Posted by Allison on 1 April 2009, 16:30
Now the chances are pretty good that you will have a cheque book attached to your main current account. But the chances are almost equally as good that you won't be able to remember the last time you actually used it.
While the UK economy is currently struggling, and the pound is a pretty weak currency when compared to many other major ones, there are some aspects of our banking system that are still comfortably familiar. The cheque book is one of them.
Many shops have long since stopped accepting cheques as a type of payment. If you present one at the checkout, you'll get little except a blank stare in return. And it's no wonder - since 'Chip and Pin' was introduced a while back, card payments have been faster, safer and much more convenient than cheques ever were.
So is the humble cheque really into its last days?
It's certainly not as useful as it once was. Consider what would happen if you only had a cheque book to make payments with. You wouldn't be able to use it in the majority of shops. You couldn't use it to send currency abroad, since the charges would be too large. Probably the only reason you might use it is to pay money to a friend or relative - but even then the humble computer might prove to be more useful. You can pay money direct into their account if you know their details, after all.
There was a fascinating article on the subject of cheques that ran three years ago in the Mirror. You can read it here - http://www.mirror.co.uk. It tells the story of how a once popular item is now rather passé, and since then things have gone even more in that direction.
There is no doubt that the advent of plastic and the internet have combined to make this ancient feeling item somewhat past its sell by date. But while we've got retailers ditching the cheque left right and centre, which bank will be the first one to get rid of cheques altogether?
There is certainly an age element that is obvious in those who still use them. Older people who were banking before the age of plastic came to pass probably try to use them much more often than the more internet aware youngsters. It's all a question of what you are used to, so the cheque book will probably hang on longer in the pockets of the elderly than it will for many other people. In fact, some younger people who have only just got their bank accounts for the first time will probably be wondering what that book of similar looking coupons is for.
The only question is how long it will be before it really is consigned to the scrapheap of banking history forever. While it has certainly reduced in popularity there is every chance that the tail end of the cheque book might just take a little bit longer than everyone thinks.
After all, who would like to be the person who finally decides to sound the death knell for the cheque book? It's a bit like Woolworths - it's an institution that no longer really has a place in modern life… but that doesn't mean we all want to see it go.