Illustration for article titled Why Are There Still Personal Checks?Photo: jwohlfeil (Shutterstock)

Personal checks are always falling into it Disuse. They are like fax machines – outdated, slow, and only a hardened group of people still using them, even if they are less practical. Is there a good reason to keep using checks? In some cases, yes – although you still need to be careful about identity theft.

What is a personal check?

Unlike the glowing rectangles on phones or debit terminal displays that we typically use for shopping, checks are paper rectangles that take a long time to process in the mail – usually days or weeks later. During this time, you need to make sure that the money is available until the check is cleared. Otherwise, the check will bounce and you will be charged approximately $ 35 average. Worse, if you want to use checks, you have to pay them often –up to 30 cents per check, depending on your bank (some offer them for free).

Despite all of these negatives, there are some instances where you have no choice but to use personal checks or where you can save money by using these checks.

Illustration for article titled Why Are There Still Personal Checks?

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When would I even use a personal check?

As many renters can attest, not all companies or organizations accept credit cards or debits, especially for large purchases. This is because some companies have low margins and want to avoid transaction costs, or because they are large companies like utilities or government agencies that are slow to accept plastic. And if they accept debits or credits, these are often processed by third-party payment processing companies that charge a fee every time they are used. This makes checks a more convenient option when you’re looking to save money.

Another overlooked reason people use checks is this 10% of adults in the US do not use the Internet. In this case, it is easier to pay bills with a check than to pay in person with cash. And some people simply prefer the traceability of checks, as you can access a canceled check through your bank once it’s cleared, making it easier to resolve a dispute with a creditor or company later.

If you’ve ever received a check from your grandma stuck in a birthday card, you know that checks are also a preferred way to send someone a cash gift.

Are Personal Checks Safe?

Not quite. The problem with checks is that they contain your banking information (sometimes your address) and are processed by many different people before they are actually cashed, making them a target for identity thieves. One of the reasons debit and credit cards became increasingly popular is because they were seen as a safer way to buy.

When using checks, avoid adding additional personal information (such as your date of birth, phone number, or driver’s license number) in the note field of the check. If you can avoid having checks printed with your address on them, do this. You should also keep your checkbook in a safe place, ideally in a locked drawer at home.