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Why I Don’t Write Paper Checks

Within the last few weeks I’ve seen check-buying posts from both Michael (Ordering Checks on the Internet [3]) and Nickel (How to Order Checks Without Getting Ripped Off [4]) and there was even a poll over at Consumerist (Do You Write Checks? [5]). (as an aside, if you’re enjoy a nice healthy dose of schadenfreude [6] when it comes to big companies, you’ll want to ping that site daily – it’s like a schadenfreude addict’s dream) so I figured I’d weigh in on the whole check writing issue.

I wanted to wait until the poll had a few weeks to run its course before I looked at the results and after two thousand plus votes, the breakdown was exactly what I expected:

Yes, because I’m a luddite – 4.8%

Yes, because I like a paper trail – 10.8%
No, I pay everything electronically – 16.1%
No, they’re insecure – 0.5%
Don’t have a checking account – 1.5%
Yes, but ONLY when I have no other choice – 66.4%

I’m not a luddite and you don’t need to have read or have watched Catch Me If You Can [7] to know that checks aren’t all that secure but honestly I try to avoid checks because of the convenience factor.

Why I Don’t Write Checks:

  1. Stamps are expensive – I don’t really want to spend 39 cents to mail my payment in, which is a total savings of $4.68 per year on a monthly payment. Considering how many monthly payments one may have (a handful of credit cards, rent/mortgage, car note, etc), this could add up to a nice dinner – I’d rather eat my $4.68 than lick it.
  2. Account numbers written on the check! – This is the thing that boggles my mind the most, the fact that we’ve had our account numbers written on the checks for as long as checks have existed and our financial world hasn’t crumbled. The bank takes such great pains to hide your account number on statements and mailings but when you send out a check, your number plus your address and perhaps even your phone number and social (if you put either on the check) are there in full view. I know it’s a fault of the “system” but it’s still absolutely ridiculous.
  3. Checks are slow – First you have to mail them and prior to Check 21 you had to wait like a week for them to clear. Even with Check 21, the processing has sped up but you’re still talking about waiting for delivery and such.
  4. Physical things get lost – It’s funny that “it was lost in the mail” as an excuse has entered American lore along with “my dog ate it” as the two more popular and incredulous excuses ever… that you really can’t contest. The USPS, despite sponsoring someone who won that bike race in Europe a ridiculous six times in a row, still loses mail… it’s the nature of the beast. I suppose electronic things get lost too but since you don’t have such a long delivery lag time you can react much faster.
  5. It’s harder to schedule paper checks – If you like to schedule payments in advance so that they go out at the last possible moment, it’s a breeze with online bill payment sites because you force the site to remember when the send it out. If you try it yourself, all it takes is one forgetful moment to ruin anything you would’ve gotten all year by delaying the payment.
  6. Checks are way too expensive – They’re too expensive on an absolute scale… $30 for two boxes of checks (which is like a million checks) isn’t all that much when you figure they have to print and bind it all but you do think about it when you close an account and shred about two boxes (minus ten checks) of checks because you really don’t use them. It’s like shredding money.

Why I Still Have To Buy Stupid Paper Checks:

The only reason why I buy stupid paper checks is because whenever you request a direct deposit, the direct depositor will ask for a copy of the voided check to make sure that you haven’t messed up the typing/writing in of your ABA routing number and account number. While it’s a pain they ask for it (if you talk to them and explain you don’t have any checks, they’ll usually be sympathetic), it does make sense because we have fat fingers and mess up sometimes – it’s better to send a check than miss a paycheck deposit for a month because you transposed some numbers.