My dear mother, who is 92, took issue with a recent column by my esteemed colleague, Justin Dullum, in which he declared the death of the personal check. Of course, Justin is correct; the paper check is a much less common form of payment than it was years ago. But I think my mother is also correct: A lot of people still rely on checks.
I like checks myself — not so much as a form of payment but as a nostalgic connection with the past. My mother still has a collection of shoe boxes, labeled by year, containing canceled checks that she and Dad (mostly Dad) wrote before truncation put an end to such collecting. I remember being a kid accompanying my dad into the bank lobby and seeing people use counter checks.
Today, I don’t believe any of my four children (ages 19 to 26) knows how to write a check. They wouldn’t know a routing number from an account number or a check number. But they could easily pay their portion of a restaurant bill with one of those P2P payment apps. Even I admit to no longer balancing my checkbook, but I think I could do it if I had to (kind of like I could keep score during a bowling match if the auto scorer broke down). Change doesn’t come easy to me, a fact proven by my switch to billpay just less than one year ago. But I still manually initiate each payment every month; something in me resists authorizing auto debiting on those recurring bills.
At NFR Communications, we still pay a lot of bills by check, and we accept checks as a form of payment. In fact, when a vendor recently asked us to provide proof of payment on a particular invoice, I went to our bank’s online banking site and was able to pull a copy of the canceled check with the vendor’s endorsement on the back. I emailed the images to the vendor and any doubt about payment was cleared up.
I understand that some trains have simply left the station, but I don’t think payment by check is one of them. Clearly, however, the engine is building steam. But it’s a lengthy train so even if you argue it is already moving forward, I expect (hope) it will take a long time to clear the station.