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3 Reasons to Dump Your Checkbook

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CheckbookI don’t write personal checks unless I have no choice (or the alternative is expensive). Whenever possible, I use something electronic, like bill pay, so that I can reduce the amount of paper I’m mailing around in the postal system. While I’ve been fortunate never to have been confronted with a problem using checks, I don’t want to tempt fate by continuing to use them. The reality is that personal checks are simply too insecure to be used.

I’ve talked about using the “internet safety test” and the personal check basically fails. Here are three big reasons why I avoid checks:

Insecure

Take a look at one of your personal checks and tell me what information it says about you. It has your name, your address, your bank, and your checking account number. If you filled it out, it’ll also have your signature. That’s a tremendous amount of information about you written in plain text and it just takes one peek to have it. Drop it in the mail and a thief opening your mailbox will have access to information you’d rather they not have.

Can Be Lost

Are you mailing the check? Forget the issue of insecurity and the check sitting in a mailbox (you can mitigate that by dropping it in a secure mailbox), there’s the small matter of the postal service losing your check. How many times have you received a magazine or piece of mail that’s been mangled? They kindly wrap it in a plastic bag and send it to you anyway… and that doesn’t even count the stuff they misdeliver or lose. Ever get your neighbor’s mail? It happens all too often.

Checks Need to Be Deposited

Checks are annoying to keep track of. You write a few checks, you send them out, and then you have to confirm that the recipient received them and deposited them in a timely fashion. What if they deposit it a month from now? Or two? Will that cause your account to become overdrawn? Will that result in heavy penalties and fees? It might be a risk with bill pay and other similar services but at least with those services there is a constant reminder that you have an outstanding check. If you write a check, you must rely on your memory and your checkbook.

Do you use personal checks anymore?

{ 14 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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14 Responses to “3 Reasons to Dump Your Checkbook”

  1. Cole Brodine says:

    I avoid using checks whenever I can, but some places just won’t take anything else. My daycare will only except checks, so I write one check every month…

  2. Larry C says:

    Guess you don’t have kids in school…. PTO, after school activities, booster clubs, sports, tutors, etc.
    All of these require checks.

    And yes, in a perfect world, they’d take paypal/amazon payments/Serve/etc. But this is the real world, and unfortunately they all want paper checks.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My Daycare provider only accepts checks, too, but I still just send them a check off from my free, on-line bill-pay service. Not sure that mitigates any of the security issues Jim mentioned, but, well, there it is.

    But I DO still keep the checkbook…for the register. Jim mentions being worried about that check that hasn’t been cashed yet. By staying on top of my transactions in the register, I can account for the check beyond what is visible in my bank’s listing of transactions. Kind-of obsessive/compulsive, but I’ve never had an overdraft and I know where all my pennies are without starting up/being near the computer.

  4. NateUVM says:

    My daycare provider only accepts checks, too, but I am still able to send checks via my on-line bill-pay service. Not sure that mitigates the security issue Jim was talking about, though.

  5. Aaron says:

    I’m with Larry on this one. Still a lot of uses for the checkbook. Plus I actually still use the register in the checkbook for a lot of record-tracking. It’s still much more “real-time” than anything I have found.

  6. What is a checkbook? Just kidding! I have one somewhere but I would say I have written less than 10 checks in the past 3 years…

  7. Glenn Lasher says:

    Reason number two was the straw that broke the camel’s back in my case.

    You know those plastic bags that the postal service sends you with the remains of a mangled article in them along with an apology letter? I was getting waaaaay too many of those with the remains of bill payments in them. It was to the point that I would call it epidemic. After about three months of this, I’d had enough and decided that I wasn’t going to use the mail any more for anything that important.

    That was when I signed up for electronic bill pay.

  8. Shorebreak says:

    Checks are still the preferred form of payment for home maintenance by professionals in my neck of the woods, as in plumbers, painters, A/C and furnace repair, roofers, fencers, etc. Sure, many will take credit cards but it’s not the usual way business is done.

  9. Ron C says:

    Bill pay is heaven. When I fire off a bill pay, the bank takes the money out of my account. The account number that the recipient receives is the bank’s not mine, a good thing. If the check is not cashed in 3 months the bank credits my account and the recipient is out of luck should they finally attempt to cash the check. Should I want to stop payment, there is no charge at my bank. I write personal checks when I have to pay immediately, and that is really seldom, but does happen, so I do have a checkbook. Bill pay works so well that I am certain my banks will start charging me for the service.

  10. Terrence H says:

    Actually, most Billpay systems sends paper checks in the mail at without an actual signature and you don’t even have to pay for the stamp. I love how how you have the ability to tell it when to pay bills a month ahead of time which is really great for budgeting!

  11. Steph says:

    I do use bill pay, so I no longer put checks through the mail (although I know the bank does to a couple of companies for me). However, this is how I feel about the safety of checks vs. debit or credit cards. I make company purchases using my boss’s credit card frequently. I mainly go online and no one ever questions who I am or whether that is my card or not. Ever. I’ve never been asked for any sort of i.d. around the use of anyone elses card. I have permission to use it, but the websites I order through have no idea.

    If you go to the store and write a check, you are more than likely going to need to provide your id. I wrote SEE ID in the signature spot on the back of my debit card and I am rarely asked when I pay with it. I would say in most cases, it’s obvious to a bank teller if someone is trying to cash a fraudulant check, but that machine outside the building isn’t going to know the difference between you and a thief when that card goes through the slot.

    I’m not saying by any means that it doesn’t happen, but almost everyone I know has dealt with an unauthorized credit card charge, but I have not yet had an unauthorized check.

  12. Shirley says:

    I write perhaps eight to ten checks annually and then only when necessary. Nevertheless I am glad to have my checkbook there when a cc is not acceptable and I don’t have ready cash on hand.

    Steph has some very good points concerning ID verification of check and credit card comparison.

  13. Gary says:

    Hi Jim,

    Not much to this article except the word “I” used too often. After reading a few articles of yours they seem to imply that anyone that does not e file, e bill, or e pay, is from the stone age and maybe even a bit stupid. I have been writing checks for 30 years, no problems and also e bank. How about writing a useful article about banking.

  14. admiral58 says:

    The online payment systems that many banks are offering are great options to send checks.


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