5

Do You Still Write Paper Checks?

I write just one lonely paper check per month. My landlord is the lucky recipient of said paper check, and I write him this paper check because I usually hand it to him in person. I could have my bank, Charles Schwab, send out a check each month to him without me even having to do anything, but I like the act of paying the man directly for his house, as he worked really hard on fixing it up before I moved in. All of my other monthly bills, from Charter Cable to AT&T to my local utility companies, are charged directly and automatically to my Amtrak Rewards credit card each month, and I have four automatic payments sent to the card each week which pay off the total of my bills for the month. This method helps me out in several different ways:

  1. My bills are never paid late, even if they get lost in the mail. (Granted, I don’t even get paper bills anymore, but you get the idea.)
  2. I get miles in my Amtrak account, and since traveling by train is my favorite way to go, this helps get me free tickets.
  3. I don’t ever have to worry about running out of or ordering new checks.
  4. I never have to buy postage or stand in line at the post office.
  5. My checking account number isn’t floating around out there on too many checks.
  6. I leave a much smaller environmental paper trail in my wake.

I am not normally a stickler for privacy (although I guess I should be), so number five doesn’t bother me too much, but I was taught to think about that from a very young age. The things that do bother me, though, are the environmental concerns of the millions of paper checks written and disposed of each day along with wasting money on postage. So by only writing my one paper check per month, or just twelve of them per year, and instead doing as many financial transactions online as I can, I am able to save money, reduce waste, earn free travel, or waste any time. Seems like a win-win-win-win all around, right?

That all being said, I have some relatives who still write checks to each bill that arrives in the mail rather than switching to online banking/bill pay, and some that still write checks for groceries or goods at their local stores. Not sure why they are hesitant to make the switch, since online banking is easier in every way, but I figured I could bring it up here to see what you guys had to say about the subject. Do you still write a ton of paper checks every month? If so, why haven’t you made the switch to online bill pay? Privacy concerns? Technology fears? A longing for the old days?

I am really curious as to any reasons that some readers may have, so please – let us all know in the comments. It may give me tips which will help me convince the few stragglers in my family to switch over!

(photo credit: CarbonNYC)


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Comments (5)

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  1. tmgbooks says:

    For paying bills, I am all electronic but for expenses, such as groceries and gas, I pay cash.

    Why?

    Because it helps me to control my spending. Leaving the house with a bunch of checks, credit cards and a debit card or two is a recipe for over-spending.

    Leaving the house with just enough cash to pay for the items on your shopping list means impulse buying is not an option.

    Someone once told me that they would never pay cash because they get rewards on their credit card. And, they added, they pay the balance in full every month.

    Great, except that studies have shown that we will, on average, spend something like 35% more when we spend with anything other than cash. So those rewards are costing you money!

  2. Jay says:

    I’ve been using checks moreso than usual lately, though mostly in the concentrated effort to use up my old checkbooks. My bank got bought out twice, the checks are still good, but I feel weird handing out checks from a bank that doesn’t exist anymore.

    Once those are gone, I’ll be paying primarily online, though I actually prefer paying through paper mail/checks. It’s a lot harder for me to ignore my paper mail than my digital mail… unfortunately, I live with a serious security risk (recovering substance abuser) and until I can move out, my finances are much safer behind a password than they are on the mail table.

    As for the “bills” I intend to keep paying by check? My church tithe, for one. Yeah, I can actually pay those electronically now, but writing an actual check feel more like an intentional act, whereas automatic deductions feels like the least painful way to do something that’s supposed to be intentional and sacrificial.

  3. Debt Donkey says:

    Good thoughts. I have gone to mostly all electronic payments but I always encounter a few unexpected bills that require a check. A check is the only way to tithe at my church, too. Electronic payment is bound to grow in popularity because it’s so easy, but I suspect there will always be a place for the good ole’ paper check…at least it seems that way in my little world. Good post, and great blog! Thanks

  4. Erik says:

    I hardly use checks anymore. Doing most payments digitally makes it much easier keeping track of my finances. I think checks should disapear. They’re a thing of the past.

  5. fairy dust says:

    Very rarely do I use a paper check, but it still happens – paying a recent solo contractor after he finished painting, sending in a check with a signed maintenance agreement for our heat pump, occasionally buying Girl Scout cookies or something else from an office mate.

    I’d rather pay using either a cc or online banking, but I’ve run into a problem with the latter. I have a loan from my parents that I set up to auto-pay back to them in $X each month. It seemed a perfect thing to have the online auto-pay feature take care of. But Mom died many years ago, and Dad doesn’t really care or need the money. So he lets these checks sit in a drawer for months, and Citi gets kind of annoyed with me about it – they want me to pay them a stop-pay fee and either put the money back in the account or issue new checks. So I’m trying to figure out a different way, and may just go back to hand-writing checks because at least a bank won’t be haranging me about whether my dad deposits them fast enough or not.

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