Is the cheque disappearing any time soon? – The Globe and Mail

The options available to Canadians to make payments have never been more plentiful: from cash, credit cards, Interac and e-mail transfers, to a growing number of mobile payment apps.

And yet last year, 875 million payments in this country were made via cheque, for an average of about 25 a person, according to Gerry Gaetz, below, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Payments Association, the organization responsible for this country’s national clearing and settlement systems.

While Canadians on average use fewer cheques than Americans (68 cheques a person) and France (46), according to John Chant, an emeritus professor of economics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, it leaves it firmly in the rear-view mirror of many European countries. Germany, Sweden and Norway use almost no written cheques, while Finland abandoned the personal cheque in 1993 and Poland followed suit in 2006. These countries now rely instead on payment systems that are totally electronic.

It’s a move that makes sense from a business standpoint, with cheque use in Canada declining at a rate of about 7 per cent a year, according to experts. Research from MasterCard Inc. and Kaiser Associates Inc. from 2013 indicates that migrating to electronic payment options could save Canadian businesses about 41 per cent in business-to-business transactions.

“My rough estimate suggest that businesses could save between $1.6-billion to $4.4-billion a year if the costs of using cheques were halved by moving to a fully electronic payment system,” says Dr. Chant, who authored a report for the C.D. Howe Institute on the subject.