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