Poll: Do You Write Checks?

    I know you’ve done some recent stories on RFID and how things seem to be slowly moving that way. Have you heard much recently about the demise of checks? Just this week I’ve noticed that Petco and Domino’s (well the one near me – it may be a franchise) don’t accept checks anymore.

    And I’m wondering what percentage of people with checking accounts actually carry or write checks anymore (I myself have gotten to the point where I pay all my bills online and use cash or plastic in stores).

    I’m wondering if this is indicative of some sort of trend, when checks will one day go the way of the 8-track. -Anne

Let’s find out! — BEN POPKEN

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  1. Kornkob says:

    You are missing a choice:

    I only write checks in those very few situations where I am not permitted to use any other form of payment.

    For example: Activision’s Employee purchase program (where you can buy good for cheap) requires you to write a check.

  2. RogueSophist says:

    I think perhaps the question should be a little more specific. I mean, who pays his rent with plastic?

  3. Ben Popken says:

    Ah, good point, I will add that choice.

  4. Pelagius says:

    If “I am a luddite” equates to “Many online billpay systems are about as secure as Paris Hilton’s chastity belt” then, yes, I am a luddite.

  5. Falconfire says:

    I noticed it too, a lot of it has to do with check cards, they like the security of knowing no matter what they can fuck you out of your money. Checks you never know if its a real check, or if its a fake one made to look real, which is why they usually request ID and write down numbers and names and other junk onto it.

    Now to be REALLY annoying, I recently had a mess of problems with paying for my Drivers license and clearing out a bogus ticket that was written that ended up suspending my license because it got lost in the paperwork at the NJ MVC.

    The NJ MVC wont accept credit cards or debit cards but will accept checks and cash.
    On city (the one I got a driving ticket in thanks to the messup) accepted cash and credit, no check.
    The OTHER city (the one with the bogus parking ticket) accepted Credit and Check, no cash.

    I mean make up your mind.

  6. Magister says:

    Why can’t you pay your rent with online bill pay? They can just mail a check to them. I end up having to use checks for Charity stuff at my kids school. That might be the last time I wrote a check.

    And what kind of dirtbag adult has a checking account but not a debit card? Those people at the grocery stores annoy the fark out of me. Sometimes not even pulling out the check book until they hear the final total, then take 5 minutes writing the checking and recording the amount in the ledger. Man up and debit!!

  7. timmus says:

    What Pelagius said. I’m not as concerned about security, though, as I am about these megacorps deciding that they have to auto-debit my card, especially without my permission. Though it can be argued that if I’m sending checks, my ABA and routing are right there and under current U.S. banking procedures, the megacorps could pretty much help theirselves to as much money as they wanted. And the banks would smile and just say “sorry”.

  8. Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

    Considering that the total cost of processing a paper check is $1.25 and up, depending on which study you believe, it’s no wonder that banks, businesses, and the Federal Reserve are anxious to get rid of checks entirely. Last year the Fed spent $79 MILLION in check transportation costs alone, just to move those little pieces of paper around the country.

  9. bluegus32 says:

    What I can’t stand is when people pay with checks at the grocery store. It seems like that’s such an antiquated practice that the stores don’t even know what to do with checks anymore. It takes 15 friggin’ minutes for three checkers, one old lady, a district manager, a miniature poodle and a computer to approve the check. That’s of course after the old lady has just spent 12 minutes writing the damn thing out.

    Sorry, I think I have issues. I should go get therapy.

  10. kamiame says:

    I can pay my rent with auto pay, but where I live it costs $20 extra in processing fees, per payment. All of a sudden old-fashioned checks don’t seem so bad.

    Also, every time I start a brand new service I will now pay by check or phone for the first bill, ever since Cingular mis-billed my first month of service by about a grand and I didn’t notice till after it came out of the account. Oops!

  11. any such name says:

    I pay for the following with checks still:
    rent – obvs
    GAP card – until recently they didn’t even fucking have online bill pay, and now that they do, it’s some fucked up “checkfree” system that doesn’t think i am who i am so *i* am supposed to fill out some form with my SSN and mail it to them?? no. fuck you.
    ComEd – I don’t like automatic withdrawl every month, and otherwise you have to pay a fee to pay with a CC online/over the phone. so no.

