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Use of cheques halves as electronic payments continue to increase

The phrase ‘the cheque is in the post’ is set to become redundant. New figures show that the use of cheques in this country has plummeted by almost half in the last four years. The pandemic has accelerated the decline in the use of cheques as contactless payments have been encouraged. In the first three months of the year some 6.6 million cheque payments were made. This is down by 15pc from the same quarter in 2019. But it is almost half the 12 million cheques that were written in 2016, according to figures from Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).

Bankers said cheque usage was declining because both business and consumers are moving to electronic payments. They said consumers rely heavily on cards to pay for their shopping both online and in-store, while they mainly use direct debits to pay their regular bills, like electricity and TV.

A recent consumer survey commissioned by the BPFI showed that only 2pc of consumers prefer to pay a bill or a friend by cheque, and just 4pc prefer to donate to charity by cheque.

Ireland is now one of only a handful of countries worldwide where cheques are still regularly used.

These include Canada, Cyprus, France, Portugal, Singapore, the UK and the US, based on figures from the European Central Bank and the Bank for International Settlements.

Both Ireland and the UK have seen substantial falls in cheque usage in the past decade, with Irish cheque usage per capita down from 22.1 in 2009 to 6.4 in 2019. The BPFI’s head of payment schemes, Gill Murphy, said it was not a surprise there was a move away from cheques given the fast-changing nature of consumer preferences.

There has been a big move to the use of electronic transfers, cards and mobile banking, she added.

“This continued drop in cheque usage by consumers is a trend we expect to see continue as consumers and businesses are provided with more choice and convenience regarding payment methods,” Ms Murphy said.

But she said the fact that 6.6 million cheque payments were made in the first quarter demonstrates that some consumers and smaller businesses are in no rush to shred their chequebooks just yet.

There is a Government stamp duty charge of 50c on each cheque issued.

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