The death of the cheque has moved closer after one of the ‘big four’ supermarket chains announced it was considering banning them from its stores.
Asda is trialling a cash and plastic-only policy at 21 stores within the M25. It says the number of cheques used in Asda has more than halved over the last five years and believes that banning cheques could cut queues at tills.
Customers in the trial area will still be able to use cheques for the next three weeks if they have no other way of paying. The trial will then run for eight weeks, after which the supermarket giant will evaluate its success.
Cheques are time-consuming
An Asda spokesman said: ‘Cheques do take time and we know queues are a bugbear. Paying by cheque is more time-consuming than by card or cash.’
The move follows car fuel giant Shell’s decision last September to stop accepting cheques at its 586 forecourts in the UK.
Apacs, the payment association which represents banks and credit card companies, says cheques now account for only 6 per cent of spending in shops. Six million cheques per day were written in the UK in 2004 compared with 22.8 million credit and debit card transactions.
Apacs says cheques will dwindle
The cheque’s heyday was in 1990, when 11 million a day were written in the UK. Apacs predicts this number will fall to 3.5 million a day by 2014.
Apacs spokeswoman Jemma Smith said: ‘There is a generation of people who have grown up without having a cheque book around. We have moved away from cheques and cash and are increasingly turning to plastic, particularly our debit cards.’
A British Retail Consortium spokeswoman said: ‘[Cheques] are the most time-consuming payment method at the till. Cheques need to be written, they need to be validated by a bankers card, details need to be written on the back and they can get lost. In addition, cheque-book fraud has been an ongoing problem.’