    Pay online:
    MBNA visas – except for the fact that their system just switched over to some shitass Bank of America online system wherein i had to change my username that i’ve had for, oh, about 5 years now. fuckers.
    car payment – thank you Toyota for making this so easy. seriously.
    cingular – also pretty damned easy. thank you.

  12. alicetheowl says:

    I pay my rent and church donations by check. I should clarify that, if my landlord didn’t mind giving me his checking account and routing numbers, I’d drop that money straight into his account, but I rent from an individual, not a company. As for church donations, I hate having people know how much I’m giving, and checks are the best way to mask it (except to the woman who processes the donations every week).

    Otherwise, everything’s online billpay, and I’m happy to keep it that way.

  13. acambras says:


    I pay almost all of my bills online, but I don’t go through the individual payees, like MBNA or Cingular. I just go through my bank’s website (Wachovia, but I’m sure there are others like it). It lets me set up payees (a one-time entering of account #, payment address, etc.). When I’m ready to pay bills, the screen displays a list of payees — if I want to pay a bill, I just enter the amount and date next to the payee’s name.

    Easy-breezy. And it doesn’t cost anything. And I don’t have to give my SS# to individual companies — just the bank, who already had it, of course.

  14. MostNutsEver says:

    Same here. I pay my rent via check and everything else is debited or online bill pay. In fact, I’m still using up the checks that have my previous address on them.

  15. There should be a “Yes, but only to my hillbilly landlord” option.

  16. Hawkins says:

    I use on-line bacnking for most payments, but for transactions where I want to make sure that I have evidence that I paid, I use a handwritten paper check.

    A copy of both sides of the cancelled check is enough to convince most companies (or individuals) that you did, in fact, pay them, and will prevail in court.

    You can do also stuff like write “payment in full for invoice #123” in the memo field, which may not hold up in court, but is scary-looking.

  17. datruesurfer says:

    For rent and such, checks are still fine. My parents pay their bills every month all by hand for a variety of reasons(paper trail, not tech savvy etc). I work a part time job at a local convenience store, we take checks but I absolutely despise the people who whip out their checkbook just to buy a few items when its easier and safer to use the check card your bank gives you for free.

  18. acambras says:

    On the rare occasions when I do write a check, if the payee is particularly odious I’ll write something snarky in the Memo line.

    They probably don’t know that when I write “FUVM,” I mean “Fuck You Very Much,” but somehow it makes me feel better.

  19. Triteon says:

    PrincessSP– some people have the sense not to rent from faceless corporations, but rather from smaller, independent property owners. (The father and son-in-law who were my landlords for 8 years came through the two buildings they owned a couple times a month, knocking on doors, asking if there had been any problems…just generally keeping an eye on their investment. At that time, and near the beginning of the month, they would offer to collect the rent if we liked. Go ahead and pay your rent however if you like, but there’s no reason to label businessmen like this as “hillbilly”.)

  20. Nifle says:

    I pay my rent by handwritten check every month because in my lease agreement there is a provision for me to reduce my rent if there is an issue with my apartment and the repair is not completed within 48 hours of my request. Also, I can get a receipt when I turn in the check, so there is no issue of payment.

  21. Kornkob says:

    Saying that people who rent from a faceless corporation don’t have sense is no better than the ‘hillbilly landlord’ comment. In some places it can be very difficult to find rental properties that aren’t run by faceless corporations.

    As a homeowner I don’t have that problem any more and since I use a credit union that retains their mortgages (instead of selling them off) my biggest monthly expense is depostied directly. My credit union also offers online bill pay which is how most of my bills get paid, including how my partner and I transfer money between each other to cover expenses (although we don’t need bill pay for that– they let us xfer money between our accounts directly without charge).

  22. Jennifer42 says:

    You need to add “yes, because you can’t float a debit card” to the poll. I write checks the day before payday. ;-)

  23. RandomHookup says:

    I’m a landlord and I keep a log of the numbers of the checks I receive for rent. I have noticed my recent college grad tenants write 1-2 additional checks per month. That’s been the pattern for the last 5 years, so that’s about as scientific as you can get.

    As for me, I have trouble finding a checkbook when I need one.

    And I’m not a hillbilly; I come from the flat part of Arkansas.

