Ask the Readers: Are Checks a Thing of the Past? (Chance to win $20!)

By Linsey Knerl on 11 May 2010 (Updated 18 May 2010) 256 comments
Photo: Linsey Knerl

***Congrats to our winners! ***

Who writes checks anymore? Apparently, enough of us to justify large "No personal checks accepted" signs on restaurant doors, and services that verify that you have funds before your purchase is complete. Many of our small town grocers still take them, no questions asked — but times they are a-changin!

We want to know if you still write checks. If so, do you write them old school (filling out every line?) Maybe you just hand a blank one over to the cashier to be run electronically. Perhaps you've abandoned the practice altogether. Let us know if checks are still a part of your life, and you'll be entered to win one of two $20 Amazon gift cards!

Feel free to link to a blog post, if you're written on this topic! We'll include it in our post upon the conclusion of our giveaway!

Win one of two $20 Amazon gift cards:

We're doing two giveaways — one for random comments, and another one for random tweets.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, May 17th at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced after May 17th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings — once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

Good luck!

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Guest's picture
Melody

I write 1 check per month for my rent - the rest of my bills are paid electronically.

Guest's picture
Min

Checks for paying vendors are definitely a thing of the past, but for paying individuals, it's still valuable. At least until Paypal or an equivalent really takes off.

Guest's picture
Sarah S

I write checks fairly often to people who do work on our house (say, the arborist, or the painter). Not too many of them are set up to take credit cards, and the amounts are too large to be convenient by cash.

Guest's picture
Amber

I have a book of checks but only very very rarely write one. I used to do rent and also to settle payments with my boyfriend. Now we're married and all our payments are electronic, including between our separate accounts & joint. I believe he still writes the rent check manually. I transfer half of the rent into a joint account and then he withdraws to his personal.

Guest's picture
Paul

The vast majority of my banking is virtual (online) and other transactions are either cash or credit card. I only write checks in the rarest of occasions.

Guest's picture
rastagalnj

I have to write a weekly check for my son's school lunch, so that gets done old school filling out every line.

Guest's picture
Guest

Checks are out with my dad's generation. Checkcards is to Checks as Email is to the hand written letter.

Guest's picture
Trebuchet

I very rarely write checks. So rarely, I get made fun of at work when I tell them my check number is still in the 200s.

Guest's picture
BCoop

As long as my landlords refuse to accept any other form of payment (and it is impractical to withdraw and then hand over that much cash each month) I will continue to use checks.

Also, how else do you start getting direct deposit at work? You need a check, if only to cancel it and attach to the forms.

Guest's picture
Michele

Not really, all you need is the account number and routing number

Guest's picture

It takes me about 2 and a half years to blow through one box of checks (I know, I've got about checks left right now). They are a big pain in the butt but it's the only way I can pay my rent without any extra fees. Since that's all I use it for for the most part (I used to use it to settle roommate bills, but now we've got billshare) the 20 dollars or so I spend on blank checks is an expense I'm okay enough with.

But yes, I wish everyone could just take payment electronically with no fees or hassles, it would be quicker and more convenient.

Guest's picture
Jerson Mari

I actually opened a checking account just for paying bills. I still write on it (manually). I rarely use it now since I do online transactions.

Guest's picture
Eric

I use bill pay for everything except for my water/trash utility bill, which is processed by a third party biller for my apartment complex. They only take paper checks and that is the one time every month I write them.

Guest's picture
Sue

Yes, I still write some checks -- most regularly to my church. They don't accept automatic withdraws.

Guest's picture
melyssa

i write checks for rent and to my kids preschool, plus other random, mostly children related activities.

Guest's picture
KelR1

I probably write 1-2 checks a year now. Everything else is cash, debit, or electronic for bills.

Guest's picture
James D

I write two checks a month - rent and church.

Guest's picture
Scott

Since I have to stand and wait for people to fill one of these out at the grocery store, they do seem to be very prevalent. As for me, I can tell when I got my last haircut as my barber still does not take credit.

