Americans Still Write the Most Checks — and That's Not a Bad Thing

Americans Still Write the Most Checks — and That's Not a Bad Thing

Call me old-fashioned, but I can't quit my love affair with my checkbook.

And it turns out most of America is with me. That's according to a Bloomberg report that says people in the U.S. make more paper check transactions than any other country.

Based on data from the Bank of International Settlements, an organization composed of 60 central banks from around the globe, Americans wrote an average of 38 checks in 2015, which doesn't sound like a whole lot until you realize that Canadians wrote 18, U.K. residents wrote 8 — and Germans wrote basically none.

So why aren't Americans jumping on the electronic banking train as quickly as our global neighbors? For one, older Americans still aren't as comfortable with mobile banking, according to Bloomberg. Plus, those who are "unbanked" — people who can't open bank accounts at traditional financial institutions — must often take their paper paychecks to check-cashing places in order to get paid. According to the FDIC, about 9 million households were unbanked in 2015.

But even if most of us rely on Venmo, PayPal or our bank's e-transfer service to pay our bills (or get friends back for covering brunch), the fact is there are still many types of transactions that you can't make with the swipe of an app. For instance, I don't know many New Yorkers whose landlords are willing to accept electronic payments for rent.

Personally, I don't think paper checks should ever die (this coming from the person who still uses my checkbook paper ledger to balance my checking account). Here's why:

Paper checks are still relatively safe. If you lose your wallet, the first things a thief will go for are your cash and credit cards. Paper checks require your signature in order to be cashed — plus, what savvy thief is going to cash a stolen check to his bank account?

It's easier to support small businesses. Mom-and-pop shops don't always take credit cards or electronic payments because of the service fees, so if you're into supporting local small vendors, having a check is handy, particularly if you're making a large purchase.

You'll always have a record of your transactions. Even if all the computer systems in the world shut down, you'll always have a paper trail of what you paid for if you use a check (especially if you have those fun carbon copies in your checkbook).

So the next time someone makes fun of you for writing out a check with your favorite Disney characters on them, just let them know there's nothing wrong with being a little old-school.

RELATED: One Bank or Many: Where Should I Keep My Accounts?


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