  24. Dustbunny says:

    Bluegus, I feel your pain. It especially drives me crazy when I’m in the express line at the grocery store and somebody holds up the entire frigging process to write a frigging check! WTF is wrong with these people??

    Ok, I have issues too. Maybe we can get a 2-for-1 deal on therapy.

  25. MattyMatt says:

    It’s all electronic for me, except for my student loan payments. For some reason, Firstmark Services has an extremely difficult website, and in the past they charged a little extra fee every month to make payments over the phone or online. So, screw that.

  26. pestie says:

    I’ll echo the sentiments of everyone complaining about people writing checks at the grocery store. I live in semi-rural Florida and often shop at a supermarket near a huge gated retirement community. The number of dusty old farts holding up a line while they begin filling out a check after they get the total is staggering. Just like they are.

    I pay everything I possibly can electronically. I use Bank of America’s online system for bill paying. I know a lot of people like to trash BofA, but I’ve never personally had any problem with them. I have my mortgage with them as well as my checking account, and because of that, they give me everything (interest-bearing checking, even a safe deposit box) at no extra charge. I have no checking account fees, ever. And while most major corporations can accept electronic payments, and even issue electronic bills, through the BofA online banking system, there are exceptions. The local electric company sucks hard, and I don’t trust them to debit my account directly, so I wait for them to send me a paper bill and I pay it online through BofA’s system (the bank mails them a paper check). Other than that, it’s all online, all the time. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  27. alicetheowl says:

    Jennifer, you CAN set up a Billpay to clear the very day the bill is due. My husband and I set up all of our payments to clear on Friday, the same day our checks clear through direct deposit. If we won’t have enough money in the account to cover all of our payments (which we try to pay as soon as the bills come in), we bump it to the following week. Provided the payment hasn’t cleared yet, it’s quite easy to change the date something will clear.

    The biggest problem with this method is that these payments tend to take at least 3 – 4 days to process. So realizing something is due tomorrow means it’s too late to pay it.

  28. SexCpotatoes says:

    I write checks. Because I like costing my bank all that money. Plus, I’m ensuring some people have a job, and I don’t trust those dog-fucker automatic bill pay bullshit. My bank actually throttles me though, no writing over 20 checks a month. I’ve never gone over the limit.

  29. i write one check a month, to my landlord.

    a couple months ago, i tried to take $695 cash into the office to pay it. first, the floozies at the front claimed they couldn’t take it, it was in my lease. when i returned with the lease, and asked her to point that out, she gave me to the self-styled tycoon himself, who, after flipping through it a couple times, still tried to tell me i couldn’t pay him with cash. after i started raising a stink, and said “all I want to do is hand you $700 (waving it around) and leave” did he realize what an ass he was making of himself in front of his employees and other renters in the office.

    he then tried to get me to sign a rider for the lease, claiming that i should have before, and it stated no case, but it doesn’t. i think i’ll do it again in a couple months, but this time with a camera in tow.

  30. AcidReign says:

    …..Chase Visa gets a check from me every month, and State Farm on the cars every six months. I use checks with both because they try to take extra fees on you if you use their online services. I get e-bills on all my utilities, and pay online. My mortgage is automatic-drafted.

    …..I make every purchase either with cash or Visa. The credit card protects me from fraud, or at least I hope so. Worse that the written check in the grocery line is the food stamp argument. Invariably, someone ends up trying to buy dog food, a TV, or a digital camera with these, and wants to debate it with the cashier for an hour or so!

  31. cindel says:

    I write checks for grocery that will last me for about a month and I’m not one of those who whip them out right then and there. I have it on hand fill out except for the total of course.

    Landlords still uses check? My landlord only accept cash and money orders.

  32. pambamboo says:

    I have just discovered that rather than being a totally cool “with it” net freak, I am a complete dork. But I have The Consumerist to thank for causing the mists of ignorance to fade away. I spend all day on the net – it’s my job – yet I still pay my bills with checks because I was deluded that paying through my bank was “automatic-same-time-every-month” shit and I don’t always have the $$. acambras opened my eyes and now I see. Have signed everybody up already – THANX!