Guest's picture
Neal

Checks? What are those?!

I despise people that take out there check books in the grocery store and hold everyone up. It is sooo unnecessary when we have check cards and online transaction reports.

So no. Checks should actually be discontinued.

Guest's picture
LM

Despise? Gee whiz. It's just a check.

Guest's picture
Shannon H

The only thing I have to write checks for is rent anymore. Occasionally I will write one for pizza delivery if I don't want to use credit and don't have the cash, but it's pretty rare.

Guest's picture
Dimmie

I only write two checks a month: one for my rent, and the other for one of my credit cards. I also wrote a check to pay my state and local income tax this year.

Guest's picture
Kristin

I occasionally use a check to pay for a service from a small business (like the lady who cuts my hair from a small salon in the basement of her home). Other than that, I pay bills online or over-the-phone.

Guest's picture
Whitney

Up until we recently decided to go cash only, we wrote checks to pay our electric and water bills. Now, I doubt we will write checks at all.

Guest's picture
Patrick

I write about 2 checks a month, usually for old school, low tech vendors who are not online enabled, or whose transactions are large enough to make cash impractical (home repairs, car insurance, vehicle registration/tax). Often, the price of a stamp is less than the price of paying a processing fee online (vehicle registration), so checks are still the method of choice there too.

Guest's picture
Angie LaMunyon

I still have a few bills that I pay by check, and it's easier for person-to-person for now. But I think they're on their way out. I think I write maybe two a month.

Guest's picture
Susan D

The only checks I write regularly are to my church twice a month. I pay everything else online. Even my rent is paid electronically through my ING checking account.

Guest's picture
Therese

Most of our banking is virtual, but my hairdresser only takes checks.

Guest's picture
Guest

unfortunately not - until my local water bill comes early enough for my online banking to mail them a check and it get there in time, I'm stuck using checks for at least that.

Not to mention odd things like paying my voice teacher, buying stuff at a home show (like Pampered Chef, Premier Jewelry, etc), my tithe at church... There's a handful of things that I have to use checks for (I have been tempted to send my tithe via online banking but I'm afraid they'll think I'm weird - I do send my donations to other charities that way)

My biggest problem is that my employer does not have direct deposit - and so I use way more deposit slips than checks so I'm constantly having to fill them out...

Guest's picture
Jillian L Schweitzer

I use checks frequently: student loan payments, utility payments, rent, and other misc expenses. I could pay most online and have them deducted from my checking account, but I'm changing banks soon (just got married) and wanted to wait to use my new checking account.

Guest's picture

I write checks, but not at stores. I write them when I owe a friend money or have to pay my dad for insurance.

Guest's picture
jill

I do a large part of my shopping at local, independent shops ie butcher, pet supply, cheese store, health food stores , veggie market, and I give them all a written check.
As small stores they pay a larger percent of each purchase for charge and even debit cards than chain and mega merchants. Banks are often slow to reimburse small merchants for their charges so the savings on interest charges plus the quick reimbursment of a check is a plus for them They know me as a regular customer and a member of their community so verification is not a requirement.
My budget is very well defined so I write no checks unless the expense is planned.
I do not carry large ammounts of cash and rarely make unplanned purchases.

Guest's picture
Darice Romero

I've written 6 checks this year. Three for my flex spending account because their website is ridiculously unhelpful, and 3 for having plumbers and the like for emergency work.

Guest's picture
Jessica

Like Melody, I write one check per month for my rent. Also had to write one recently for my dentist when their CC machine was broken - of course, I don't carry my checkbook anywhere ever, so had to go home, write the check, and come back the next day. Pain!
Also, I want to smack anyone in the grocery store that starts writing out a check when their total is announced!!! At least write in the store name and date while you are waiting in line, if you must insist on using a check. arg.

