Daily Mail (UK): Cheques are banned at all Shell garages: Thursday 8th September 2005
By SEAN POULTER
Cheque: On its way out
Shell has become the first national retailer to ban payment by cheque.
The move is expected to speed the demise of the traditional payment method, which has existed since medieval - and possibly Roman - times.
Shell said managers at its 900 petrol stations had complained about the time and trouble involved in handling cheques.
Staff have to take them to the bank, there are charges to process each cheque and a delay in the funds being cleared.
The company and the banking industry said the ban is part of a wider trend by retailers.
The popularity of the cheque peaked when some 4billion were issued in Britain in 1990. However, the total was down to 2.1billion last year.
Conservative estimates suggest it will fall to 1.2billion over the next decade, but the decline could be much more rapid.
Shell said: "The number of customers requesting to pay by cheque has reduced significantly over the last couple of years.
"Cheque payments now account for less than 1 per cent of the transaction value across our entire UK shop network.
"Service station managers have been unhappy about the inconvenience involved in taking cheques to the bank and getting them cleared. It has been a drain on their time. This decision is part of a general trend in the retail sector."
Cheque losing out to plastic
The Association for Payment Clearing Services, which represents the banks on card payment methods, said the cheque is losing out to plastic cards, particularly debit cards.
Last year total spending on debit and credit cards overtook that for cash and cheques - £273billion versus £272billion.
An APACS spokesman said: "If you ask someone under 30 for the last time they wrote a cheque, they will struggle to remember. They probably won't even know where their chequebook is.
"Even the older generation are using cheques less. Many people have suggested the cheque will no longer exist by 2020."
Debit cards were first used in the UK in 1988 and have become the favourite way of paying by plastic.
The number of customers with a debit card has risen from 24.4million to 40million in the last decade. They accounted for two-thirds of all plastic card spending, a total of £150billion, last year.
Paul Rodford, head of card payments at APACS, said: "It is much more common to be use a debit card to pay a dentist or a solicitor, somewhere in the past you might have used a cheque.
"We are seeing more people using debit cards for low value purchases, but also high value items, such as putting down a deposit on a car or buying a holiday.
"Debit cards tend to be among the cheaper and easier forms of payment for retailers to process."
Ironically, one of the few areas where cheques are frequently used is to make monthly repayments on credit cards.
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