Checks are the economic dinosaurs Americans won’t give up
Online payment systems like Venmo and Paypal are benchmarks in the digital era of banking in which we live. There’s also Zelle, a new peer-to-peer payment app launched by big banks like JP Morgan and Bank of America. So you might expect paper checks to go away, but Americans just won’t let go of their checkbooks. In the US, people wrote about 38 checks on average in 2015, compared to 18 in Canada, 8 in the UK, and almost none in Germany. Katie Robertson wrote a article on Americans’ attachment to checks for Bloomberg. Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace explained to him why Americans refuse to adapt to economic times. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kai Ryssdal: Who besides my mom I guess still uses checks there?
Katie Robertson: You know you’d be surprised there are still a lot of Americans who use checks. I mean we see it especially in more rural populations. They still use it for groceries and gasoline. And Americans actually wrote 38 checks on average last year.
Ryssdal: Okay with the title of this article: Why can’t Americans give up their checks? Are we just stubborn and stubborn?
Robertson: I mean that’s a great question because a lot of people think it’s the biggest economy in the world and they’re kind of stuck in the Stone Age as other countries moved on there. long enough. If we take Finland for example, they stopped issuing checks in 1993. So that was a long time ago.
Ryssdal: They just stopped broadcasting, don’t they anymore?
Robertson: Yes and there are other countries in Europe that are following this path. Netherlands in 2002. Poland in 2006. Even Denmark – they stopped issuing checks this year.
Ryssdal: Is there an advantage to using checks? I mean, are they safer? I mean, do they just make us feel better?
Robertson: I think it has a lot to do with comfort, especially with the older generations there is a lot of fear, unease around using online banking. You know pressing buttons on Venmo it seems a little bit dangerous, you can’t really see your money, it’s online. Many people also like to have the check information which is all written down on paper. We have less of the impression that it will be hacked.
Ryssdal: Yes. One of the things you point out in this article is that we in the United States compared to almost every other country, we have an extremely fractured banking system, we have, you know, 10,000 deposit-taking institutions, that n It’s not like the Fed can just issue an edict that says more checks.
Robertson: This is one of the big problems of the highly fragmented banking system. The central bank here, the Federal Reserve, they don’t have the power to force a change in the type of payment, they can’t say we’re extinguishing the checks now, that’s all. The Fed is, in fact, well aware that the decline in checks may not be accelerating as quickly as it expected. So they formed a task force in 2015 to investigate the faster payments. They just released their report and they want to see a faster payments platform with secure, real-time payments by 2020. But of course that’s a recommendation, it’s not something they want to see. can impose.
Ryssdal: Yeah, but this is also one of those where – and this is going to sound terrible – you have to wait for check users to age out of this economy if you understand me. Right. And for the people who are used to who are used to electronic payments and Venmo and all that to become the majority.
Robertson: That’s it. I mean a lot of places that I know, 1 I spoke to several banks and they were basically saying checks are there as long as they need to be. They won’t be leaving anytime soon.
Ryssdal: And you, when was the last time you wrote a check?
Robertson: I mean, so I was interested. I moved to the United States almost three years ago. I am from Australia, had never written a check and had never seen a checkbook. It just wasn’t done, it wasn’t a thing. So I came to the United States and was told at my first apartment that I had to open a checking account. I had to physically get a checkbook, which to me was a throwback to the 80s. And I had to google how to write a check. I have spoken to a lot of expats in the United States and they have all had similar experiences. It’s just such a throwback.