Guest's picture
tami

i do, indeed, still use checks, but would rather not. like, i have to pay by check for our kid's daycare and i use it to pay our water bill and i give checks for wedding gifts. i definitely fill out all the info. but really, i hate checks! :)

Guest's picture
Meagan

I use a few checks per month: rent, charities, church, and my small town hairdresser. I also like to use it when I make my last payment on something so I can add the "paid in full". That might be an outdated practice, but old habits die hard. For the most part I use electronic payments and my debit card (for SkyMiles).

Guest's picture
Steven P

I write 2 checks per month, AMEX and Visa where all my bills are auto-posted/paid (for rewards points).

Guest's picture
plowe

The only place that requires me to write a check is at the local transfer station ("the dump") to purchase punch cards. Other than that all is done online either directly through a vendors website or through my bank's online payment management system. Unfortunately, my wife still writes checks since I have curtailed her use of the debit and credit cards (Disclaimer: at her request). But she still manages to get a purchase in when absolutely necessary :)

Guest's picture

I only write out checks for kid stuff - like Tae Kwon Do lessons, soccer, picture day at sports, the random silent auction I end up attending. Most of these places won't take my check card! I pay all of my bills online and use my check card for all of my shopping both online and off.

Guest's picture
Adam

I write a couple checks a month. One per month to our church, and I always use checks for person to person. There isn't anything easier and cheaper than checks for person to person. We won't be getting rid of our checkbook anytime soon. I wish I could though.

Guest's picture
kasey

1 per month - rent, it's an actual person so I can't pay online

Guest's picture
Andres E

I write checks very rarely. If I can pay with a debit card or online I would rather do that. A box of checks will last my family for a very long time.

Guest's picture
Barbara

I wish they were a thing of the past, but there are always a few holdouts. My auto loan, surprisingly, is not available to pay online. I don't use my bank's bill-pay service after they screwed up my mortgage payment. The kids' lunch money is paid by check and miscellaneous services.

Guest's picture
Jeff D

Yes, except for when I need to write a check to my water/sewer company as they charge an outrageous $5 online surcharge (for a bill that rarely goes above $40/month that's crazy)... So I stick it to them by sending them a check. They aren't too bright as they use postage paid return envelopes, so I'm not out the stamp on this deal.

Guest's picture
mylegs

I use checks all the time--to transfer money quickly between my accounts at different banks (no 3 day processing time), to pay daycare and contractors, and to have as an emergency source of cash if my debit card doesn't work for some reason.

Guest's picture
tnspr569

Only if necessary do I write checks. Everything else is done by credit card or electronic funds transfer.

Guest's picture
Terry

I pay 95% of all my bills on line with internet banking. I am up to bill pay with my bank 11098 which means I have not paid postage or service charges. I have Direct Deposit with my pensions. If you multiply 1098 X .40 average over the years, I have saved that's $436.30 I have saved in stamp prices as well as no service charges. The only time I write a check is for a donation for various Humane Society's.

Guest's picture
H Mercer

We do not use checks often. I probably write 2 checks a month to the local grocery store that doesn't take credit/debit cards. Also use checks to pay our village water bill quarterly.

Guest's picture
Kate

I use checks to pay my monthly rent. I also use them to pay back my roommate for utilities. I needed a check to send to my car insurance company initially in order for them to draw the funds from my account (paying with a credit card would have incurred an additional monthly fee). But beyond that, I don't really use them. And I pay any other bills I have electronically.

Guest's picture
Brian

I don't use checks anymore. Online banking has replaced it. In the odd event I do need a check (since I do have a checking account), my bank can send one for me, free of charge, if I give them enough notice by filling out an online check payment.
Otherwise, I use my debit card or have auto-withdrawal.

Guest's picture
Alicia

I'm 24 (almost 25) and I write checks for bills that get mailed to me. I don't know for sure that the money will be deposited in time to automate my payments, but I don't know that I'd want to anyway. There's something about physically writing that check that makes the money more real to me, and it's easier to track what's going on.

