The death of the checkbook


If my checkbook is dead, why did I just order another 4 books of checks for it last month?

My wife has always kept our personal financial records on paper, and every utility or credit card bill is still paid by writing a check, sticking it in an envelope, stamping it, and sticking it in a mailbox. Most of our grocery store trips are paid by check, as are clothing purchases. Every check she writes is not only recorded on a carbon copy, but also in a journal. This is a good thing, since between those records and our online bank records, I recently discovered that two paycheck deposits were not recorded in our checkbook in the last two years, to the tune of over $2000 we “forgot” we had.


To be honest, I haven’t written a check since I moved to a community that accepts online payment. If you rent from a small owner, you’ll probably need paper checks until the year 2525.


The number of checks I write has declined to less than one per year. I’m pretty sure the last one was for roofing repairs in 2012.

OTOH, in the last 10 years I have worn out three credit/debit cards at the magnetic strip before their natural expiration or forced switch due to security reasons. I will happily swipe my card for $3 worth of soda refill and snack at the QT on the way to work.

I will defend proper bookkeeping to the end of my days, but I want to point out that you can do that while also taking advantage of some of the more modern technology.

You might want to add up the cost of postage and envelopes for all those checks you send over the course of a year. Plus if something gets hung up in the mail, do you have to pay the late charge?

You can be just as disciplined about your budget by checking your auto-pay accounts online every month. Or don’t even have auto-pay, just make it a point to pay your bills online on or before the due date each month.

If you pay off a credit card statement in full every month, it costs you nothing to have the card but provides you with protection against paying for a bad product if the seller refuses to take it back.

You don’t have to be either Amish or else a Google Glass wearer…there’s a lot of middle ground between the two, financially speaking.


A cheque provides a hardcopy proof of a transaction. It is much less prone to alteration than a computer transaction and so makes for better evidence that a transaction actually did occur.


When the banks tried to abolish cheques in the UK, public opinion forced them to reconsider, and now they will persist ‘as long as customers need them’.


I’ve always found it curious how attached to their cheques the Americans have always seemed to be. I literally haven’t known anyone to use cheques in well nigh two decades, and the last time I actually saw and handled one was after my high school graduation in the 1990’s. To each their own, I suppose.

I pay ~90% of my bills online, and save a PDF of every transaction; I’ve got backup. Never actually needed it. Balances are maintained through an uber-simple Excel spreadsheet. Just as easy as writing things down in a checkbook.

I rarely write more than a couple checks a month. My gas company doesn’t do online billing, oddly. Daycare provider gets a paper check, although she can take a card if I forget. I’d rather she not have to pay any transaction charges. When I sign up for races, about half of them have online registration but the other half are small so I still write paper checks. That’s pretty much it, though.

What’s really off is when I see someone writing a paper check in the grocery store… seems so antiquated. You know the bank will GIVE you a debit card, right?

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Most people don’t even get their checks back anymore. It’s a computer scan, which is just like a computer entry. If you make a PDF of each month’s receipts, statements, etc. and keep them in a folder, you have equally-legal proof of payment as if you keep the scans of your checks.

Having a carbon copy of a check, or a hand-written register entry, aren’t considered proof because there’s no guarantee what you’ve written ever got to the payee. But a PDF of the online receipt – which is created immediately after payment – can be kept forever without taking up physical space and is proof you paid as much as any cancelled check (or its scan).


We’ve actually been burned twice by using online payments - once, they didn’t put our mortgage payment into the right account - so she doesn’t trust paying bills online except in case of “we lost the bill” emergency. She won’t use autopay, because we are on an incredibly tight budget, and she wants / needs total control of where every penny goes.

It’s a dated, slow-moving process, and I’m moving her more to paying online. Still, her methodology kept us fed, warm, and on time for every single bill and mortgage payment when I was out of work for a year, so I give her some leeway. She’s got the the business management degree, after all :smile:


Fortunately, my bank will send automatically (or online on-demand) send out paper checks FOR FREE (where “free” is defined as “because of the fees I pay for when I royally screw up my balance”).

If I could get the utility companies etc to charge my credit card, so that I have the chance to review the transaction and challenge any errors before I write my one check a month to Visa, I’d do that in a minute.

But no, they won’t do that. They want access to my bank account, so they can automatically vacuum up whatever amount they think appropriate before I know about it. (And I once had a $3200 “water bill” due to misreading, so it’s not a needless fear).

This is why they still get paper checks.

And those of you who use debit cards, please read up on the lack of legal protection you have compared to credit cards, OK??

In closing, get those damn kids off my yard.


I’d be fine with giving up my checkbook if the small businesses I deal with on a regular basis didn’t stick with a “cash or check” policy. The cost of moving to card readers is too high for them now, though, and is unlikely to get any lower. I guess by still having a checkbook I’m helping them keep their prices down.


Did you even read the article? Or just the headline? The fact you still use a checkbook is well addressed in the actual content of the article.

If you had read more than the headline you would have seen that the evidence shows you have been in the minority since 2003, and since then that minority has shrunk dramatically further.

Your position as an edge case on the bell curve does not debunk the article in any way, shape, or form. It simply reinforces exactly the points the article is making…

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Amen! I needed to write a check for something last month and had to go back to still-packed boxes in storage from my last move! Found them in the box that had the contents of that weird utility drawer in the kitchen… you know… the one with the binder clips, pencils, odd foreign change, paper clips, and other weird stuff that just needs to “go somewhere”? Yeah. It was in there.


Okay, I can see how in the last decade or so you used internet payments, but two decades? How did you pay, for example, rent, prior to that without checks? Cash? Credit card?

Every bill I have is easily paid with either direct bank withdrawals (which my bank used to call “e-checks” up until a few years ago!), debit, or PayPal. Literally the only time I write actual paper checks is when I have to send tax payments to the state or federal governments. They love those things!

I know that you can get PDFs and scanned copies and keep screenshots and all of that. In fact, like one respondent, I do most of my transactions online. Not just bill paying, but transfers, shopping, etc. In fact, I use a cheque to pay only one thing, my rent.

The point I tried to make earlier is that any computer record can be much more easily altered than a physical, post-process cheque is. If, and I repeat, IF, it should ever come to a dispute, the processed cheque carries more weight as evidence in a court of law than any computer record does.

I think that the big incentive of writing checks used to be the “float” time. I can remember my parents juggling their payments so that money was in the bank by the time the check was cashed. Now that checks are processed immediately like electronic payments, killing the float, I think the incentive for using them has disappeared. Just as easy to swipe a card and it’s same result.

I have used USAA banking for the past few years. Their system is freakin’ amazing. I pay all my bills online; for things like my religious institution that do not accept online payments they mail out a check for me (no charge for a stamp). I have copies of the cleared checks inline with the checking account detail - just click the image next to the transaction to view the image of the front and back of the cleared check.

I stopped using actual checks as much as possible (still use them mostly for my daughter’s school things) because with USAA every transaction hits the account immediately upon the card being swiped, so there really isn’t a need to balance the checkbook when I make payments this way. I can see all the future transactions that are scheduled and their total, and know exactly how much money I will have remaining out of the next paycheck.

I do not schedule automatic payments except for a couple where they won’t have it any other way because I like controlling exactly when my payments hit; however, I do get a notice when a payment is coming due so I have time to schedule it.