During the first century AD, banks in Persia (Iran) and other territories in the Persian empire under the Sassanid dynasty issued letters of credit known as Sakks. The predecessor of the modern cheque was the 'bill of exchange', which was introduced in Florence, Italy, in the 12th century in a bid to support international trade. One of the earliest hand-written cheques known to be in existence in Britain dates from 1659. A quarter of all transactions in Ireland are done by cheque, compared with 1pc in many European states. If all of the cheques issued in Ireland in a single year were placed in a pile on top of one another, the mound would reach twice the height of Mount Everest. Although most cheques should clear within three to five business days, it is possible to present a cheque up to a value of €625,000 that can be cleared immediately.
But this is only available in the Dublin area, and the payee must present the cheque before 3:00pm at the nominated branch of the bank.