UK is unusual amongst European countries in that we still use a lot of cheques. There was a plan to phase them out by the end of October 2018, but it’s been shelved – too many people use them and rely on them, chiefly the elderly, charities and small businesses.
Cheque usage has declined sharply over the years since the peak in 1990, when some four billion cheques were written – 11 million cheques each and every day. Various efforts were made to spice up their appearance, with illustrations, and in 1995 Lloyds Bank introduced left-handed cheque books for their more ‘sinister’ customers.
The first major retailer to stop accepting cheques was Shell in 2005, and by 2008 most major retailers had followed suit; Harrods was the last, holding out until 1st July 2011.
Some predict that cheques, along with the 1p coin, will be gone by 2023. If so, they will have had a good innings – more than 360 years since the earliest known surviving English cheque was written, dated 16th February 1659.
In theory, a cheque can be written on anything portable – a pig, for example.