Guest's picture
AprilFire

I still write cheques for rent, donations over $5, sending money to my sister and paying the neighbor kid to mow the lawn.

Guest's picture
SRM

Yes, I still write checks. In fact, I just re-ordered checks from my bank. The place I live does not accept cards or online payments, so payment must be made via check or money order. My Dr. office also does not accept cards, and since I rarely care a bunch of cash around, I pay with checks. It helps me to keep track of my spending and budget because if I use cash I sometimes forget where I spent it. I also still write checks at the grocery store even though they do accept cards. Some of my bills send me statements and I mail them a check back. I guess I might be a little behind the times, but I do also use online payments through my bank for bills that can be paid electronically, and I also use my debit card frequently for gas or other purchases.

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

I still write two checks a month. Everything else is done electronically, either bill-pay at my CU online, at a creditor's website, or debit card when I am out shopping.

Guest's picture
Raf

Checks are a thing of the past, but I write a check for my rent. I tend to write checks to my friends if I owe them money. Writing a check to a friend is way more convenient than withdrawing the exact dollar and change amount to give to them.

Guest's picture
Brian

I hadn't had a checkbook for my checking account for over 3 years, until I bought a house. I write a check to myself and deposit it in my other bank's mortgage account to avoid the $5 per month fee. I also pay contractors and give to my church with a check. Everything else I do online. Once small businesses (and churches?) move to a paperless model, I'll never write another check.

Guest's picture
Kathleen

I still write a few checks every month -- almost all of them are for kid-related things (school field trips, piano lessons).

Guest's picture
Frances

I still have to write a couple of checks every month: rent, an old hospital bill and occasionally something else. Everything else is auto-deducted or I pay online -- which is the way I like it!

Guest's picture
Scott

I use checks to enter smaller chess tournaments that do not take credit cards or online payments. Chess tournaments usually charge an extra "late registration" fee or do not accept entries at the site, so it's a good idea to register early through the mail. I also use checks to send people money for a graduation gift or anything like that.

Guest's picture
Susan G

I don't write many checks but I still find it convenient enough to carry them on me at all times. Often they are great when I don't have enough cash to cover something and it's a small venue (or a person) who can't except credit cards. Often they get used for non-regular bills that aren't set up for online payment or who charge a service fee for online payment. Really though I write maybe 1 or 2 a month.

Guest's picture
Jan

I write checks for just the rent. Prefer online bill pay for everyone else. I don't think they are totally out of my life though. Sometimes I go to a shop or a restaurant that is cash only and my checkbook has saved the day

Guest's picture
Sarah

Checks are definitely outdated. I changed my name and address when I got married nearly a year ago, so I ordered free checks (from VistaPrint--I paid shipping only) instead of paying to have my bank reprint my checks.
However, in 10 months, I still have not used one of my new checks. Online bill pay, bank account transfers, and paypal have made paper checks useless for me!

Guest's picture
Emily

I still write checks, but only when there's no way to transfer fund electronically. I'll write them for rent, or when I need to give my sister money since a lot of people still haven't figured out Pay Pal.

I like writing checks. It feels very official. But at the same time, it's not the most efficient or timely method of payment.

Guest's picture
Kaci

I don't have a physical checkbook these days. I use my bank's online bill pay to send money and pay bills. Every once in awhile I'll wish I had checks so I could pay someone immediately, but this comes up so rarely that I haven't bothered to order more...

Guest's picture

I use checks close to never.

Guest's picture
Miguel D

I will use a check now and then but never on a regular basis like say purchases at the grocery store. I really do think checks will become completely obsolete in the future considering online banking, a young generation and how fast and convenient it is to use a debit/credit card or cash. I have a batch of checks in my room just in case I really need them to look up my routing numbers or account numbers and to pay a bill over the phone with using those numbers/

Guest's picture
Trang

I definitely don't use checks anymore, unless it's to pay rent. Then I need some sort of tangible documentation. It always takes too long while waiting in line at the grocery store if someone is fumbling with a check.

