Here’s a Google search you never thought would be a hit: “how to write a check.”
Even stranger: Searches for that phrase peak right around now, in late August and early September… for reasons we’ll describe in just a minute.
So what’s the big deal with writing checks? Although this method of payment is old, it’s still pretty prevalent in a lot of homes.
But many people — especially the younger ones — aren’t used to writing checks, and don’t even know where to start when they’re faced with one for the first time.
The way we move money has changed, according to Daily Finance, and it’s changed very quickly.
Why Don’t We Use Checks Anymore?
Check payments dropped by more than 50% between 2000 and 2012, according to a study by the Federal Reserve, while electronic and card payments tripled in the same time period.
Checks have gone out of style for a few key reasons.
First, writer Paul Sisolak explains, they’re not the safest method of payment. Your checking account and routing number are displayed right there on the check, so you’ve got to trust whoever’s on the other side of the register or in the billing department.
Many retailers no longer accept checks at all, opting instead for credit and debit or even smartphone payment systems like Apple Pay.
There’s also the environmental factor. Sisolak notes the rise of “eChecking” or “green checking,” which encourages bank customers to save paper and money by doing less with paper, like receiving mailed statements or, you got it, writing checks. Why cut down a tree to write a check when you could zoom your payment through the wilds of the Internet?
The First Time Kids Learn How to Write Checks: College
As you consider the decline in check usage, think about when kids learn about writing checks.
They’re not standing at the counter in the bank or at the tax office, watching mom or dad write out a check. They’re not learning how to write pretend checks at school during middle-school personal finance lessons (if they even have these).
Instead, college is a time of financial awakening, which explains that peak in Google searches for “how to write a check” in the fall.
“Students living off-campus for the first time are likely facing the daunting task of writing their first check, for an electric bill, a cable payment, or, especially, for rent,” Christopher Ingraham explains in the Washington Post.
So, do you need to learn how to write a check? Head over to Daily Finance for a six-step guide. Sisolak won’t rake you over the coals.
It may seem silly to need instructions for handling checks, but it’s still a method of payment that many people use — maybe even you. There’s no harm in getting a little education to do it right.
Your Turn: Do you use checks to pay any of your bills? Or are you all about the electronic methods?
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor and podcaster living in Baltimore. She loves her checkbook and even sends some of her bills through the mail.