Cash is not much use if you are sending your gift by post. I’ve ordered a new cheque book ready for Christmas.

If I was creative I could spend hours choosing presents that recipients could probably exchange for something they might like. 🙂

David says:
19 October 2012

not sending chequebooks out automatically is a good thing as many people use them rarely, and they are an extra risk of fraud – it is scandalous they are sent out automatically without having to be signed for and we all pay for that. banks shouldnt send out new cards automatically either without requiring them to be activated. and cheques are a waste of trees.

and it’s a market, if there is a demand for accounts that always send out cheques automatically, somebody will create it or sell their account based on that feature

as for costs for alternatives that are transaction based – well cheques represent a past of all inclusive bank accounts, where some things were free no matter how much or how little they were used, and it’s unfair that a small number of people using cheques a lot should be subsidised by those who dont

so people should have to opt in to receive new chequebooks automatically, and this should only happen when a chequebook is reaching say the last 10 cheques

at the same time banks are doing this for profit, not for us

if Which is serious about getting value for us from banks, it should be campaigning that they [and building societies] should always or at least once a year automatically be offering us a change to the best saving rate/account, not allowing money to sit in old low rate accounts. getting them to publish information [on their bewilderingly complex array of products] is, like the energy suppliers, just not good enough as we all know how poor their service can be so folk are reluctant to risk enduring the risk of the pain that switching can involve

why not campaign for opt-out of [replacing with electronic] all the junk mail and all the annual statements and all the ‘revised terms and conditions’ paper waste that we get from banks, credit card co.s and others

par ailleurs says:
19 October 2012

I must admit I’m no fan of cheques and only use them if all else fails. Most reputable tradesmen who are working for you now accept an online bank transfer. I use this method myself with the small number of private pupils I still teach. The parents are much happier with the arrangement and I get my money quicker.
There will of course still be some people (mostly older?) who still don’t use the internet and we have to make allowances for them for some time yet. I must take issue with those who don’t use online systems of payment out of concerns for security though. My PC is pretty secure and the systems used by banks are very secure. The recent banking problems were temporary and while very inconvenient for those affected, posed no security threat. The postal service however is a disaster waiting to happen and it would be far more likely for a cheque to fall into the hands of fraudsters than my online transactions.
Let’s gradually and sensitively get to the point where the use of cheques is so small that they can be discontinued. They belong with pounds, shillings and pence and fees charged in guineas.

Please have a look at the earlier Conversations where many reasons were presented for keeping cheques. There are many situations where cash or cheque are the only practical options if you work for a charity. For example, what happens when someone wants to buy something at a village fete on a playing field?

I don’t want to use cheques and don’t do so if there is a sensible alternative but sometimes there is none – if you discount handling a lot of cash as being sensible.

I’ve just realised we are supposed to be discussing cheque books, but it was inevitable that the discussion would drift to the role of cheques. 🙂

Sorry to disappoint you, but since the advent of PIN cards, internet banking and the reduced use of cheques, bank fraud has actually risen very considerably.

The largest part of this is, I admit, due to the UK opting for a very inferior (and, no surprise, very cheap) chip and PIN system compared to those used elsewhere in the world.

With my Information Technology Professional’s hat on I can tell you that banking fraud on the Internet is one of the most common mis-uses of IT.

I write few cheques, but I am a vociferous campaigner to keep them.

As for the topic of this convo: I am delighted to tell you thatNat West still send me a new cheque book as soon as I use the 20th out of 30 in the current one. That means I get a new cheque book about every 3 moths these days. I have not had to ask for this service and it’s one thing that I can say in Natwest’s favour.

I fully endorse Wavechange’s and Dave D’s comments here. I don’t use many cheques and Nationwide only supplies a new book when I am near the end of a book. I’m sorry if other bank account customers feel that they are unfairly subsidising me but that’s the way it is. You might say we are all subsidising the maintenance of high street branches but even though I don’t go in one very often I would protest strongly if they closed.

