Move away from cheques may hurt, Dunedin charities say

Kiwibank is weaning customers off cheques.PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Kiwibank is weaning customers off cheques.PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Local not-for-profit agencies and charities say a move away from cheques will have funding implications for them.

After nine months of getting their customers used to the idea Kiwibank tellers will be giving customers a "hard no" when they try to cash cheques from today.

“We would remind our customers that cheques are not legal tender in New Zealand — they are instead a method of payment. If you owe someone money or want to pay for some goods or services, the receiver is not obliged to accept a cheque," a Kiwibank spokeswoman said.

According to Payments NZ data, cheque use has declined by about 20% per year over the past five years, dropping almost 30% from last year alone.

Cheques now represented only about 1% of Kiwibank’s transactions.

Kiwibank is likely to be the first of many moving to other, cheaper payment methods, although other banks have indicated they are still accepting cheques as normal, but subject to regular review.

Inland Revenue and the Accident Compensation Corporation, which on a combined basis received almost half a million cheques or about 5% of its payments last year, will move exclusively to electronic transfer next month.

However, local not-for-profit agencies and charities say the move will have funding implications for them.

"The majority of our donations are by cheque, so removing that as a payment option is a real concern for us," Dunedin Presbyterian Support supporter development manager Jude McCracken said.

She said cheques were almost synonymous with charitable donations.

"We have supporters who come in every month and hand us a cheque, so it’s as much a gesture as the act of giving.

"We do, however, offer other ways of payment of donation and we can work with our supporters to find a way through these changes."

Kiwibank chief customer officer Mark Stephen said the bank had contacted all known cheque users and would continue to work with those still using them to ensure they were ready for the change.

A customer at Dunedin Kiwibank, Mark Gimbuell, yesterday said he very rarely used cheques, "other than to pay the IRD".

He said he may opt to pay the taxman in cash.

SeniorNet Otago spokesman William Glendenning said there were a large number of older people who were "tied to cheques" and struggled with internet banking.

"I think banks have underestimated how many older generation people still use cheques as their main payment method, and a lot of older people have a strong resistance to banking via their computer or smartphone.

"The banks and others have a lot of work still to do in this area."

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