Cheques given shock new lease of life

ChequebookThe cheque lives on. The Payments Council has stunned the financial community by agreeing to support personal cheques indefinitely. Cheques were due to be killed off on 31 October 2018. But a massive backlash and support movement for this increasingly archaic form of payment has given the cheque book a new lease of life.

Not checking out

The Consumers' Association is delighted. "This is great news for the millions of people who regularly use cheques," says Which? chief exec Peter Vicary-Smith.

"Whilst it may be more convenient for the banks to process other forms of payment, it's not so easy for their customers. To announce a timetable for the abolition of cheques before any suitable alternatives had been put in place was never a good idea. This is a victory for common sense."

It's "common sense" that's increasingly under-used in the 21st century even though many charities and older people continue to use it.


The banking industry has a more ambivalent relationship with cheques. They're labour-intensive and therfore costly.

However they do enable may banks to claim that the bureaucratic red tape makes it easier for them to hang onto them that bit longer. Clearing times remain woeful (and something unlikely to change).

Cheques remains widely used in the US. And in the absence of a credible, widely used alternative, look likely to stay that way. On both sides of the Atlantic. But what a shame large charities, banks and other players could not properly apply themselves to an effective alternative.

Payment by coupon will continue well in the 21st century. Middle England couldn't be more delighted.

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Which? questioned 1311 members of the general public in an online omnibus survey in December 2010 and found:

  • 50% of people had written a cheque in the last month
  • 76% had written one in the last year
  • Two in five people (41%) used a cheque to pay a tradesman or supplier
  • One in five (23%) had sent one to a friend or relative as a present
  • One in eight (14%) paid by cheque for school costs such as meals and outings

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