Consumer: Has the cheque book had its day?

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For some of us, the familiar feel of a cheque book, is a blast from the past.

Maybe you used to pay the milkman by cheque or for mail order items, it is a convenient option.

But if anyone in front of you in a high street shop or supermarket brought their cheque book out, you would take a deep sigh as they spent a minute or so writing out the detail.

Figures in a new publication, UK Cheques 2014, show that although the number of cheques written last year (718 million) is down by 68 per cent compared with the 2,251 million cheques written in 2003, it remains a popular way to pay.

Consumers wrote 425 million cheques in 2013 compared with 1,353 million in 2003 and 2,469 million in 1993. But research commissioned by the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company (C&CCC) showed that 44 pc of the general public are still choosing to use cheques, with the most common reasons being to pay a bill by post, pay a tradesperson or to pay a club or society.

Businesses are using fewer cheques than consumers, writing 293 million of them in 2013, but it was a more popular way for them to pay with 64% of businesses writing a cheque last year. The most cited reason by businesses for writing a cheque was to pay a trade supplier, with payments to other businesses also featuring highly.

Unsurprisingly, the average value of a business cheque written last year was nine times higher than that for a personal cheque, at £2,167 versus £242.

Angela Thomas, managing director of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, said: “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 cheques are most commonly received by individuals:

* As a gift (35 per cent of people received a cheque as a gift last year);

* As a refund for something (32 per cent); and

* As wages or salary (12 per cent).

The full findings from the market research can be found in the Resources section of the Cheque and Credit website at www.chequeandcredit.co.uk. The website also features information about cheque clearing timescales, cheque fraud, key facts and figures about cheques and a section focusing on the history of the cheque.

PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Windswept land of myth and 800-year-old spells