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Are Paper Checks Becoming Obsolete In The Workplace?

Paper Checks Becoming Obsolete

As more and more facets of the workplace are migrating to remote models, the way employees are paid—and how money is exchanged as a whole— are no different. Not only is using a digital payment system more efficient, but it also results in fewer errors in paychecks, more transparency in breaking down hours and rates, and helps grow peace of mind in employees that their pay is consistent and correct. Plus, it’s difficult to lose a digital paycheck. 

Though some businesses do use checks heavily, and often are opting for an outsourced check printing company, the vast majority of paid workers are using direct deposit. In fact, according to a 2022 report from the American Payroll Association, 93 percent of U.S. workers are getting paid through direct deposit. The benefits of choosing direct deposit pile up quickly: 

  • It’s easier: Your money is simply there on payday.
  • It’s faster: You don’t have to go cash a check or deposit it on your phone.
  • It’s safer: No more lost, damaged, or misplaced checks. 
  • It’s convenient: You don’t have to go pick up a check on an off day or if you’re out of town; your money simply arrives that morning. 
  • It’s more transparent: Most companies use apps that allow you to track your hours and see a breakdown of payment for that pay cycle. 

Also, fewer stores are accepting paper checks as payment when shopping. Though many grocery stores, such as Target, Publix, Costco, and others, still accept paper checks as payment, less and retail stores, like Banana Republic and Nike, no longer do. 

Sixty-one percent of consumers admitted to using a paper check at least once in 2018, which is indicative of a 20-year decline. 

How Relevant Are Checks Still In Business?

Though digital payments are the new status quo, businesses-to-business transactions still use physical checks at a fairly high rate. According to Forbes, physical checks still accounted for 42 percent of B2B transactions in 2019. Additionally, common examples of check use still in the world today, as listed in the article, include: 

  • A restaurant owner paying for food delivery several times a week. 
  • Contractors finishing a house remodel or addition.
  • Refinancing a mortgage and final payment is due
  • An independent personal trainer who works from home and requires payment weekly or monthly
  • A weekly cleaning person in a home 
  • Payments between insurance companies and hospitals for individual claims
  • Incentives, rebates, and class-action litigation settlements

What Other Factors Are Contributing To Checks Declining? 

Money-Sharing Apps

Digital payment or money-sharing apps like Venmo, Paypal, and CashApp are eliminating the need for checks in some of the listed examples above, such as paying a housecleaner or personal trainer. Even for daily tasks like walking a neighbor’s dog or watering their plants, more often than not checks are not being used. Business Insider is predicting checks will likely be close to completely obsolete by 2026, since the number of checks being written is dropping by a whopping 1.8 billion per year. 

Using Your Phone As Your Card 

Increasingly, most grocery, retail, and other convenience stores are using technology that accepts digital payments through apps on your phone, like Apple Pay, so you don’t even need to swipe a credit or debit card anymore. Not only is this faster and more convenient than bringing a wallet, but it also eliminates the risk of stolen pin numbers, lost cards, worn down cards that won’t swipe, etc. 

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Online Shopping

Nearly every retail store in America has an online shop on their website. Amazon dominates the only shopping game, especially during the pandemic when people were forced inside as stores closed their doors. The convenience of purchasing something online and having it arrive at your doorstep, often on the same day, is the new norm. 

Online Banking

Banks now have apps that allow for easy direct deposit, moving funds to other accounts or to other bank users, and assistance to account holders virtually. Banks also favor electronic checking because the risk for fraud is lower, as well as the risk that checks will bounce. With virtual payments, if there are insufficient funds, the payment simply won’t go through. Through banking apps, automatic payments have become popular as well, saving trips to the bank and eliminating the need to remember to make payments. 

Virtual Payments Are Cleaner 

The pandemic only increased germophobia in America, and non-contact solutions like leave-at-the-door deliveries for food, QR codes at restaurants, and virtual payments between two parties have skyrocketed in the past two years. Although the pandemic has waned, these trends in business that developed during it are here to stay. 

Are There Any Advantages To Still Using Checks?

Certain audiences might find advantages to still using checks as a regular form of payment, like those without smartphones or apps, those without bank accounts, and those too set in their ways to change. Checks are safer to mail than cash and can be tracked. 

Personal checks aren’t deposited immediately. This gives you a day or two to make sure your funds are in order by the time it’s cashed. Checks are also less attractive to potential thieves than cash or credit cards, or cell phones. Since a lot of checks are personalized, they can’t be cashed by just anyone. 

Some situations require checks, such as a landlord that may demand a check as payment for rent. Checks are also completely offline, as are roughly 7 percent of U.S. adults. Not all companies use direct deposit either. 

Conclusion

Even though companies still use checks, they generally don’t print them themselves, but rather outsource their check printing and mailing services to a specialist, who can also handle direct deposit automation, mailing and tracking services, and other relevant tools. But the dominating factor in modern payments is a big migration to online methods. 

Checks largely are going the way of the house telephone, the fax machine, the CD player, the dodo. Businesses will continue to use them in certain situations, but personal checks are falling by the wayside. It won’t be long before nearly everything in the world is digitized, including checks, and people will have to get on board or be left behind.

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