I have just received an email from my bank telling me that my cheque book will be taken away from me in May 2017. This is not because I have been bad but because cheques have out lived their usefulness.
Cheques have been in use for more than 350 years, but they now appear to be on their way out as the internet and other forms of electronic payment bring us closer towards a cashless society. But what does this mean for people who rely on cheques?
The tide began to turn in 2007, when cheque usage fell to its lowest level in the UK. It was calculated that personal cheques accounted for only 6 percent of all personal transactions that did not involve cash.
The move away from cheques and cash has not been as rapid as the industry originally expected. In the mid-noughties estimates were that non-cash electronic payments would overtake cash payments by 2011. Now, this has been pushed back to 2015.
Mobile phone payment systems are being heavily touted as the ‘next big thing’ for non-cash payments, whereby if, for example, you want to pay for a service such as an electrician you can do so by exchanging text messages via telephone numbers that act as bank account details.
Charities such as Age Concern have also protested against the phasing out of cheques, rightly pointing out that many more mature people are not comfortable with using these new technologies. They have argued that paper-based forms of payment such as cheques should not be phased out until suitable alternatives for people of all ages are agreed upon. The Government appears to agree, and recently announced a formal inquiry into the proposed abolition of cheques and publicly stated that cheques will only be phased out if adequate alternatives are in place. They also accepted that cheques are still widely in use for sole traders, skilled tradesmen, small businesses, charities and schools, however cheques are on their death knell.