Well, 300 years is a good run for just about anything, but it seems that the era of the paper check might just be drawing to a close across the pond.
In the U.K., a board made up of major banks called the U.K. Payments Council voted to phase out paper checks by 2018. According to this Reuters article, the number of checks written annually in Britain has been falling sharply over the past decade as a growing number of people use online banking and credit or debit cards to pay for goods and services. The article also says it costs banks one pound (about two bucks) to process a hard copy of a check. A related article from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph projects that check usage in the U.K. will continue to fall, dropping to 1.6 million per day nationwide by 2018, as compared with 3.8 million a day last year.
Since the phase-out takes place over nearly a decade, it's not likely consumers will be caught unawares of the new regulation. Still, some advocacy groups that represent the elderly say nine years isn't enough time for senior citizens to learn how to use ATMs and debit cards. The Payment Council made assurances that the elderly won't be left behind in the changeover. Also opposing the elimination of checks is a small-business advocacy group that says the elimination of checks will create a financial burden for them. The Payment Council, for its part, says it will review the planned phase-out in 2016 to make sure everything is going as planned.
While this might sound shocking on these shores, one English supermarket chain called Tesco already refuses to accept checks. We told you about it when Tesco's U.S. brand, Fresh & Easy, along with some Whole Foods stores in Southwestern states, began experimenting with no-check policies. The Reuters article also points out that checks have either disappeared or are being considered for elimination in a host of other countries, including Sweden, Ireland and Australia.
Check, mate: England to phase out paper checks