Guest's picture
Nichole

I write checks for my apartment rent and my health insurance. The apartment company charges a fee around $5 to use a credit card to pay, so that would basically be an extra $60 a year to my rent.
My health insurance demands that the bill stub be mailed in with payment, so a check for that.
Occasionally other things will come up too, such as recently buying candles from a friend of a friend who does those candle "parties."
But at stores, no, hasn't happened in a very long time.

Guest's picture
Adam

I use checks occasionally for paying friends or family for large amounts, more than what I have in cash on me at the time. I never use checks at stores, either cash or plastic instead.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes, but only for rent and utilities. We mail our rent, so cash is out and our landlord doesn't take cards. The utility companies charge more than the cost of a check, envelope, and stamp to pay online, so we pay with check.

Guest's picture
Rachel Crockett

Exactly! For both my utility company and rent company as well. $25 convenience fee when I'm paying early? Um no. So I write a few checks a month. And of course fill out every line.

Guest's picture
Jenny

I pay my utilities through my bank's online bill pay. If my bank doesn't have electronic transfer directly to the utility (and many of the utilities do) they send my utility a paper check. I very rarely actually go to the payee website to make a payment (only if I'm cutting the deadline too close.) Paying online through my bank is free to anyone.

Guest's picture
Nicholas

I haven't written a personal check in ages and I don't see myself doing so anytime soon. Everything for me is done electronically and if I need to have a check written I can just have my bank print one out and send it to the recipient.

Guest's picture
HC

Most of my bills can easily be paid online now but for those that can't or if I want to pay an individual for something and don't want to use cash, there's still no great alternative to a paper check. I still keep a checkbook around and use it around 5 times a month.

Guest's picture
Brian

I write checks for the water bill and for the electric bill, and that's only because they send the bill about 7 days before they require payment. I don't particularly trust that the bank will get the payment to them in that time period, and I sure don't want those necessities shut off.

Guest's picture
Jenny

I'm getting married in two weeks and I have paid almost exclusively by check so far. I could use cash, but checks are safer (and can be sent through the mail.) Some of the payments have been made through ING sending a check to the vendor, but often it's me writing a check on the spot - yes, using a real paper check.

Of course, in my day to day life, until recently, I've hardly EVER used checks. I pay all of my bills online and I even pay people using ING online checks. I haven't used their direct pay where they use the account number of the person I'm paying to just transfer money because I'm not comfortable asking for someone's account number. I don't know if I ever will.

I work for a plumbing company and we see about 50% checks on average, 50% credit cards. Cash sales are so statistically rare, they account for less than 1%. We of course, prefer cash. Used unethically, credit card protections suck for service providers.

Guest's picture
Cathi

My checks are now limited to my children's piano teachers and such...everything else is virtual banking, auto-withdrawal, or Paypal. Oh, and church--somehow I don't feel right about trying to Paypal the church ;-)

Guest's picture
MarshaD

Yes, I still use checks, but only for bills that I can't pay online like my water bill and fees at my kids' school. Everything else I pay online.

Guest's picture
Eri

Once a month for my rent. Otherwise, rarely if ever write checks... perhaps once a year to pay local tax, etc? Everything else is done electronically.

Guest's picture
Czadd

We pay for our kids' school lunches via check--only because the website our district uses charges too much. Otherwise, I can't remember the last time I wrote a check. Oddly enough our checkbook was stolen last year. after dealing with the aftermath of that I'll be glad to never use a check again.

Guest's picture
Sidney

My water and trash bill is still paid with a check. I used to write checks a lot more often a year ago. Since then I've started paying my utilities online. Major store purchases used to be by check, but I hate filling out all the lines on the checks only to have the store process it electronically and hand it back to me.

