Humble cheque bounces back into 21st century

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Hi-tech future for cheque payments

It's not confirmed, but you may be able to pay a cheque in to your bank by photographing it on your smartphone and emailing it to your bank - very soon. Cheques? Yes, they're still being used; rather a lot, in fact. According to the Cheque & Credit Clearing Company, 718m cheques were written last year in the UK.

So, a new lease of life for the humble paper payment?

The cheque is not in the post

So cheques bounce, ahem, into the digital 21st century (the first was written in 1659). Images of cheques will be swapped between banks, removing the need for the chit to be physically carted from place to place. Which should save money all-round.

Plus the price of a stamp if you normally post cheques off to your bank. A similar idea has been adopted in the US, called Check 21, signed into law last year.

"One of the main benefits is that the cheque clearing process could be speeded up," says the Cheque & Credit Clearing Company, (C&CCC). There's no indication of just by how much though George Osborne is likely to make an announcement at the start of next week.

Convenient?

The C&CCC says 'cheque imaging' is about providing more choice for customers, "so they would still have the option of paying in cheques at a bank branch in exactly the same way as they do today."

The move won't be completely casual. A secure imaging app may likely be used and issued by the relevant bank. Although some older people still struggle with technology, tablet use is on the increase - and the move does close the gap slight in terms of tech-financial inclusion.

Check carefully

Just be careful who you email your cheque to. Details of data protection risk are likely to be issued with Treasury guidance next week.

Shell UK was the first major retailer to stop accepting payment by cheque in 2005, followed by London Underground in 2007. Other retailers who subsequently banned cheques include Asda, Boots, Morrisons and Sainsbury's - plus John Lewis, M&S and Tesco.