/ Money

Do you want to save the cheque?

Writing a cheque

It’s official – cheques are going out of fashion and plans are in place to wipe them out completely by 2018. However, one MP is arguing that the elderly still depend on them, so do they still have their place in society?

When was the last time you wrote a cheque? In a shop; to pay a bill; or maybe to pay a tradesman or friend?

For me, it’s most definitely the latter. I can’t remember the last time I took my chequebook shopping (I can already hear the disapproving tuts as I hold up the queue) and I pay all my bills by direct debit. But when it comes to repaying friends or tradesmen, the chequebook still has its place.

This is an argument one of our readers, Malcolm Murray, wrote to us about. ‘If a plumber does a job for you they expect to be paid on completion, but don’t have any facility to deal with payment by card,’ he told us. ‘So unless we keep large sums of money available, a cheque is the only practical method of payment.’

How cheques went out of fashion

The plan is for the Cheque Guarantee Scheme to be phased out completely by mid 2011 and for cheques to be made obsolete by November 2018. The Payments Council, which monitors payments in the UK, says these decisions follow wide consultation and research that shows ‘cheque use is in long-term, terminal decline’.

Strong words, and the Payments Council’s figures do back this up. There were just over 3.5m cheques issued each day in 2009, compared to 11m in the peak year, 1990. I don’t think 3.5m is a figure to be sniffed at, but it is put into perspective when compared to the 30.2m transactions made on UK cards every day in 2009.

The fight to keep cheques alive

But while there’s no denying that chequebooks have been usurped in the popularity stakes, there are still people who rely on them, not least the elderly. This is an argument that’s been getting some press of late, thanks to support from MP David Ward.

He’s been arguing that the 2018 cut-off date is wrong and would be detrimental to older people. He’s not wrong – those under 25 receive on average only two cheques a year, while over-65s get four. And as many elderly people have no access (or understanding) of the internet, cheques can be a safe and easy way for them to pay bills.

But it’s not just the elderly who will miss their paper friend – many of you raised concerns about a cheque-free world when we ran a Conversation back in July. “If the threatened death of the cheque book comes about, how are we expected to pay for things? Wodges of cash? That’s asking to be mugged,” fumed Ann Hay.

Others, like i_steven, were more concerned about how banks will benefit. “The banks will get their own greedy way again and again once they have forced us to pay larger amounts by card,” he said.

For now, the 2018 date remains in place, although the Payments Council has responded to David Ward, saying they’ll only go ahead with the date ‘if we’ve been able to ensure that alternatives have been identified, are accessible and are actually being used’. Is that good enough for you, or do you have concerns about a life free of chequebooks?

Should we get rid of cheques?

No, I still find them useful (92%, 1,229 Votes)

Yes, they're not relevant any more (8%, 109 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,338

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Surrey Gardener says:
6 May 2011

We receive eighty per cent of our month invoices by cheque. Most tradesmen do. What happens if you need an emergency plumber in the night? Are you going out at two in the morning to find a cash machine? No – you would give him a cheque.

Shirley says:
11 May 2011

I want the Cheque to stay in business,. Sending money in the post is not a good idea

Frances Free says:
12 May 2011

Was it the banks who came up with the notion that cheque books and the elderly go together? I believe they are wrong. Plenty of young people like to write cheques. I use the internet for many purchases, and I also use my debit card but there are also times when I prefer to write a cheque. Why does writing a cheque have to be regarded as old fashioned? Sometimes it is good to know the money won’t be drawn out of your account immediately, and then there is the benefit of a written record of your purchases on your cheque stubs. There is a certain pleasure to be had in using a good writing tool or fountain pen to write your cheque. Surely it is better that we retain the choice and variety of methods to pay.

I would like to start a campaign to fight for the continuation of the cheque book – is anyone going to join me?

