Why the Hell Do Checkbooks Still Exist?


Your rent is due—that’s pretty much the only time it dawns on you: Oh, right. Checkbooks do still exist. But as mobile payment apps like Venmo and Zelle start to dominate, will the act of paying by check (and the art of balancing a checkbook, a skill I was taught with fervor by my parents when I opened my first checking account) become obsolete? We checked in with a couple of experts to find out.

1. The Main Reason People Still Use a Checkbook? Habit.

While it may feel like mobile payment apps like Venmo (which launched in 2009) have been around for quite some time, they’re still relatively new to the personal finance scene. And as a result, a lot of people still rely on their checkbook. “If you have always used checks as a way to pay for things, it’s likely you will continue to do so,” explains Dana Marineau, vice president and financial advocate at Credit Karma. “People who don’t use the internet often or who don’t trust an app to keep their money safe may be more hesitant to switch full-stop to making digital transactions.”

2. There Are Still Times When You Need to Use a Check

Some providers—like your landlord or employer—still require a voided check to get you set up in their system, explains Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner for Mint and Turbo. Additionally, “some small businesses may not want to pay credit card fees and may only accept cash or check.” She also notes that a check is hands down the best way to give a monetary gift. (Venmo your cousin’s wedding gift? We think not.)

3. But There Are Also Security Risks

If one of your checks gets into the wrong hands, “that person will then have access to your account number and could drain your checking account,” says Marineau. “There’s also the added risk that a check typically lists your home address.” This isn’t to say there aren’t risks with mobile payments too. But digital banking is typically more secure.

4. Bottom Line: Keep Tabs On Any Payments

“Whenever I use Zelle or Venmo, I make clear notes in the ‘note’ section of every payment so I remember what the money was for and can track it every month,” explains Castro. And Marineau maintains that, ultimately, it’s what works for you and keeps your finances on track. “If you find that balancing your checkbook each month prevents you from overspending, that may be a reason for you to continue using checks. You never want to get yourself in a situation where you’re spending beyond your means. Sometimes, an app on your phone or a credit card can help you get carried away.”

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...