A cheque is a paper voucher linked to a current account. When you open a bank account you may be given a chequebook which contains a number of cheques. Each cheque will already be printed with your bank sort code and account number, your bank’s name and address and a unique cheque number.

 

What would I use this for?

  • You can write a personal cheque to a business or an individual for any amount, but it’s up to you to make sure you have enough money in your account to allow the payment to go through.
  • Cheques are most commonly used to pay bills, tradespeople or to pay a friend or another person face-to-face.

 

How do I use it?

  • When you write a cheque to someone else you fill in the name of the person or business you are paying and the amount in both words and numbers. The other person then pays the cheque into their account and the respective banks arrange for the money to be moved from one account to the other.
  • If you pay someone with a cheque it will only start to be processed when they pay it into their account, which might not be straight away. If you want to avoid going overdrawn you’ll need to make sure you have adequate funds in your account to cover any cheques you write (and until they are paid in).
  • Maximum timescales, used by the banking industry as a whole, cover when someone paying in a cheque receives interest (two weekdays after paying the cheque in), can withdraw the funds (after four weekdays) and can be absolutely sure that the cheque won’t bounce and they can keep the money (after six weekdays). These are known as the 2-4-6 rules.
  • Not all businesses accept cheques so if you intend to pay with one it’s always worth checking they are accepted in advance.
     

Are cheques changing?

  • The Cheque and Credit Clearing Company is currently planning the introduction of a new, easier and quicker way of clearing cheques. Called ‘cheque imaging’, it will enable cheques to be processed faster than ever before, by exchanging images of cheques between the relevant banks instead of the physical cheque itself. This will allow the funds from a paid-in cheque to be available for withdrawal much sooner than at the moment. 
  • Nobody has to do anything differently if they don’t want to. You will still write cheques and give/post them to recipients and you will still be able to pay cheques in to your bank in the same way that you do now. More information can be found here.

 

Security

  • You should never accept a cheque or banker’s draft from someone unless you know and trust them. This is because you can’t be certain the money is yours until six working days after you have paid it into your account. Be especially wary when accepting a high-value cheque, for instance if you are selling a car.
  • If you want to pay someone by cheque that you don’t know or trust, it’s advisable to wait until you have received the goods or services before you hand over the cheque.
  • If you tell your bank that your chequebook has been stolen, you won’t be liable for any fraud on your account. The cheque is only valid if it is signed by the genuine customer.
  • If your chequebook is stolen or lost, your bank or building society can put a stop on all the missing cheques.

 

Useful information

  • A banker’s draft is like a cheque, but instead of being signed by you, it’s signed by your bank. This means the bank guarantees payment, as they will have debited the customer’s account in advance for the amount that the draft is made out for.
  • A banker’s draft is not a cheque but it is cleared in the same way as a cheque. Unlike a cheque, there is usually a charge for obtaining a banker’s draft.
  • As with any other type of cheque, there is no absolute guarantee that the funds are yours until six working days after the cheque has been paid in. This is to allow enough time to carry out the necessary fraud checks to make sure the cheque isn’t lost or stolen. It is possible to stop a cheque in certain situations by contacting your bank and giving them the cheque number. This can usually be done up to 24 hours after it was paid in, but there may be a charge for this.
  • The speed of payment depends on when the cheque is paid in, which can cause uncertainty over when the money will leave your account. Cheques that have been filled in and issued as payment may be treated as valid for six months after the date written on the cheque. Banks usually reject them if they are more than six months old, so if you have a cheque that’s older than this, it’s a good idea to contact the person who wrote it to arrange for them to send you a replacement, or arrange an alternative method of payment. Legally, a cheque is valid for six years.
  • For more information, go to www.chequeandcredit.co.uk. The Company that has responsibility for the bulk clearing of cheques, banker's drafts, building society cheques and paper credits throughout Great Britain.