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Do People Still Use Checks?

Do People Still Use Checks?
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarcoUpdated July 17, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
There’s no shortage of ways consumers can make payments, including cash, electronic transfers, credit cards, and cash apps like Venmo. This makes us wonder, do people still use checks? While it may seem like making payments via a check is no longer in style, in 2021, 11.2 billion checks were written by U.S. consumers at an average of $2,430 each, according to Federal Reserve Board data. It may not be common to use checks to pay for everyday purchases anymore, but some consumers still turn to them for larger purchases. Let’s take a closer look at today’s usage and popularity of checks.

The Persistence of Check Usage

To better understand why writing checks is still so common despite the myriad of other payment options available to consumers, here is some helpful context surrounding check usage to keep in mind. 

Overview of Check Usage in the Digital Age

From online bill payments via electronic transfers to splitting the bill with cash apps to waving a digital wallet over a payment terminal, there’s no shortage of options for making payments without having to lug around a checkbook. All that being said, though, 55% of Americans still wrote a check in 2022.

Statistics and Trends Indicating That Checks Are Still in Use

Not only were billions of checks used in 2022, but they were used for large sums of money. What are checks used for? The average check written in 2021 was worth $2,430 — which does point to the likelihood of checks being more commonly used for large payments like rent or a down payment on a car

Examination of the Reasons Why People Still Use Checks

So, why do people still use checks?
  • Familiarity and habit. Many individuals, particularly older generations, are accustomed to using checks as a traditional form of payment. They may feel more comfortable and confident with a payment method they have used for years. Many older consumers simply don’t have access to the technology or the understanding of it to make payments online or by using smartphones (which they may not even have).
  • Preferred payment method for specific transactions. How consumers make payments isn’t always up to them. Some businesses and individuals prefer checks for certain types of transactions. For example, landlords often request apartment rent payments by check, as it provides a paper trail and can be easily recorded for accounting purposes.
  • Convenience in certain situations. Checks can be convenient in situations where other payment methods are not readily available or feasible. For instance, when making a large purchase, such as a car or real estate.
  • Trust and security factors. Checks offer a physical form of payment, which can feel more secure than electronic transactions. 
Recommended: What Happens if You Cash a Bad Check?

Exploring the Purpose of Checks

In this day and age, it’s easy to wonder why people use checks. Below are some times when checks may come in handy.
  • Personal transactions and payments. Checks are often used for personal transactions, such as repaying loans between friends or family members, splitting bills, or making purchases from individuals who may not accept electronic payments. In these situations, checks offer a tangible way to transfer money securely.
  • Business transactions. Checks play a significant role in business transactions. They are used for making payments to suppliers, vendors, or contractors who may prefer or require payment by check. Checks provide a paper trail for accounting purposes, making it easier to track expenses and reconcile financial records.
  • Paying bills. Many individuals still rely on checks to pay bills, such as rent, utilities, or other recurring expenses. Writing a check allows individuals to have control over the timing of their payments and serves as proof of payment in case of any discrepancies.

Factors Influencing Check Usage

Now, let’s address some factors that influence check usage. 

Digital Alternatives and Their Impact on Check Usage

Digital payments are rising in popularity and their ease and convenience (aka never having to worry about ordering checks again or sending them via the U.S. Postal Service) are very appealing. It’s easy to see why younger consumers are swapping checks for payment apps and online bill pay.According to TouchNet's annual Student Financial Experience Report 2022, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of students using mobile banking and payment apps. The report reveals that 80% of respondents now use mobile banking for bill payments and money transfers, a 7% increase compared to 2020. Additionally, 73% of students use mobile banking for making deposits. The survey highlights the growing popularity of digital wallets among students, with 25% using Apple Pay (a 56% increase from the previous year) and 12% using Google Pay (double the usage from the previous year).

Why Using Checks to Pay Bills Is Less Popular

There are three primary reasons (as evident by the stats shared above) using checks to pay bills is less popular:
  • Emergence of online banking and bill payment systems
  • Convenience and speed of electronic payments
  • Desire to avoid potential drawbacks and limitations of using checks
Recommended: What to Do if You Lose Your Checkbook

Comparison of Check Usage Among Different Demographic Groups

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, older individuals, low-income earners, and nonminority group members are more inclined to make payments using paper checks. When considering demographics and household income, consumers tend to use checks for higher-value transactions, such as utility payments, rent, charitable donations, government taxes and fees, and payments to building contractors. How someone earns their income also determines how often they interact with checks. Among different sources of income, rental income and self-employment income are more commonly paid by check compared to other types of income.

The Takeaway

While the usage of checks has declined in recent years, it's important to recognize that they still play a significant role in certain financial transactions. Specifically, checks are commonly used for higher-value payments like utilities, rent, and government taxes and fees.Understandably, the popularity of checks for bill payments has decreased as more convenient electronic payment methods have emerged. Digital alternatives, such as online banking, mobile payment apps, and direct transfers, have gained popularity due to their convenience and efficiency.When it comes to making monetary decisions, such as whether or not to use checks, it's crucial for individuals to consider their own circumstances. With Lantern, it’s easy to research savings accounts all in one convenient place. Consumers can compare potential fees, account balance minimums, and interest rates at the same time to make comparison shopping for the right fit simple.Start your search for a high-yield savings account today with Lantern by SoFi.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percent of people still use checks?
Do millennials still write checks?
Are debit cards safer than checks?
Photo credit: iStock/payphoto

About the Author

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco is a personal finance writer and editor based in Southern California. While she spends the bulk of her time writing about complex financial issues, she also tackles a variety of subjects ranging from food to fashion to travel. Her work can be found across dozens of publications such as Credit Karma, LendingTree, Northwestern Mutual, The Everygirl, and Apartment Therapy.
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