For some, the personal check is still the standard way to pay for goods when you don’t have the cash and don’t want to use a card. But is it a really good idea to have a document floating around that has your name, address, phone number and bank account information?
As recently as a few years ago, it wasn’t really possible to go completely or even mostly paperless. Now, with the rise and ease of electronic payments, direct deposit, and with most vendors accepting credit and debit cards, it’s easier than ever to take paper out of the equation.
Are you a tech-savvy personal finance fan who’d like nothing more than to get rid of cash and checks? Read on. I’ll examine the most common instances of where money would need to change hands, and what your options are for going cash/checkless. From easiest to most difficult:
If you aren’t on direct deposit already, chances are your employer would like you to be. It costs a surprising amount of money to print and mail checks. If you don’t want the hassle of making a trip to the bank every time you get paid, consider direct deposit. It’s a win for everyone.
Most creditors have online payment options directly through their website. But that’s not always the case, especially if you’re dealing with smaller companies like medical practices or gardeners. That’s why online bill pay comes in handy. Not to be confused with online payments, online bill pay is usually through your bank and works just like a virtual checkbook. All you do is enter your payee’s information and your bank prints and mails a check from your account, directly to them. It’s a free service offered through most banks and they don’t even charge you to mail it.
While You’re Shopping
You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t accept credit or debit card payments anymore. There is the occasional mom-and-pop shop or super-trendy coffee house that operates on cash only, but they’re the exception.
That said, there are a couple of occasions where cash is required. For instance, have you ever tried to pay for parking at a private lot or tried to pay for a hot dog from a cart outside of work? Pull out a credit card and you’re likely to get a laugh. Sadly, there are still a few transactions where cash is the only method of payment. That’s why I keep an “emergency $20” on me.
Nothing beats the well-thought-out present that you wrap yourself. But in a world filled with obligations where you just need to stick something in a card and give it your wife’s friend’s kid for his middle school graduation, that’s not always an option.
Gift cards are always an option. But what if you don’t know the person very well? Sometimes you just can’t beat the ol’ standby of a few crisp bills in a card. Unfortunately, sending a PayPal or ETF to a child on his or her birthday is not exactly socially acceptable…yet.
Lending to Others
If you have a buddy who needs to borrow a few bucks, sometimes it’s just easier to give them cash or write them a check. Lifehacker has a great article on some of the more tech-savvy ways to send money to individuals. But, as they conclude, it can sometimes take a long time and be difficult to withdraw funds depending on which platform you use.
While it’s possible to take paper out of the vast majority of your transactions, we’re still not quite ready for 100%. Until all brick-and-mortar stores accept credit cards and giving someone liquid money is as easy as handing them cash, we’re going to have to keep cash and checks nearby as a last resort.
But if you think about the technological progress that has been made in the past ten years, it’s not difficult to imagine that we could live in that world, and soon.
What do you think? Do you try to keep cash and checks out of your finances? If so, what’s your biggest challenge?
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