Argyros Alexander says:
10 June 2011

Cheques must not be abolished. They are the best and most secure method of paying by post.Abolition of the cheque system is another method by which the banks prune their staff and make even more profit.Why the general public tolerate the bloated greed of their their top staff who award themselves obscene bonuses is incredible.As for the craven fawning and fear of our parliamentary representatives towards these financiers…

JK says:
11 June 2011

I live in a rural area where it is not easy to get to a bank or post office. I use cheques to pay local tradesmen, fuel delivery (coal and oil) etc. It would cause considerable inconvenience if I could not pay by cheque.

Not everyone has the facilities of urban and city areas!

Ways to make money says:
21 September 2011

Please get rid of the cheque – at least then the never ending excuse @the cheque is in the post’ or ‘must have got lost in the post’ will be banished for good 🙂

This has been debated at great length on other Which? Conversations. There are some compelling reasons to keep cheques, but hopefully they will be used only when there is no practical alternative.

You obviously have not read the powerful arguments in favour of the cheque as one option of making certain kinds of payment. Are you a banker? They too are blind to the inadequacies of their partial solution to their desire to stop handling cheques.
But don’t worry, this forum has failed to generate any meaningful action. It has proved to be just a Hot-Air factory!
Fortunately, Parliament has separately seen sense and kicked the bankers, and their half-baked idea into touch. The cheque is staying. Even so, Banks have abolished the cheque guarantee card , to the chagrin of numerous small face-to-face traders.

Michael Kovari says:
19 April 2012

It seems clear that the cheque guarantee card was abolished in order to stop people using cheques – so the “long-term, terminal decline” is a self-fulfillung prophecy.

The guarantee card should be brought back, with a higher limit.

Why the banks and “Payments Council” should even consider abolishing cheques when there aren’t adequate alternatives is puzzling. Even the payments Council admits that there aren’t, as they said they’ll only go ahead with the date ‘if we’ve been able to ensure that alternatives have been identified, are accessible and are actually being used’.

Notice that the Council *didn’t* say they they would only abolish cheques if the alternatives are actually an improvement. First they make a decision, then they implicitly admit there is no case for it.

I have no doubt that banks will start charging for processing cheques. Obviously the more upset people become about the cheque being abolished, the more grateful everyone will be when told that they can keep using them, for a charge of “only” £2.50, say.

Perhaps Which could update this page, please, which is at least a year old.

Hello Michael, our latest Conversation about cheques was posted in July last year: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/cheques-saved-by-payments-council/ Thanks

Some of the old Conversations are no longer relevant and we are seeing some concurrent discussions of the same topic on others. How about locking a few of the redundant ones?

Hi Wavechange, we don’t close old Conversations as people find them useful to comment on them. Not everyone is as dedicated to Which? Convo as you! So they may not remember the old debates. We will only close a Conversation if it’s getting out of hand and our commenting guidelines are consistently ignored (eg. nutritional therapists). Thanks.

I just don’t care what happens to cheques as I don’t use them anymore. However, for those people that do use them I would suggest that you look into other methods of payment as they WILL be withdrawn sooner or later and my money is on sooner.

And what alternative method of payment do you suggest that, say, an elderly person in their (late) 80s should use to pay their cleaner or their gardener, both of whom may be in their 60s, and neither of whom is equipped to accept card payments (as it would not be cost-effective for them to purchase the necessary equipment for the small income they get from their part-time jobs)? And please do not suggest cash, because their local post office (where they used to get cash) has closed, and there are no ATM machines available in their village or suburban area (because the small local shop cannot afford the extra business taxes that would be entailed in having an ATM) and in any case, the shop itself may close soon.
** This is a REAL CASE that I know of .**

Once you have given your bank details or card number you are exposed to fraud. I have had the experience of money being taken out of my account on two occasions not authorised by me. Unless you are completely computer literate it is dangerous, whether you are young or elderly.

People who want to use this modern banking and trading system should be able to but us who want to keep the cheque, which we have faith in should also have our wishes respected and granted.