The differences between Cheque and Check

Banking is old, very old. The first banks were probably the religious temples of the ancient world, as long as 5,000 years ago. Banks probably predated the invention of money. The current modern western financial products and services can be traced back to the coffee houses of London. Even that was a long time ago. The London Royal Exchange was built in the 16th centuary!

Although North American and Northern European banking share a similar beginning, as you would expect, down through the years, differences in certain practices have emerged. The most obvious difference is the spelling of Cheque. While the rest of the planet uses the term Check, the Common Wealth Nations, and Ireland, use the less ambiguous spelling.

Another notable difference between banking practices on opposite sides of the Atlantic is the use of checks. The use of checks in Europe have been in decline over the past 20 years. Only Ireland, Britain and France use checks to any significant degree. With the advent of debit cards and electronic funds transfers the checkbook has all but disappeared. I’m certain there are people working in German banks that have never seen a EuroCheque.

One of the things I liked about banking in the US, when I was living in Boston, was the range of personalised checkbooks available. The use of personalised checkbooks, for regular retail customers, is one of the nice touches to banking in North America which one does not get in Europe.

Not only can a customer be issued personlised checkbooks, but they can print their own! The use of computer checks is steadily growing particularly by sole traders & small businesses which would not normally qualify for big business perks with their banks. Computer checks are cost effective and make a really powerful, professional impression. Many of the accounting and money management software packages in use today support the printing of checks. There are also preprinted paper stock available for use with them, such as QuickBooks Checks and Quicken Checks.

Infact, there is a huge business built up around the humble check in the USA. Perhaps this is the reason the check has not disappeared from the North American banking system to the extent it has in Europe.

8 thoughts on “The differences between Cheque and Check

  1. 13% of the 105 million households in the US are ‘unbanked’. Excluding the use of cash, checks are the common method of payment. Non traditional financial service providers such as check cashing, payday loans and money transfer offices serve 35% of the US population. There are 13,000 outlets dedicated to check cashing.This will all change in the next 5 years as the mobile phone has become the delivery channel that can replace the check. It will be cheaper and more convenient. Globally there are 1 billion people with bank accounts but 2.5 billion people with mobile phones. There is no technological or financial impediment to the growth of mobile banking. Only regulatory constraints can delay the inevitable pervasiveness of mobile banking.


  2. You wrote,While the rest of the planet uses the term Check, the Common Wealth Nations, and Ireland, use the less ambiguous spelling.That's a rather curious way to put it. “The Commonwealth plus Ireland” is essentially the entire native English-speaking world, except the USA, where Mr. Noah Webster has sown great confusion …


  3. I have to admit, the phrases are not entirely robust. Even the term 'English Speaking World' is ambiguous in this regard as one has to ask the question: which English? The reference to Commonwealth does not hold up to scrutiny at every level either: did Zimbabwe change it's spelling of Cheque when it withdrew in 2003?


  4. I'm not sure what you're getting at here. What native English-speaking countries would you identify other than the Commonwealth and the USA? OK, there's Zimbabwe, strictly; but that exception amplifies the point: based on a Google search of:zimbabwe check OR cheque bank OR money -hotel -flights… it looks like the Zimbabwean state is still spelling it “cheque.”Put it the other way. What native English-speaking country, other than the USA, would you point to that spells it “check”?


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