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Age UK - 73% of older people still using cheques, research

Age UK calls for payment systems to be treated as an essential service, as research shows that 73% of the older population are still using cheques.

New research by Age UK shows that cheques are particularly important to older people with 73% of them using them as a means of payment, while 63% of cheque users of all ages agree that they would find it a problem if they were no longer available.

The report concludes that payment is an essential service like the utilities such as energy or telecoms.

Key findings

The findings published today in the report  The Way We Pay: Payment systems and financial inclusion (PDF, 2MB) reveal that many older people have trouble finding suitable and safe ways to pay:

  • Almost a third of people (31%) over 65 use a cheque to pay for services in the home.
  • Nearly one in five of those over 65 often use other people to draw cash out for them, while only 43% said that using a cash machine in the street was their preferred method of drawing cash.
  • More than 1 in 10 people of all ages give their PIN to a family member, friend or carer.

Older people suffering financial exclusion

‘The Way We Pay’ explores how several other countries deal with payment problems and finds that all other countries reviewed still all have at least one form of paper based system for payment. 

The report reveals that changes in the way we access payments and cash (for example ATMs, reduction in bank branches and increase in internet banking) are excluding many older people. The fact that recent innovations have failed to meet the needs of older people raises concerns about how acceptable the design of alternatives to cheques will really be.

The importance of cheques

Age UK believes that there is a real risk that unless an acceptable alternative can be found, many older people will have to revert to cash payments and reliance on other people. People could be pushed into increased dependency on helpers to access cash, pay bills or buy gifts. This will mean that older people may have to keep more cash at home increasing their vulnerability to crime.

As a result Age UK is calling for the Government to recognise payment services as an essential right.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK said:

'Our research shows that using cheques is still a popular form of payment. While we welcome the Government’s comments during the Treasury Select Committee on cheques last week, that it may “intervene” to protect vulnerable consumers and businesses if no alternative to cheques was put in place before they were withdrawn, it needs to go further.

'We are calling on the Government to recognise payment systems as an essential utility like electricity or water, so that everybody has a safe, accessible and affordable way to pay without relying on cash.

'One in five older people use other people to draw out cash for them. These people have a right to have easy and safe access to what is their money.'

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