Money Matters

Physical checks: To use or not to use

December 19, 2013 | Alliant Credit Union

As the world of banking continues to shift its operations to digital platforms, the long-standing practice of writing physical checks is on the decline (about 1.8 billion fewer checks are written by consumers and businesses each year). Despite the downward trend, many consumers are still committed to their ledgers and pens for various reasons. Here are several benefits that may convince you to hold on to your checkbook a bit longer, as well.

Budgeting

Checks can make it easy to stick to a budget and maintain a level of diligence with putting money away into savings. Physically writing out checks serves as built-in accountability (not least because of sheer tediousness!) to help you defend against overspending on discretionary items (swiping credit cards or doling out cash causes more frequent impulse buys). Plus, you could write a check to yourself and deposit it into a separate savings account as a way to treat building wealth as another necessary expense, rather than an afterthought. 
 
Paper Trail

Another positive for keeping checks handy is that they leave a solid paper trail that could be useful as a remedy for a lost payment or fraudulent attempt to withdraw money from your account. Many banks and credit unions (including Alliant) offer scanned images of cleared checks that are written from a member or customer’s account, reducing your need to worry about saving carbon copies (though checks with carbon copies attached are very much available).

Gifts & Donations

If you have ever opened a birthday or Christmas card containing a check with your name on the ‘For’ line, you can attest to the joy of receiving such gifts (and the difficulty of reading the card before reading the dollar amount). Checks also enable you to spontaneously give to an organization or person in need that you had not planned for, without the security issue of keeping large sums of cash in your purse or wallet.

Though the downward trend of check usage looks like it will continue into the foreseeable future, those six- by two-inch pieces of paper can still provide some unique advantages for your personal finances.


Patrick Russo writes for DepositAccounts.com, a site that features credit union and bank reviews, rates, and deals for over 7,500 federally insured institutions.

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