The statistics are compelling. In Australia, monthly cheque volumes dropped over 70 per cent between 2002 and 2014 and continue to decline at a vertiginous rate year on year due to the availability of a range of electronic payment alternatives. It's not surprising the financial industry sees them as obsolete.
Yet the cheque's resilience tells us, for some businesses, the paper financial order still fills a need. Indeed, nascent moves just a few years back to shift banking to a post-cheque world met with a strident public backlash, putting the plans on the back burner.
The Australian Payments Council recognises the need to offer sustainable payment options and include a transition path for cheques. It has established an industry working group to prepare a payments roadmap.
ANZ is part of this working group, which aims to deliver this industry roadmap by 2018.
DAYS ARE NUMBERED
Over the last 10 years, cheque usage has declined significantly in Australia and continues to decline at a steady annual rate. Cheques now account for less than 5 per cent of all non-cash payments made by consumers and businesses each day.
The decline is due to the availability of electronic payment channels (such as electronic funds transfers, BPAY, direct debit and direct credit) which all provide more convenient, secure, efficient and cheaper ways of transacting.
Cheques are prone to fraud and make it harder for businesses to manage cash flow and management. Electronic channels allow more effective payment processing and cash-management visibility.
It is clear electronic payment methods will continue to replace paper-based payment methods over time. Cheques no longer meet customer needs in a rapidly growing real-time payment environment, where digital wallets and mobile contactless payment technologies are now commonplace.
With the planned introduction of the New Payments Platform (NPP), the Reserve Bank-sponsored, real-time payments infrastructure now under construction, there will be a new faster, flexible and more convenient 24/7 electronic payment service to make and receive payments in Australia. This will further increase the decline of cheque usage.
The NPP, due to be released in Australia late 2017, is an industry wide initiative to deliver a new platform for Australia's low value-payments and provide Australian businesses and consumers with a fast, versatile, data-rich payments system for making their everyday payments.
Cheques will still be around for the time being but you will find it harder and harder to use them, with many businesses no longer accepting cheques as a form of payment. There's never been a better time for businesses to prepare for the rapid growth of the digital economy.