28 Feb 2020

Kiwibank checks out: Last day for customers to use cheques

7:40 am on 28 February 2020

Today is the last day Kiwibank will accept cheques, and its customers will no longer be able to make a payment by cheque.

Generic Kiwibank images from outside the bank.

(File image). Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Inland Revenue and ACC will also follow suit on 1 March.

The number of cheques has been going down by about 20 percent year-on-year and last year that increased to 30 percent.

From tomorrow, Kiwibank customers will have to rely on cash, or direct debits. Anyone still holding a Kiwibank cheque will have to go back to the person who wrote it and arrange another type of payment.

But there's been concern around whether people still using cheques - particularly those in the older generation - will be able to adopt new methods of making payments.

Julie Hudson, 78, sends about two cheques a month on average. When she was sick a few years ago, she used cheques to pay for the "meals on wheels" service.

"There's no other way to pay," she said.

"You can't go to the hospital and give them money. You've either got to pay by cheque, or else you've got to get it done by some other method."

Providing an education in mobile banking

Kiwibank revealed the decision to stop using cheques last year, and it has been a slow process to end their circulation.

It's a decision that makes way for different ways of managing money: digital payments and cash are now the only methods of payment at the bank.

Unfortunately for Julie, she said she was unable to use online banking.

"I don't have a computer. My eyesight will not let me have a computer.

"I'd have to draw money out and rely on someone else to give me a cheque, or something like that. If you did away with them all the time, I don't know what I'd do."

She does not bank with Kiwibank, which means she will - at least for now - be able to continue to use cheques.

But the number of people who do is going down and the steady trend of decreasing numbers of cheques being filed, along with the high running costs of processing them, led to this decision.

To help with the transition, Kiwibank has run different schemes designed to help people adapt to the move away from cheques. That included DORA - a WiFi enabled bus that provides online banking training to the more remote communities.

Kiwibank customer Kev Paul visiting DORA in the Coromandel with Kiwibank Customer Service Representative Lisa Humphries.

Kiwibank customer Kev Paul visiting DORA in the Coromandel with Kiwibank Customer Service Representative Lisa Humphries. Photo: Supplied / KiwiBank

Customers were also able to turn up to Kiwibank branches and receive one-on-one training.

"We've provided that support in a number of ways," said retail manager Geoff Waller.

"Customers can just pop in, sit down one-on-one with our staff members and they can go through how to set up internet banking, download the app on their phone they can have a run through other things if they're not digitally minded."

Waller said the programme has been successful, with more than 2000 people turning up to utilise the advice.

Providing support in a chequeless society

Julie's case, however, raises other questions over how some people - mainly among the older generation - will be able to cope in a chequeless society.

Head of Age Concern Stephanie Clare said it came down to providing them with support.

"If you haven't got access to digital devices, or even the broadband to even see what's going on, or even the capability of doing that, knowing a trusted support person, knowing a trusted community member, either an organisation or an individual or family member, is going to be very important."

Not that they were not adaptable, she said.

"They've seen the introduction of decimal currency, and had to adapt from pound and shillings and cents to decimal and dollars, so thinking they can't adapt doesn't give them credit and value."

Mike Taylor, 64, owns a farm in the Wairarapa - he was brought up on cheques.

"I guess it's just habit from when I first started farming," he said. "We all used cheques in those days. I still have a cheque book, and they're still giving me cheques, so I keep using them."

The ways farmers deal with money was changing, he said.

"As more younger farmers get involved, they're used to the cashless society, and a lot of the bank transactions are a lot easier. I just have a little bit of trouble in the reconciling of the online payments - I find it a lot easier with the old statement."

Taylor - who is the Secretary of the Federated Farmers Wairarapa branch - deals with ACC and Inland Revenue often, but he had been told his payments to them would have to change.

But he said there was no point in fighting it, and it was better to "roll over, and play dead, and get out."

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