Checks still have an important role, and they’re playing it

by. Brent Batchelor

In 1990, I don’t recall ever entering a retail store and seeing a “We do not accept checks” sign staring back at me as I stood at the register. Retailers knew customers carried checks and checks were preferred by many as their favorite method of payment. But times have changed, and today it sometimes seems difficult to find an establishment where paying by check is allowed, leading some to believe checks are fast becoming obsolete, left behind in pursuit of technology’s latest greatest invention. Yet research from NACHA/FIS reveals that over 84% of retail small businesses and 96% of all other small businesses accept checks as a form of payment.

Checks widely accepted graphic

However, to paraphrase that famous quote as Glen Sarvady recently did in his blog, rumors of the check’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

While there’s no denying check usage isn’t what it was 30 years ago, checks still play an important role in the payments space – both for consumers and financial institutions. In fact, the 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study, which is done every three years to identify and examine trends in noncash payments in the United States, found that the use of checks is still widespread and commonplace.

Published in December, the study determined that 21 billion checks were written in 2012 and the average value per check paid actually increased from $1,291 – when the last study was done in 2009 – to $1,420.

Countless consumers and businesses continue to see value in using checks rather than other payment options. As the amount paid in a transaction increases, so does the desire for the level of financial control and management that checks provide. The security, peace of mind and evidence of payment offered by checks continues to make them the preferred way to pay in many types of transactions.

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