Personal checks falling out of favor with retailers |

Personal checks falling out of favor with retailers

David Migoya
The Denver Post

The handwritten check is becoming an antiquity in today’s world of electronic payments, and some retailers are toying with barring them outright.

Though Americans wrote more than 30 billion checks in 2006 – the most recent data available from the Federal Reserve – the number has been dwindling for years as the volume of transactions put on credit and debit cards has boomed.

And financial experts say it won’t be long before paper checks are simple electronic transactions at the point of sale, eliminating the need for banks to handle them.

Yet checks remain the most used form of noncash payment, though the popularity of debit cards is increasing quickly at 25 billion transactions in 2006, a 17.5 percent increase from 2003.

Now, Whole Foods Market is the first large grocery-store chain to test-market a plan to prohibit personal checks for all purchases, and more than a few consumer groups are edgy that the idea might catch on.

The company is trying it out at three stores in Southern California and Arizona. It will leave shoppers to rely on debit and credit cards or cash.

“Mostly, it’s because of problems with check fraud,” spokeswoman Libba Letton said from the company’s headquarters in Austin, Texas.

The other reason is to speed the checkout process, she said, since check verifications and identity confirmations are time-consuming.

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