Cheques and balances – do you still use cheques?

Modern technology means we don’t have to say goodbye to cheques just yet, says Paul Lewis

Manchester, VT, USA

Did you know you can now pay in a cheque by taking a photo of it on your mobile phone and using your banking app to send the image to your bank? Just about all banks offer this service, and normally the cheque is cleared by the end of the next working day.  That’s a lot quicker than the six days it used to take in the past to be certain the money was yours.

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If you go to your bank to pay in a cheque it will use this same image clearing system. That’s why banks prefer you to pay in cheques using the machines that automatically take the image and do away with the need for tellers.  Some banks impose an upper limit on cheques where you send your own image, but it’s a definite improvement on the old system.

You can also pay your cheques in all at one of the country’s 11,500 post offices, but they are physically sent to the banks before imaging can
begin. And remember, the word “day” in banking parlance ends at 3.30pm for paying in, and excludes weekends and public holidays for
clearing them!

The new system was introduced in 2019 after the banks withdrew plans to scrap cheques altogether.  Instead they created the new universal imaging system and have now promised to keep cheques as long as they are wanted.

The use of cheques has plummeted from four billion in 1990 to 185 million in 2020, but they remain popular among older people. The average person aged 65 or more wrote five cheques in 2020, compared with one or two for those under 45.

Many small societies find cheques the easiest way to collect subscriptions, and some people still use cheques to pay tradesmen or to give a present rather than asking for bank details in advance!

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Although only one in 300 payments is now paid by cheque – compared with one in two by debit card – it seems cheques will be with us for a while yet.

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Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4