In 2010 the Federal Reserve released a study that showed that more than three-quarters of all U.S. non-cash payments were made electronically. The numbers revealed that 24.4 billion personal checks were paid in 2009 versus 84.5 billion electronic payments that were paid over the same period of time, which was a 9.3% annual increase.
I can't say I'm surprised by those numbers because I rarely use checks to pay for my purchases. Over the years they have become nearly obsolete for me in most situations, and there are many reasons for that. Here are just a few reasons personal checks are a thing of the past for me.No way to trace lost payments
When I make out a check to pay a bill and give it to the post office for delivery I fully expect it will arrive at its destination. However, that isn't always what happens. In 2003 I mailed a check to pay a bill, and they never received the check. Of course, the bank had no record of the check, and there was no way to trace a normal package at the post office, so I was left to cover the late fees. If I would have called the payment in using my debit card they would have given me a confirmation number to prove I paid it. Personal checks are really only good for face-to-face transactions, and even then you can't be sure everything is safe.
Some people have a false sense of security where personal checks are involved because establishments scan a check onsite now to see if it's good. However, that only eliminates part of the problem because each check has your name, address, the bank routing number, and your checking account number printed on the front, and that is all the information someone needs to use your checks to shop online. With no way to protect my money from would-be thieves while using checks, I make sure to use them with caution and sparingly.
Cost of the checks themselves
The least important thing that factors into my decision not to use my personal checks, is how much they cost. My debt card is free, and when it expires the bank will send me another one to replace it free of charge. My checks on the other hand cost me $30 or more each time I have to reorder them. Granted I don't order very many anymore, but that's partly because I don't like using them.
Cost, convenience, and financial safety are all at the top of my payment method checklist, and the facts show that personal checks just can't live up to what they once were. For those reasons I have decided to save my checks for must-have situations, and use cash or debit card for everything else.
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