My small town [pop. 7000] has six banks and two building society branches in the main thoroughfares. I went in Barclays today and it was virtually empty – just two positions staffed and only two customers. It occupies a large and handsome building and has been refurbished at considerable expense. Are we to say that use of these premises should only be made available on payment of an entry fee? Banking is a comprehensive sevice and once you start spitting out the bits you don’t like the justification for the whole starts to fall away.

As an old fuddy-duudy with 4 computers and two lap-tops, and a keen interesrt in redundancy in economic life I thought you may want to know how the banking industry feels about payment cards.


There is surely an implicit this is not as safe as you think it is here:

“The card is designed for “banking institutions that necessitate a higher level of security for their online banking services require the use of a separate authentication token or device,” according to a press release from MasterCard.”

The RBS automatically sends out new cheque books to its customers when they are just about to run out of cheques, as it’s always done and as it should. (As an aside the new books are much thinner than they used to be to reflect the fact that we all now write fewer or no cheques at all.) By default, if customers don’t use cheques anymore, the RBS doesn’t send them new cheque books anymore. This system sounds perfect by me.

I opened a Nationwide account recently and was issued a cheque book without having to ask for one (excellent, I need it). I will see is they are as efficient as the RBS when I’m about to run out of cheques.

I tend to receive more cheques than I write. I generally use a separate slip for each cheque I pay in for ease of checking my statement. I don’t think I ever received a new paying-in book without asking, but it’s just as easy as asking for a new cheque book.

Well, almost as easy. I realise that my bank’s cash dispensers don’t offer the option to order a paying-in book. That has always been the case, as far as I can remember. The Natwest cheque books do contain some paying-in slips.

Consider also the environmental impact of cheques. Issuing chequebooks wastes a lot of paper for transactions that could be carried out without any paper. Many cheques go unused, so banks should not issue chequebooks by default to customers who haven’t asked for one.

Interesting environmental point regarding cheques. As far as I know when I did use to get a cheque book renewed it was only when I had 5 or 10 cheques left. The big advantage of course is that they never become out-of-date and need replacing so I still have a cheque book that is 4 years old and effective which is not something you can say about my cards.

Incidentally can Which? not be hosted on a site that uses English spelling? Or is it my browser?

I don’t understand your comparison of durability between cards and cheques. Each card is used for multiple transactions whereas each cheque is used for only one transaction.

Sorry for butting in cheque and the books they come in can probably be recycled being made out of paper, I bet most plastic cards end up in little bits in a landfill.

I think it might be over the top to worry about the environmental impact of use of paper for cheques. What about the much larger amount of paper used to produce junk mail that goes unread and paper used for newspapers and free advertising papers? Gone are the days when your local bank will print and bind a cheque book while you wait, so there is the environmental impact of delivering the cheque book from where it is printed. That could be a lot more significant.

I’m quite happy with having to request a cheque book, but even when my bank used to send one out when I had used more than half the cheques in a book I did not have any waste.

Maybe we should start worrying about more serious problems. Perhaps we should be worried about the amount of paper used to produce special issue postage stamps. 🙂

I have 3 credit cards and a debit card and two of the credit cards are kept solely for emergency use and are barely used year in and year out. This to the extent I have twice had to have words with the issuers for cancelling the DD monthly payment to clear – they say they have to if they are not used once a year.!

Lets face it, the banks have an agenda to move us to the most profitable payment system for them. It may have convenience for us but for them as it is a percentage they gain by rising prices and yet benefit from ever cheaper processing costs.
The above fees exclude the terminal service fees etc.

Of course this also helps:
“Impulse Buying / Trading Up
– if you only take cash, then your customer can only spend what they have in their pocket. If they can use their debit or credit card then they are not as restricted and will often spend more money or make an impulse purchase.”

