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Can social media save paper checks?

Check company launches campaign to advocate the right to write checks. But can even YouTube sell 'checks appeal'?

By Teresa Mears Sep 30, 2010 2:43PM

What a retro idea: A new publicity campaign wants to defend our right to use paper checks.

Does anyone still use checks? Haven't they gone the way of green stamps?


Deluxe Corp., which sells paper checks, is organizing the campaign, complete with videos, a Facebook page and other modern social networking tools. The company is arguing that customers should have the right to pay by check if they want to.


Though it's hard to argue with consumer choice, the advocates of the right to use paper checks are facing an uphill battle. Some stores won't take checks, banks are charging more to send you copies of your canceled checks, employers are no longer providing paper paychecks, and the even the U.S. government is phasing out the use of paper checks for benefits such as Social Security.


Jim Wang of Bargaineering argues that paper checks are the most insecure form of payment, that it's actually much easier for someone to steal your identity and your money that way than by electronic means. MSN columnist Liz Pulliam Weston agrees, saying that a paper check is a thief's best friend.

I quit using checks in the 1980s because it took so much longer to buy something if you wanted to write a check. You had to pull out two forms of ID, and half the time the clerk would have to call over a manager to approve the transaction. Using a credit card was so much faster.


People who don't want to use credit cards use debit cards in situations where they once used checks (or cash). Online bill pay means you also don't need checks to pay a mortgage or utility bill.


Deluxe Corp. commissioned a survey on checks and these were the findings:

  • 75% of consumers want the right to pay by whatever method they choose, whether it be check, credit card, debit card or cash.
  • 38% would consider walking out of or not returning to a business that refused to accept checks.
  • 60% would be more likely to pay by check if they thought it would keep more money in the local economy.
  • 22% think a sign saying "We Do Not Accept Checks" is bad customer service.

Paper checks? I don't know about you, but I use them only if no alternative is available, such as to pay a plumber or some other service worker. And I'm old enough to be a grandmother. With new technology, even more small merchants may start taking credit and debit cards, making check use even less likely.


But for people who are less comfortable online or who don't have home computers, who can't get or don't want credit cards, checks are still a preferred way of paying bills.


The survey found that 69% of people without a college degree, 72% of those with household incomes of less than $25,000 and 72% of retirees preferred stores that accept checks.


While some merchants, particularly large merchants, make it more difficult for you to buy items with checks, smaller merchants sometimes welcome checks over credit cards, because the credit card companies charge merchants fees and a percentage of each sale. The fee charged by a check verification service is much smaller.


Will checks make a comeback? We think Deluxe Corp. may have a hard time painting writing checks as cool (especially if all the videos are like this one, about Duncan Steele, the man with "checks appeal"). But if baby carrots and high-fructose corn syrup can change their image, maybe checks have a chance.


What do you think? Do paper checks have a future? Would you like to use checks more often, or do you think their time has come and gone?


More from MSN Money:

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