Leading article: Cheque out

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In this fast-moving age, is it not rather civilised to be given almost nine years' notice of a change? But perhaps this is how long it will take to wean us off a habit grown up over 350 years. The cheque, it seems, is to be phased out in 2018.

Banks – showing their softer side – have wooed us over the years with degrees of personalisation, with landscapes and flowers printed on to our payment orders and with automated dispatch, so that we either have a drawer full of cheque books or none at all. Even so, the cheque's genteel demise is already well advanced. Today's spenders flash their plastic as nonchalantly as they once wrote out a cheque, and pay the rest of their bills electronically. Serious fraudsters switched their allegiance long ago.

Indeed, the cheque might not have survived this far, had it not been for lotteries and the Pools. A bank transfer is no substitute for seeing real numbers inscribed on a giant cheque. Starting now, they have nine years to find an alternative.

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