Guest's picture
Sarah

I write checks all the time. I am a supporter of local businesses and many of them would rather take a check than a credit or debit card because of the fees they have to pay for each credit/debit card purchase. Our local pharmacy recently let customers know that they paid $15,000 in credit card fees in just one month!
I live in a big city and have not had trouble with retailers not taking checks.
I pay almost all of my bills online though, so my checks are used to pay retailers and for services (piano teacher, painters, etc.)

Guest's picture
Shea

I still write the occasional check, but it's usually for stuff like school pictures or other school fundraisers.

Guest's picture
rosa rugosa

I do still use checks, but far fewer than I used to. Electronic bill paying is so fast, easy, and saves me money on stamps and checks!

Guest's picture
Jesse

I write one check a month - to my church. EVERYTHING else is online. I'm actually trying to convince my pastor to at least consider online donations...

Guest's picture
AA

Like many people, the only check I write (aside from random subscriptions or donations) is my rent check, which I deposit to my landlord's bank account. Lame, but since I was never able to get an automatic transfer set up between us, that's the way it is.

Guest's picture
ABMC

Rarely. We use two local utility companies that aren't set up for online bill pay, but the rest is all online. I'm always surprised when I see checks listed as a payment option, because they feel inconvenient to me - I forget that there are a lot of people who still use them regularly (like, oh, my mom).

Guest's picture
Karmaraderie

I pay most bills electronically and do most of my shopping with a debit card. But, I'm still not ready to give up checks. I do use them for a few things each month.

Guest's picture
valletta

I still use checks occasionally. The cleaning person and the gardener (maybe $100 each per month).
Remember, the fact that we are all moving to plastic means that we are paying lots more for everything. As a restaurant owner I can tell you I spend $4000 per month just for the "luxury" of accepting plastic. It kills me every month. Unfortunately, I can't put on the menu "Cash Only". Either get audited by the IRS regularly or lose business because no one carries that kind of cash around.

Guest's picture
Carolyn

Rarely. Just yearly at the tax office and handyman work done at my house.
Everything else electronically.

Guest's picture
Will

Checks are almost totally obsolete. Not to mention that they were always problematic. As a merchant, who wants to take an IOU for a stranger? With other forms of payment, this is not even an issue.

Guest's picture
Reid S

The only checks I use are issued from my bank through their web bill pay system. The old-style checks are just not worth it anymore.

Guest's picture
Susie

I'm 21 and I use checks relatively frequently. I need to pay my landlord with them, for sure. And then there are other random things, plus I keep a blank one on me (bad plan, I know) in case I somehow forgot my debit card. Also there are some mom-and-pop places I go that don't take credit/debit so if I don't wanna bring cash, checks work there as well.

Guest's picture
JOE

All my banking has been online since it became available. I haven't written a check in over 7 years.

Guest's picture
Gail

I hate standing in line longer because a person in front of me is writing their check and filling out their checkbook register too. It's called credit card and bill pay for me.

Guest's picture
Jacob

Checks are out with my dad's generation. Checkcards is to Checks as Email is to the hand written letter.

Guest's picture
Beth

I opened a new checking account about 4 years ago and have only used one check and that was to make a payment over the phone. As a cashier at a MAJOR retail store I can say that not even 1/4 of customers use a check and only half of them will tie up the line by writing it out.

Guest's picture

Oh, noble cheque
The promise to pay
Used by James Bond
Endorsed by Kings
For centuries considered
The currency of the day

Electronic commerce
Hath shut thee out
And the three day float
Is no more

Oh, woe unto those
Who tangle with Tele-Check
Or whose debit card
Has gone astray
Or awry

Most noble slip of paper
Who could be measured in gold
I lay thee to rest in my dresser drawer
Take a check? I ask.
Nevermore...

Guest's picture
Pamela B

What's a check?

Guest's picture
Kristy

I wish I could ditch checks for good, but there are a few institutions in my life that won't accept electronic payments: the landlord, the church, and the produce co-op. So I actually write quite a few checks every month. I wish I didn't - those checks aren't free!