Some markets have fostered check reduction and even elimination, whereas others are leaving the market to naturally reduce their use. Nonetheless, reductions in check usage are an ongoing conversation between stakeholders in the payments space. Motivations include reducing costs, increasing sustainability, and supporting migration to newer payment methods such as to real-time payments. Most check reduction/elimination efforts have been government-led or involved various public sector authorities.
South Africa, for example, eliminated checks in December 2020. To do this, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) gave a one-year notice period, which all banks were required to communicate to their customers. Banks had to cease issuing and/or processing checks after the specified date.
In Singapore, this is part of a national digitalization strategy. The government has committed to eliminating checks by 2025. In support of this goal, it launched several digital readiness programs such as "Seniors Go Digital”, providing one-on-one training in basic digital skills, such as making e-payments, to more than 100,000 older adults. Businesses are also encouraged to go check-free by using PayNow’s services.
In Japan, the government decided in 2017 to reduce paper-based checks by 60% between 2019 and 2023. This forms part of a strong government initiative to transform Japan into a more digital society. Furthermore, the financial industry has also committed to eliminating paper-based instruments by 2026. Alternative payment methods are being promoted, especially for B2B use cases.
Research shows different approaches for declining check volume. Nevertheless, cooperation between private and public stakeholders is a common characteristic of successful initiatives to replace checks.
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Ana Isabel Cosío
Ana has conducted research in the payments ecosystem of several countries in Latin America and Europe. She has also worked in competitor analyses for cross-border payments, regulatory market entry strategies, fraud management in several European countries, and the impact of real-time payments in ACH payment volumes.