Kiwibank has announced that from March 2020 it will no longer issue and accept cheques across its banking network, citing a steady decrease in cheque use and customers’ increasing preference for digital payments services.
Kiwibank chief executive, Steve Jurkovich, said that while its decision to go cheque-free was not an easy one, the bank had reached its “tipping point”, with paper-based transactions representing fewer than one per cent of all payments currently processed through the bank.
“We’ve chosen not to invest in a shrinking service and outdated technology. Instead, we’re moving forward and equipping customers for a world that is increasingly digital,” he said.
The staged nine-month phase-out of cheques will begin on 30 September this year, with the bank first ceasing the issuance of cheques and deposit books. By the end of February 2020, cheque deposits will no longer be accepted into Kiwibank customer accounts and the bank will also no longer provide bank cheques.
During the phase-out period, Jurkovich said the bank would support various digital support and inclusion initiatives to help customers transition from paper to electronic payments, including Stepping UP, which provides free, community-based training to build digital skills and knowledge in communities.
“Online tools can offer a more convenient and cheaper customer experience, but there can be barriers to usage. This new partnership is about making sure all Kiwis have the same opportunity to build their online skills, feel more included and gain confidence. It will also mean they have access to cheaper and faster financial products and be confident they are doing so securely,” Jurkovich said.
Customers that have used cheques more than five times over the past year can expect to receive personal letters advising them of the change. Kiwibank said it will also make efforts to work with business customers and large cheque issuers, including government departments, through the nine-month transition period.
Cheque use in New Zealand has declined considerably over the last decade, falling by two-thirds between 2013 and 2017.
According to Payments New Zealand, for every cheque written in 2018, there were 120 electronic payments; this compares with just 18 electronic payments for every cheque written in 2010.
However, cheque use remains widespread across New Zealand, with 23.1 million cheques issued in 2017 alone.
Moreover, transaction values for cheques remain high, averaging $2,135 in 2017, compared with just $65 for credit card payments, which suggests a continued reliance on paper for high-value purchases.