A new electronic chequebook could enable people to pay bills over the internet but keep a physical record of transactions.
Researchers at Newcastle University who developed the technology claim it would allow electronic transfers for people who don’t or can’t use conventional internet banking and remove the cost to banks of processing paper cheques.
To make a payment, a user writes a cheque from the book with a digital pen that captures the transaction details and transmits them to the payee’s bank account, leaving the user with a physical cheque they can use as they wish.
The researchers originally designed the technology to meet concerns of elderly people but realised it would have wider appeal, said Dr John Vines of Newcastle’s Culture Lab.
‘Sending a cheque in a Christmas or birthday card is something many people do — not just the older generation. It’s easy and safe but it’s also personal.
‘The beauty of this system is that it is a safe and cheap electronic transaction for the banks but it’s a physical paper-based transaction for the customer.’
Banks are phasing out cheques as more people use cheaper electronic transactions, with the number of cheques written each day in the UK down to 3.5 million from 11 million in 1990.
However, a study by Age UK last year revealed 73 per cent of people aged over 65 still frequently use cheques.
Project lead Prof Andrew Monk said: ‘For the banks, it’s not only the time and cost of processing cheques but, at present, where you store them after they have been processed.
‘But for the bank’s customers — and particularly the older generation — cheques are seen as a vital part of their financial independence. They provide a permanent record, which means they can easily keep track of what’s being spent.’
The electronic chequebook is similar to conventional designs but features a grey background on each cheque made up of a pattern of billions of tiny dots.
A camera in the digital pen tracks its position on the paper in order to ‘read’ the cheque as it’s written and then sends the information to the bank.