State owned Kiwibank to become the first New Zealand bank to cull cheques, after 'tipping point' reached with less than 1% of the bank's payments now made by cheque

State owned Kiwibank to become the first New Zealand bank to cull cheques, after 'tipping point' reached with less than 1% of the bank's payments now made by cheque

Kiwibank is doing away with cheques, saying they'll be phased out over the next nine months.

The state owned bank says it will go "cheque-free" from February 28, and will support cheque using customers over a nine month transition to a "faster, safer, and cheaper payment options."

Kiwibank CEO Steve Jurkovich says over the last five years cheque use has steadily declined, with less than 1% of the bank's payments now made by cheque.

"We’ve come to a tipping point. We’ve chosen not to invest in a shrinking service and outdated technology, instead we’re moving forward and equipping customers for a world that is increasingly digital,” Jurkovich says.

Kiwibank is working with Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa and is supporting Stepping UP, an initiative offering free, community-based digital skills and knowledge training. The relationship with Stepping UP includes designing and developing online banking training with free banking workshops to be offered nationwide.

“We understand cheques may still play a role in the day-to-day lives of some of our customers. For this reason, we wanted to provide customers with plenty of time to prepare for this change,” Jurkovich says.

Customers who've used cheques more than five times over the past year will be sent letters advising them of the change. Kiwibank says it will also work with business customers and large cheque issuers, including government departments, through the transition period. Kiwibank estimates that of its about one million customers only 5,400 write more than one cheque a month. Of those still using cheques, many are over 65 years old. 

"We’ve reached out to a number of senior and disability support advocates in regard to this decision," Kiwibank says.

Kiwibank says after September 30 it will no longer issue cheque or deposit books. Then after February 28 next year cheque deposits won't be accepted into Kiwibank customer accounts, and other banks may stop accepting Kiwibank cheques. Also after February 28, Kiwibank will stop providing bank cheques. There's more information here.

In the 2014 Budget the Government announced the abolition of cheque duty, which was applied at five cents per cheque. Then-Revenue Minister Todd McClay said it raised only about $4 million a year. There's more background on cheque use in NZ here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

8 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

Not a good sign TTP. Who do you bank with?

Oh no Noddy bank has done it again I joined them at the start and then they charging fees WHEN IT WAS FREE now they are the big boys on block to older people that cant have checks

Jurkovich - you are FIRED!

Jurkovich - you are FIRED!

Suppose that's the 1% with 99% of the wealth and they all switch from kiwibank to another bank...

Bullies.

Indignation over this archiac method of payment? It's worth knowing that at least 1 of the big 4 are intending to do exactly the same thing. Get rid of cheques and bring in 7 day payment processing.

Kiwi bank’s proposal of ‘cheque free’ banking wouldn’t ring quite so hollow if they’d provided an alternative that has the advantages of cheque payment. Electronic transfers are touted as easy, cheap and fast. What is not mentioned is how risky they can be when mistakes are made. There’s very little redundancy in bank account numbers. That means that if you get a digit wrong or two digits transposed there’s a good chance that an electronic payment will go through – but will end up in the wrong account. Without the cooperation of account holder you’ve accidently paid you can face heavy bank fees, court costs and/or loss of the money altogether.

Things can be just as bad if you are being paid by electronic transfer. If the payer makes a mistake you have to convince them that this is case before they go through the whole expensive process of reversing the transaction and paying you again. If there’s an error with a cheque you can simply return the cheque and that is proof that you haven’t been paid.

There are several approaches that the banks could take to eliminate payment errors. The EFTPOS payment model works well for businesses. It could work just as well for individuals. You provide a link to your payment portal, the payer enters their credentials and you have instant confirmation that you’ve been paid. There’s no reason why that system should be any more expensive than one that often depends on the user manually transcribing long strings of digits. If the banks carried the risk of mistakes rather than the customer I suspect that we would see an improved system very soon.