Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW
Marketplace Scratch Pad

The death of checks

Scott Jagow Nov 24, 2009

It’s coming at some point. The checkbook will be tossed onto the dustbin of history, as debit cards and who knows what else take over. The question is — will the check be allowed to gradually disappear or will it be murdered? British banks want to kill it ASAP.

Next month, Britain’s Payment Council is expected to vote to abolish “cheques” by 2018:

…the move was criticised by consumer groups, business lobbyists and charities representing the elderly. They raised fears that vulnerable people, who have relied on their chequebook all their lives, will be left confused.

Many others simply prefer to pay by cheque, instead of by direct debit or bank transfer.

Britain’s Federation of Small Businesses is strongly opposed to ending cheques.

The Canadian Payments Association, on the other hand, doesn’t feel very strongly about any of it. Spokesman Geoffroi Montpetit says the agency will just sit there and do nothing:

Rather than impose a decision from above, the CPA prefers to allow the venerable cheque to be ultimately overtaken by some new, as yet undeveloped method for moving cash around.

“In the absence of an industry or government edict, we’ll just continue to watch (the check’s) market share to continue to decline,” Montpetit said.

What a decline it’s been. In 1990, 87% of all payments were in paper form. Last year, the percentage was 18%. Some form of the check has been around since the first century BC and for 350 years in Britain.

But enough nostaglia. Should the US follow Britain’s lead and execute the checkbook?

I vote for at least banning checks in the grocery store checkout line!

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.