The cheque's in the past, as debit cards take over
IT is a case of the cheque is in the past rather than in the post, as consumers are increasingly favouring the use of debit and credit cards to pay their way.
A new report has found a huge rise in electronic payments by consumers and businesses, with a big drop in the use of cash and cheques.
Irish people have traditionally been among the biggest users of cash and cheques, but the report from the Irish Payments Services Organisation (IPSO) also shows that the number of withdrawals being made at ATMs is falling.
Over the past five years, the number of cheques and paper-based debits has fallen by a third to 76 million a year.
Writing a cheque has become expensive, with 50c Government stamp duty charged on each one, and with banks charging up to 30c to process them.
If the cheque is put in the post, there is an additional cost of 55c for a postage stamp.
This can take the total for writing just one cheque to €1.35.
Calculations by this newspaper indicate that writing just one cheque a week will cost a householder around €40 a year.
The IPSO figures show that the value of all the cheques written has plunged from close to €800bn in 2008 to around €300bn last year.
Consumers have switched over to using debit cards.
These include Laser, Visa and MasterCards.
Unlike a credit card, a debit card can only be used if the account holder has money in the bank.
There is now more than one-third more debit cards in circulation than there was five years ago, with around four million in wallets and purses.
The number of payments made by debit cards is also up, climbing 41pc in the past five years.
Last year, consumers spent a whopping €24bn on payment cards.
Some €20bn was withdrawn from automated teller machines (ATMs).
The Central Bank and payments services bodies are spearheading plans to get people to use electronic payments rather than cash and cheques.
The National Payments Plan is also looking at whether 1c coins should be phased out.
IPSO chief executive Pat McLoughlin said the move over to debit and credit cards would make Ireland more competitive.
"The figures are indicating that Irish consumers and businesses are now tending towards the more efficient payment tools that are available that help make Ireland a competitive market," said Mr McLoughlin.
The implementation of the National Payments Plan should accelerate the trend of moving away from cheques and cash towards electronic payments, he added.