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73% of older people still using cheques, research shows

Published on 22 June 2011 11:30 PM

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.

The findings published today in the report  The Way We Pay: Payment systems and financial inclusion (PDF, 2MB)opens link in new window 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.

‘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.

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.'

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

1. Age UK is grateful for the support of the Friends Provident Foundation, which funded the research.

2. For a copy of ‘The Way We Pay' report please email

3. The following case studies are available for interview:

Case study Mrs W. aged 71

'I use a cheque book frequently to pay subscriptions, bills etc where I wish to have a dated record of payment.   I cannot understand supermarkets who do not take cheques.  

'Many people have a trip out to collect their pensions at the post office and then do their shopping.  It is not easy for some people to apply for a credit or debit card.  In many of the areas in Milton Keynes, it is difficult to travel by bus and so lots of shopping has to be done on the one day as it takes such a long time to travel by bus.

'Cheques are a safer way to pay a bill and changes are not often well received by all age groups. Also cheques are a secure, tangible way of sending gifts to relatives.

'Many years ago when I first had a bank account and a cheque book with a bank card, I felt that I had indeed matured.  I was easily able to keep a running total of my outgoings so that I did not get into debt and stick to my monthly income. I have discussed cheque books with my friends and family and we would be sad to see the demise of the cheque book."

Case study Mr A. aged 90,

Mr A, 90, has a scattered family in London and Glasgow.

In the past he has given his Granddaughter a cheque to help with her expenses for a trip to Switzerland. He uses cheques for other specific things like paying the gardener. He doesn't like to have too much cash in the house. He likes the stubs as he is forgetful and he can clearly see if he has paid for something.

His bank account is linked to the post office so he can get money out easily. His state pension goes in here. He uses Direct Debit to cover services like meals on wheels but finds it difficult to keep track to make sure enough money is in the account.

He has a debit and credit card but he has to give his pin number to his neighbour (known 17 years) to get him shopping. He walks slowly with a stick and doesn't like supermarkets.

4. A study based on 10,000 phone calls to a helpline found that 20% of elder abuse reports concerned financial abuse - Help The Aged (2004) Hidden Voices, Action on Elder Abuse.

Age UK

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

Media contact: Liz Fairweather
Telephone: 020 3033 1718
Out-of-hours: 07071 243243

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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