Central Bank Research Finds High Level of Cheque Usage in Ireland  

Press Release 5 February 2013

Tá an preasráiteas seo ar fáil as gaeilge chomh maith

The Central Bank of Ireland today published the findings of the first major analysis of cheque usage in Ireland.  The research shows that although volumes are declining, Ireland remains one of only a few EU member states that still use cheques for regular payments, ranking as the second most intensive cheque user after France.

Cheque usage in Ireland by business is widespread, despite the fact that businesses in most other European countries no longer use cheques at all.

Businesses issue 44% of all cheques in Ireland which, in 2011, equated to about 37 million cheques. Nine out of every ten are issued by SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). The majority (57%) of cheques issued by businesses are payable to other businesses which equates to more than 21 million cheques per annum. 

Consumers account for more than one third of all cheques issued, equivalent to nearly 30 million in 2011.  The majority of these (56%) are payable to businesses, primarily to SMEs.  Just over one third of all cheques (34%) issued by consumers are payable to other consumers.  Separate research shows that cheque usage among consumers is dominated by the elderly and the farming sector.

Ronnie O’Toole, Programme Manager of the National Payments Programme, said “Cheque usage in Ireland is still widespread by both consumers and business in comparison to other European countries. In particular there is a strong case for businesses to review how they make payments. Although the level of usage has fallen in recent years our survey shows that business still accounts for a significant portion of cheques.

An ECB study estimates that a cheque costs around €3.55 when all costs are included. For a small business this cost includes the 50c stamp duty on each cheque, bank charges and postal charges, not to mention the time it takes for staff to process cheque payments. Further, there is strong evidence that cheque usage is a significant contributor to Ireland’s ‘late payment’ culture.

 

A copy of the Cheque Survey 2012 is available here.

Notes to Editors

Methodology

A sample of 10,000 cheques was used for the survey.  The five main cheque clearing banks[1] each examined 1,000 cheques on two different dates in 2012.  They were classified under the following issuer categories: 

  • Consumers
  • Small and Medium Sized Businesses
  • Large Businesses Corporates
  • Public Sector
  • Financial Institutions
  • Unincorporated bodies
  • Bank Drafts

Consumer cheques were subdivided into three value bands:  ≤€100, >€100 ≤€500 and >€500).  Business-issued cheques were similarly classified into three value bands:  ≤€1k, >€1k ≤€5k and >€5k.

The beneficiaries were similarly categorised, but also included ‘Utilities’ and ‘Schools’.  Furthermore, the public sector was subdivided into Government Departments, State Agencies and Local Authorities in the beneficiary classifications.

Cheque Statistics for Ireland

Cheque volumes in Ireland have been declining since 2005 when volumes hit a peak of 131 million.  By 2011 this had dropped to 84 million.[2]

Cheque Usage in Europe

20 of the 27 EU member states have effectively eliminated cheques with usage down to two cheques per capita per annum or less.  Ireland’s average is 19 cheques per capita per annum.[3]


[1] AIB, Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank, permanent tsb, Ulster Bank

[2] Source: IPSO (www.ipso.ie)

[3] Source: European Central Bank 2011 Statistics