    To the B of A guy – read this. It could be you:


  33. acambras says:

    Pambamboo — glad to hear it. :-)

  34. kaycee says:

    Wow – I wouldn’t have predicted how many people feel hostility toward those of us who still write checks at the store. Dirtbag adult? I guess there will always be a sector of people who feel morally superior for being the quickest to adopt new technology. I would say you need to get a life if having to wait 30 seconds extra for a person’s check to clear causes you to adopt an attitude like that toward someone you don’t even know. I’ve been annoyed, too, by the people who wait to even get out their checkbook until they’ve heard the total, but I try to categorize such annoyances under “live and let live,” and don’t allow minor life annoyances to make me blow a gasket.

    I had previously read (Consumer Reports) that debit cards were less secure than ATM cards if lost, so I avoided them for a long time. I finally started using a debit card about 18 months ago, but after about a year, it gradually dawned on me that I was spending more money with the debit card. Not long after I realized that, I read two separate articles that said this is one reason retailers love debit cards – it’s been proven that many or most people spend more money when using them. Not only that, I would get way behind in maintenance of my checking account, because I dreaded having to enter all those debit charges in my register. I can’t wait and do it once a month online – I don’t have that much extra money to spend like I want and tally up at the end of the month. Call me stupid or dirtbag or whatever you want, but I bet I have skills, knowledge, and/or qualities that you don’t – no one is perfect at everything.

    I also prefer to write checks sometimes because I don’t always want the money leaving my account immediately. If my mortgage payment is due and paycheck won’t be deposited until two days later, it’s great to be able to write a check.

    I like paying some bills online, but only the ones I can do each month when I choose. I won’t sign up for the automatic withdrawals, because there may not be enough money in there when they want to make the withdrawal. I also won’t sign up for any bill pay service that costs more each month than the checks and postage.

  35. informer says:

    I avoid using checks whenever possible, but I’m also one of those “dirtbags” who has a checking account but no debit card, and I never will use a debit card ever. Why? Debit cards suck.

    First, in the case of fraud, federal law says you are only liable up to the first $50 with a credit card. Debit card? Sure you have “zero liablity” but that’s on the banks word. I’ll take federal law over the guys whose only goal in life is to take more of my money.

    Second, businesses can put a hold on the money in your checking account when you use a debit card. For instance, when you pay for gas, you usually pre-authorize the card and the station puts a hold on your money (usually about $50-$100). When you are done fueling, they charge the actual amount and release the rest. Or at least the should. They are actually allowed to keep that hold for a number of days. In the mean time, you can’t touch that money, even though it’s techinically in your account. This can lead to bounced checks and all sorts of nastiness.

    So all you people ragging on people not using debit cards can go to hell.

  36. Jesse in Japan says:

    What the hell is a check?

  37. Magister says:

    I probably only write about a half dozen checks a month and while like the previous commenter, my mortgage is all done inside the bank, the first of every month I pay my kids’ extra-curricular instructors via checks.

    Sure, I could do a checkfree thing and get somebody to mail these self-employed persons my monthly payments because the mail is so modern and maybe it’s looked upon as “better”, if someone else writes the check; But, I’m there at the piano teacher’s house and I have a checkbook. The same can be said for the dance studio and those seasonal payments for sports teams.

    Also, up until about a month ago, the city which distributes natural gas and water in this part of the world, they didn’t take plastic. I’m sure they wanted to avoid the fees because they’re cheap that way, but finally and perhaps because of some kind of demand, they got themselves a Verifone machine.

  38. RandomHookup says:

    It’s interesting to receive the bank-mailed checks. I used to get them and they looked like junk mail! Perhaps a trick to get us to throw them away and profit the bank with a stop payment fee?

  39. first, the obligatory seconding of the anti-grocery-store-check crowd. it’s enough of a problem that grocery stores usually don’t have enough open lines. having to wait even longer for someone (regardless of their “skills”, and plastic hasn’t been a “new technology” for ages) to write out a check just rankles.* and anyone who’s relying on check float time is just asking for trouble.

    i only carry a debit card, because me and credit cards get along too well. but my card has a transaction limit, so the only time i write checks is when the amount exceeds that limit and i don’t feel like calling the bank to ask for an exception.

    * dedicated to the old lady who held up the line this morning while she wrote the check, then put it away, then wanted to know why the cashier was asking her to pay, then couldn’t find her checkbook, then…