Is it time we dig out our old cheque books?

Is it time we dig out our old cheque books?

Most of us have been using online banking for years, we are now even paying with our contactless cards without entering a pin code. It is all so easy and convenient and…. open to fraud!

There are a few ‘banking dinosaurs’ out there who refuse point blank to manage their finances online or on the phone and prefer going to the bank and using cheques books. They do come across as old fashioned and, they make us smile, but what if they were right?

It is time we looked into their argument.

Fraud facts: cheques vs digital

Despite what we think, cheques actually remain very popular. 558 million cheques were issued in 2015, an average of around 1.5m every day.

Cheque fraud has dropped dramatically. In 2015, there were 5,746 cases of cheque fraud, 3 times less than 2012. The value of cheque fraud has also dropped to £18.9m which represents a decrease of 50% in the last 3 years. Of course, the fall is linked with fewer people using cheques but also improved bank security.

On the other side, internet, mobile and phone banking fraud has soared to a shocking £755m in 2015. Phone banking fraud increased by 92% in one year, internet fraud rose by 33% and ‘remote purchase’ which occurs when your card or details have been stolen rose by 20%.

In a recent interview the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said fraud victims should not be refunded if they have failed to protect themselves, such as not updating their anti-virus system or keeping passwords safe.

Maybe we should just go back to our cheque books.

A more mindful way of spending

In an article in the Sunday Times, David Mills, their arts & leisure managing editor, went on at length into why he will not use online and phone banking. He says: ‘Hilariously, we are asked to believe that electronic banking is safer because criminals prefer real money and a cash-less society makes it more difficult for them. I bet nearly all of us have been the victim of some kind of card fraud, but few of us had actual cash stolen’.

Mills is also convinced that the increasing level of personal debt in the UK is linked with the fact that it has become all too easy to transfer large sum of money and it is getting worse with contactless cards which make it very easy to lose track of how much we spend.

It is true that we are sometimes guilty of spending without thinking, we click on a button, we swipe a card. It takes a lot more effort and therefore thought process to write a cheque. By the time you have written the numbers and amount, you have taken the conscious decision of paying and you are aware of what you are about to do. It is there in writing in front of you, not in the cyberspace.

A lot of people still use cheques – the more mature consumers but also small rural businesses and those like Mills who refuse to be dictated how to run their finances. And they are ready to fight for their right to use cheques. A few years ago, after it was announced that the cheque clearing system would close by 2018, the initiative was cancelled after a public outcry.

What about the rest of us? We have been using phone and internet banking for years, can we really go back to more traditional ways of payment?

The cheque as a back-up to digital

Well, we shouldn’t discredit them that easily. What would happen if a terrorist attack was to affect our digital payments infrastructure for a long period? Maybe we wouldn’t shun our cheque book anymore?

The banking industry continues to work and develop anti-counterfeit features for cheques as well as the Image Clearing System which will help clear cheques in 24 hours as opposed to 6 days.

It seems that just like vinyl records or printed catalogues, cheques are here to stay so maybe, just in case, we should dig out our cheque books and have them handy. We never know when we might need them.

Working to Cheque & Credit Clearing Company (C&CCC) standards, Hague supplies millions of cheques every year for countries all over the world and provides associated cheque printing software and hardware. Contact us for more information.


Sunday Times, 27.03.16, Call me a dinosaur, but I’m keeping my passbook, by David Mills
Cheque & Credit Clearing Company (C&CCC)
Yorkshire Post, 09.05.16, It’s a cheque mate, there’s no reason not to accept it—a-paper-back-up-for-digital-payments