Are cheques finally falling out of favour in France?

Are cheques finally falling out of favour in France?
Many businesses still prefer payment by cheque. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY / AFP.
The Covid pandemic has hastened the decline of a French institution - the cheque book - according to data from the Banque de France, but it seems the French are not ready to let go just yet.

While cheques are already a thing of the past in many countries, if you live in France you might have had to give in and ask your bank for a cheque book. From rural shops to tradesmen, landlords to universities, there are still many people and organisations in France who prefer to be paid by cheque.

However, their numbers are dwindling year on year. In 2020, only 5 percent of non-cash payments were made by cheque (1.2 billion), according to the latest report from the Banque de France.

That is a dramatic fall off from 2000, when cheques represented 34 percent of non-cash transacations. The number of cheque payments was three times larger at the start of the century.

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Value of transactions (not including bank transfers) since 2016, in billions of euros.

“It is expected that the Covid-19 health crisis will put people off this payment method even more permanently,” the report stated. In 2020, cheque transactions fell by 26 percent, and lost 25 percent of their value.

However, French people are not ready to say goodbye to their cheque books just yet. In total €614 billion was exchanged this way in 2020, making it the third most popular non-cash payment method, behind bank transfers and direct debits, but ahead of card payments.

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“Even if it’s becoming more and more rare, the cheque is still associated with larger transactions, because the average amount per cheque was €522 in 2020,” the report added.

More than eight out of ten French people own a chequebook, making France a European anomaly. According to a 2020 report from the European Central Bank, only 27 percent of people had access to cheques across the eurozone as a whole.

As well as the health crisis, the relative decline in the popularity of cheques can partly be explained by security concerns. In 2020, cheques represented 42 percent of all fraud cases, the most of any non-cash payment method.

In 2020, contactless payment became the most popular method at the point of sale in France, following the increase in the maximum payment from €30 to €50.

Member comments

  1. When I first started working (very very long time ago) one of the things that was explained to me was the efficiency of various forms of payment (cash, card, transfer, cheque). At that time the cheque was the least efficient way to pay, passing through, on average, 17 pairs of hands from deposit to clearance. I assume by now some efficiency has crept in but that was my reason then for not taking a chequebook and I have stuck to that. Only here in France did I have to request one to pay ONE supplier back in 2017. Never used it since.

    Now, whenever I am asked to pay for a product or service by cheque I request the companies RIB details – so far everyone I have interacted with has been happy to provide this and take payment via bank transfer.

  2. A good proportion of doctors/specialist seem not to have credit card machines. When you go there, it’s going to be a cheque, as how else are you going to conjure up on the spur €85 euros of whatever for the specialist.

    Until the medical procession universally move to card transactions, cheques remain.

  3. These sort of articles have been about for years. So explain how one can pay a tradesman for an invoice of say €2500 without a using a cheque. Cash is out because the tradesman bank would want to know where it came from. It’s even worse in the motor trade as most garages will nor accept cash over €1000. I remember the good old days when one could buy a car in cash or pay with a credit card.

    1. I haven’t used a cheque book in about 20 years. However, I recently needed to hire a car. Our local Carrefour had one rental car and required either E1000 in cash OR a cheque. Would not, for love nor money, secure it with my credit card like regular car hire places. Duly paid the E1000 in cash, feeling quite weird with E1000 a) in my hand and then b) @ the Carrefour with no obvious security except a hand written note from the cashier. Two weeks later, having received my cheque book, went back to get the E1000 back and replace it with a cheque. Totally nuts system because right by the checkout was a big sign saying no cheques accepted over E50 because so many bounce.

      I went back to deliver the car when I’d finished. Cheque handed back and ripped up.

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