How will cheque imaging affect the cheque printing industry?

Changes in cheque processing procedures have recently been announced that will allow cheques to be paid in via a smartphone image, without ever having to go to the bank or provide the physical cheque.

Through the use of new cheque imaging software, users will be able to use their smartphone to photograph a cheque and send it to their bank to be paid in digitally. This will reduce the cheque processing time from six days to two as the bank will never need to process the physical cheque. Barclays are the first bank to accept cheque images and are currently trialling an iPhone app. Other banks are expected to follow with their own systems soon.

It’s hoped this system will encourage people to pay in their cheques – Barclays claim up to £300 million worth of cheques are never paid in each year, presumably as many are too busy or not able to visit their bank in person.

No details have been revealed of how banks will reduce fraud with this system, however this method is already successfully in use in America, France, China and many other countries around the World. The US introduced a digital image system in 2005, after legalising a printed image of a cheque to be the equivalent of the original cheque in 2004.

Although this is a big change for the cheque industry in the UK, as cheque printers, it’s business as usual. Cheques continue to be used extensively in the UK so cheque printing services are always in demand. Although cheque use has fallen since its peak, over 800 billion cheques are still processed each year in the UK, and tellingly, all plans to get rid of the cheque have now been scrapped. It might be evolving to fit in with our increasingly digital lifestyles, but the paper cheque lives on.