Friday, September 30, 2011

Bank checks are here to stay

When banks first made debit cards available to consumers, I quickly embraced the convenience of the new product. Debit cards are great for paying everyday expenses, and the money comes out of your bank account immediately. I never realized that a day would come when some businesses would charge an extra fee for using plastic.

Many businesses, such as gasoline stations and doctor's offices, do not accept debit cards, but they'll take checks. Now that debit cards and online bill pay are easily accessible, I thought checks were becoming a thing of the past. I still needed checks to pay my church offering or to send an occasional check to my daughter. I thought I'd probably keep the checks on hand for another year. I was wrong.

Two years ago I noticed a trend -- consumers being charged a fee for each transaction at the gas station. Doctors' offices I visited stopped accepting bank cards but would accept checks.

Here's what happened: Banks targeted vendors with the new fees. Businesses such as gas stations and convenience stores, insisting that they have a low profit margins, passed on the cost to consumers. I remember when I first experienced the "shock" at the gas pump when I used my bank card.

When I looked at my receipt, I realized that I had been charged a $0.45 fee on top of the gas total. I ranting to my husband about this "outrage." Ultimately, the Obama administration established new regulations on the banking industry.

Shortly afterward, I paid a visit to a new doctor. When I arrived, I discovered that this physician did not accept cards but would accept bank checks. That's when I realized that checks would be around for a while.

I used to leave my checkbook at home. I don't anymore.

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