The question about retaining cheques has been thoroughly debated and resolved – they are here to stay for the forseeable. The question is about getting them automatically. I also use Nationwide, write few cheques, and welcome receiving a new book when mine is nearing the end – I could easily forget to request one otherwise. Maybe banks should charge for processing them (I believe some accounts used to), but the whole banking charging structure is also under debate and this would just be a part of it.
Incidentally, if you don’t use online banking, and the person you want to pay does not have the means of accepting credit or debit card payments (presumably all individuals and many small businesses, charities etc., sports clubs etc etc) just how do you pay them apart from cash? Its all been said before.
Nothing to do with cheques, but David would like to be notified by his bank if a better interest rate is launched; coincidentally I had a letter from Nationwide addressing exactly this point – if I register my interest they say they will do just that. Still best to search other banks though for the best deal.

“Incidentally, if you don’t use online banking, and the person you want to pay does not have the means of accepting credit or debit card payments (presumably all individuals and many small businesses, charities etc., sports clubs etc etc) just how do you pay them apart from cash?” – The payer can send a bank transfer. There are several of ways of instructing your bank to send a transfer; online banking is only one of them. Telephone banking or visiting a branch are examples of other ways.


I must admit that I had not considered telephone banking for making payments to a charity at a village fete in the middle of a field. Or maybe we could invite a bank to have a stand at the event.

What a pity I can’t win you round because there are so many other things we agree about. 🙂

nth – while there are alternative ways, why seek to ban a system that is easy to use, works well, and doesn’t need a trip to the bank? Horses for courses – if we like using cheques then don’t seek to hamper it. I would venture to suggest that for older people who are familiar with them it is a very easy way to transfer money.

“why seek to ban a system that is easy to use, works well, and doesn’t need a trip to the bank” – When someone gives you a cheque, it does require a trip to the bank (or post office). This is what really annoys me most about cheques, in that they create an onerous and time-consuming task for the payee.

navigator says:
20 October 2012

i have just opend an ACCOUNT with lloyds and they sent me a chquebook.
i dont write very many but they are useful..birtday/xmas pressies for distant relatives. Getting round credit card charges etc.

navigator – I chose my bank to be near the shops I use weekly so it doesn’t need a special trip and I do visit my bank to withdraw cash – most people do? If you use a cash machine instead you can pay cheques in there.The real issue is giving the ability to pay money to people other than in cash, with the many examples given previously.

“I do visit my bank to withdraw cash – most people do?” – I think not. Most people never need to visit a branch. They use cash machines all over the place, not only those that happen to be at a branch of their own bank.

navigator says:
21 October 2012

hi macolm i fear we are in grave danger of totally agreeing with each other..lol. i agree with you its giving people the ability to pay othe than in cash.its another way to pay.
I think we all know the real reason for getting rid of cheques is for banks to make more profit. debit cards are much more profitable for them.

“I think we all know the real reason for getting rid of cheques is for banks to make more profit. debit cards are much more profitable for them.” – Are you sure? How much do banks charge a business to receive a debit card payment and how much to accept a cheque? I believe that cheques incur a charge many times that of a debit card, primarily to pay for the increased costs of a physical paper-based transaction.

Speaking as an ex-banker the cost to a business of dealing with cheques is what the Bank thinks it can get away with. Cheques do cost more to process than electronic payments but the profit margin is not necessarily a function of the price. Sometimes a bank swallows the cost on the basis of overall what the account is worth in terms of connections, credit balances or desire to lend.

Having said that my power company has just repaid me by cheque for overpayments. Funny when you consider that it is an internet DD based tariff. However I suspect for audit purposes they feel better about a physical trail.

On the reliability of internet banking this is Septembe latest :
and think this is just an ad hoc group of people who can take down HSBC’s internet banking. What one wonders would a more militant and sustained attack be able to do? As a former branch banker I appreciate the problems when our electronic systems go down and customers cannot pay.

navigator says:
21 October 2012

i think thats what i said didnt i?….banks make more profit on debit cards. its the cheque processing at central clearing that banks dont like…lots of people lots of cost.its slow, much better to have nice shiny computers processing debit cards instantly
why not google for charges………
bank charges might be 30p/cheque.? might be 68p…for a business.

I am waiting for nfh (or anyone else who wants to get rid of cheques) to suggest a practical way for people to pay me £10 or £20, on behalf of a small charity, when I am at a village fete in the middle of a field. I don’t think cash is a sensible alternative.