I still like writing checks

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I read somewhere that 65 percent of us pay our bills online, while only 16 percent of us still write checks.

While I consider myself to be on the forefront of technology (I bought an Amazon Firestick the other day), I admit – I still write checks.

I know that I have been in the minority for many years. My children don’t write checks. I don’t think they ever have. Maybe a rent check, but even that can be just drafted these days.

Check writing eventually will disappear. Money will just be bouncing in cyberspace back and forth, dropping into people’s accounts and being drafted from there probably just as fast.

I have tried the electronic payment route, but have returned to writing checks.

I switched back for several reasons. There were mistakes made along the cyber pipeline on some of my payments, and it created a bigger mess than I really wanted to deal with. I also like the paper back-up that checks provide. And, I just missed writing checks.

There is something about writing a check that the cyber payments cannot match. It requires a fair amount of handwriting skills so that the bank scanners can interpret how much I am paying. I am on my best penmanship, carefully filling out the payee part and the amount before signing it.

It doesn’t feel good to have the money drafted from my account, but I do like the physical part of writing a check. It is a work of art, sort of.

Michelangelo would have written incredible checks. I would not have cashed his, just pasted it on the ceiling and charge people to see it. Picasso’s checks would have left the tellers guessing what he was paying for and how much. Van Gogh’s check would have looked sad, with a little ear by his name – drawn, not the real one, which he boxed up and shipped off.

I like receiving checks more than writing them, though. Most of the ones I receive are printed by computers. Those are the boring ones, unless the numbers behind the dollar signs are big. Then they are exciting.

Several of the checks I receive are still written by hand. One is a Picasso-type job. I have to tell the bank teller what the number is because she can’t make out the cat scratchings.

One teller suggested that I have the check reissued to avoid a possible charge-back fee. I assured her that the reissued check would be the same quality, and that it won’t be returned. The sender knows how much he wrote it for, even though he failed handwriting in grade school.

When I was a freshman in high school, my math teacher one day diverged from the normal algebra stuff and went over how to write checks and balance checkbooks. I don’t know if that was in the curriculum, but it was definitely a skill that came in handy long after all those equations and formulas departed my memory.

I went to my neighborhood bank shortly after that lesson and opened an account. The following month I balanced the account. It was easy. There wasn’t much to balance, just a few numbers. I was in high school.

If only 16 percent of us still write checks, I’d bet that the percentage of those who still balance their accounts each month is even lower. Probably much lower, even though software makes it a lot easier these days.

Yes, checks are on their way out.

But I’m old-fashioned. I still like to open the envelope and feel the check before taking a picture of it with my cellphone and depositing it. It’s raining.