Both Consumers and Businesses still Write Checks. For how much Longer?

A recent publication called UK Cheques 2014 highlights that the number of checks issued last year (718 million) is down by 68% compared to 2.251 billion checks written in 2003. A research commissioned by the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company highlights the fact that consumers wrote 425 million checks in 2013 compared to 1.353 billion in 2003 and 2.469 billion in 1993. But the research also shows that 44% of the general public in UK are still choosing to use checks (or the British variety - cheques!).

As per the research, businesses are issuing fewer checks than consumers, having written 293 million in 2013. But checks are still a popular way to pay among 64% of the businesses. The common reasons that businesses cite for writing a check are payments to trade suppliers and payments to other businesses. The common reasons cited by consumers include paying a bill by post, paying a tradesperson and paying a club or society.

A noteworthy fact is that the average value of a business check written last year was 9 times higher than that of a consumer cheque, at £2,167 versus £242. Angela Thomas, Managing Director of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, said in an official press release:

Although their usage continues to decline, many consumers and businesses are still choosing to use cheques in certain situations. With nearly two million cheques written every day last year it’s clear that for some of us - whether it’s paying the window cleaner or a business paying another business - there’s a preference to pay with a chequebook and pen.

The new research also revealed the top three scenarios where checks are most commonly received by individuals:

  • As a gift (35 per cent of people received a check as a gift last year)
  • As a refund for something (32 per cent)
  • As wages or salary (12 per cent)

But the trends over past years do not hide the fact that usage of checks are on the decline. Along with a wide variety of payment cards already available for consumer usage, there is the rising demand for mobile payments as well. The payments industry is going through a phase of digitization at an accelerated pace. Paper based methods like checks would be among the first to witness bypassing by consumers and businesses alike.