Chartered Accountants


16 December 2009

Key facts:

  • Cheques to be phased out by 31 October 2018
  • Cheques where introduced 350 years ago
  • The cheque is still used extensively by individuals, sole traders, small businesses, clubs, charities and schools
  • The Council aims to ensure that the needs of elderly and vulnerable people are protected before any final decision is taken

The UK’s Payments Council has announced that the cheque was in “long-term, decline” and as a result a decision has been made to close the central cheque clearing by 31 October 2018.


Over the next nine years, the Payments Council will promote existing alternative payment methods and where innovation and new options are required to ensure that they are put in place.


The council has acknowledged that although cheque use has been in decline since 1990, and has fallen by 40% over the last five years, there are still plenty of situations where cheques are used extensively. These include payments between individuals, and payments to sole traders, small businesses, clubs, charities and schools. 


The council is urging the payments industry to rise to the challenge of finding easy-to-use efficient alternatives for these payments and to ensure that they are easily accessible and well understood by cheque users. The objective is to ensure that by 2018 there is no scenario where customers, individuals or businesses, still need to use a cheque. The Council will ensure that the needs of elderly and vulnerable people are met and will undertake a full review in 2016 before any final decision is taken.

Time line key cheque facts    

  • 1990 - Peak year for number of cheques – 11 million cheques written per day.
  • 2007 - Industry-wide maximum cheque clearing timescales launched. Known as 2-4-6, these provided clarity on timescales and for the first time customers got certainty on their cheque funds.   
  • 2007-8 - Vast majority of major UK retailers start to stop accepting cheques.
  • Just under four million cheques are written each day, compared to 14.8 million debit card payments.
  • In 2008 each business wrote on average around 50 cheques per month and received around 1,080 cheques per year, whereas each adult wrote 1.2 cheques per month on average and received just 5 per year. 
  • 45,000 trees were cut down to make cheques.
  • 2009  -  350th birthday of the cheque.
  • 54% of adults (26 million people) still write cheques with 48% of adults receiving a cheque in the last year.
  • Decision taken on closing the Cheque Guarantee Card Scheme.
  • 2011 -  Cheque Guarantee Card Scheme to close on 30th June.
  • 2016 -  Payments Council to take go /no-go decision on closing cheque clearings.
  • 2018 -  31st October. The target end date for closing the central cheque clearing. 

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