Check usage worldwide has been in a long, slow decline for many years, and continues to become a less-important payment mechanism as electronic forms of payment take greater hold of the non-bank payments environment.
However, checks continue to represent one of the most used modes of payments – both for companies and for consumer – worldwide, but especially in certain countries, such as the US, Singapore, and China. In 2011, checks accounted for 60.6% of total transaction volume across payment instruments in BIS countries that made data available. In Singapore, they comprised 67.1% of all payments, in Canada 50.5%, in China 38.2% and in the US 37%. However, this figures all represent a year-on-year decline and, overall, the use of checks across BIS countries did decrease 14%, by value compared to 2010.
It also decreased by number of transactions (6.9%,) dropping a whopping 57% in Russia, 30.4% in South Africa and nearly 20% in Switzerland.
In the US, since the enactment of the Check 21 Act in 2004, electronic images of checks have been recognized as legal documents. Technology, such as remote deposit capture, enables electronification of a check at some point during its lifecycle. This has likely slowed the process of reducing check usage in the US market. However, that process continues, and other payment mechanisms are beginning to grow in importance. As a result, since 2007, the number of checks written in the U.S. has decreased from 28 billion to 21 billion in 2011.