No automatic cheque book for new accounts

Updated: 
If you open a new bank account and expect a cheque book, don't. In calls to 18 main UK banks and building societies, Which? claims just two banks - Nationwide and the Co-op - are automatically dispatching cheque books to new current account holders.

Clearly the banking industry would like cheques to die quietly and quickly - but they are still popular with many.


Written off?

"Cheques remain a popular payment option for many people," says Which? money expert Dan Moore, "and, in an age when the banks should be bending over backwards to give consumers what they want, making it more difficult to get a chequebook seems very short-sighted."

A year ago a large group of UK banks and building societies told the Payments Council - the organisation which sets the UK's strategy for consumer and business payments - they had no intention of scrapping cheques, even though the Payments Council had originally hoped to kill off cheques by 2018 (it was obliged to back down following public support).


However the cheque book is also under renewed attack. This time from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). In a recent BCC survey of 5,000 businesses the BCC claimed that the use of cheques significantly undermined small and medium-sized business (SME) cash-flow.

Mixed messages

"The Payments Council," said the BCC, "should reassess the case for phasing out the cheque by 2018." The BCC prefers settlement by bank transfer, for speed and efficiency. However the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), another organisation that supports small businesses, has supported the reinstatement of cheques - often useful for rural-based businesses it says.

So the British cheque book clings on, sort of. But it's a losing battle. A Northern Ireland printing company, Communisis, saw almost 50 jobs go recently due to the on-going decline in cheque book use.

Confidence builder?

Roll back to 2010 and some 620 million payments were made by cheque book. That figure pales in comparison to the 6.29 billion payments made by debit card in the same period (though more payments might have been made had more retailers continued to accept them.)

Yet given the lack of faith in the British banking system, the trusted, plodding cheque still has a role, particularly for older consumers - and lottery winners. If you're opening a new bank account and want a cheque book, prepare to nag.

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