Cheque is 350 years old today, lingering death expected

On this day in 1659 the first cheque for making a payment was written. But this is expected to be its last major landmark as automated payments take over.

The cheque is 350 years old today, but this is expected to be its last major landmark as automated payments take over.

On this day in 1659 the first cheque for making a payment was written. Automated payments, such as using a card or online banking, account for massive amounts of payments made in the UK.

The use of cheques peaked in 1990 but has dropped significantly since. Today two-thirds of under 25s have never written a cheque, and the method of payment is unlikely to reach its 400 year celebration.

"It would be fair to say this is the last big birthday the cheque will celebrate," said a spokesperson at the Association of Payments and Clearing Services (Apacs). "This is because more and more people are using automated payment methods or plastic."

She said the Payments Council has been tasked with managing the decline of the cheque, although no date has been set for it to be fully replaced. "Cheques will not stop until a replacement is found," she said.

According to Apacs, in 2008 there were six billion automated payments, compared with 1.4 billion cheque payments.

Ralph Silva, analyst at TowerGroup, said the use of cheques will diminish to a very low level but until there is an alternative they will not disappear.

"Elderly people that are used to them will carry on using them and the next generation will still use them for things where there are limited alternatives, such as giving money as a gift."


A history of the cheque

1659 Date of the earliest known surviving English cheque

1717 Bank of England introduced printed cheques

old cheque

1770 Daily cheque clearings formalised

1811 First known personalised printed cheques produced

1821 Committee of bankers formed to regulate clearings in London

1833 First clearing house built in Lombard Street, London

1939 Clearing transferred from London to Stoke-on-Trent due to World War II

1946 Clearing transferred back to Lombard Street, London

1965 First cheque card issued allowing sterling cheques to be guaranteed up to the value of £30

1966 First credit card, Barclaycard, introduced in the UK

old cheque

1969 UK Domestic Cheque Guarantee Card Scheme introduced

1985 Cheque and Credit Clearing Company established

1987 First debit card, Connect, introduced in the UK by Barclays

1989 First telephone-only bank, First Direct, introduced

1990 Peak year for cheque volumes

1996 Scottish cheque clearing with Scottish Exchange came under the responsibility of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company

1997 First internet banking service introduced by Nationwide

2005 Shell stopped accepting cheques

2005 London Exchange moved to Milton Keynes and renamed the English Exchange

2007 Cheque volumes declined by fastest rate ever

2007 2-4-6 changes introduced to cheque clearing process giving customers certainty on cheque funds for the very first time

2008 Most major retailers stopped accepting cheques

2008 Faster Payments Service introduced for online, phone and standing order payments. Payments Council published National Payments Plan suggesting active management of the decline of the cheque is required,with a possible closure of the cheque clearing in 2018.

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