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By Steve Jacobs and Greg Thomas


More and more people are opting to manage payments digitally rather than using paper checks — and with good reason. Online and mobile banking tools make transfers and other transactions quicker, easier and, in some instances, more secure. If you’re looking to move away from paper checks, read on.


A Drop in Personal Check Usage


In recent years, USAA Bank has seen the number of checking accounts rise significantly, but reorders of paper checks have declined, says Jonathan Cannon, digital product manager at USAA.


“Checks are on a steady decline, and will continue to decline, as long as fintechs (financial technology companies) and mobile app developers continue to make it easier for customers to send money person-to-person,” Jonathan says.


The result is that people just don’t need paper checks for a great deal of personal banking. They’re finding that you can get much better visibility and control using online banking tools – like automated bill pay and budgeting assistance – that can map out what’s owed and coming due.


Tech-Savvy Ways to Avoid Writing Checks 


In fact, many people who begin using digital tools never go back to relying on paper checks for the bulk of their banking activity. Here’s why:


  1. You can transfer money with Zelle®. Zelle is an online transfer service that provides banking customers with a fast, safe and easy way to send and receive money directly to and from their bank account. With just a few taps, you can transfer funds between friends, family and others. This works great for splitting checks at restaurants, repaying debts, chipping in for gifts or sharing vacation rentals.

  2. You can set up auto-draft for rent and utilities. Also called bill pay or recurring payments, this is a reliable way to pay your rent or utilities on time. Connect your payment accounts to either your bank account or a credit card (which may charge a fee). Then every month, on a set date, your landlord — or the electric or cable company — will take whatever you owe directly from your account or charge it to your credit card. Just make sure you have enough funds or credit available when the bill hits; otherwise, you could be looking at overdraft or late fees.

  3. You can use your phone to pay. If you have a newer model smartphone, you probably have a built-in feature called near-field communication (NFC) capability that allows your phone to use radio waves to communicate with payment terminals when within range. You can link your credit cards to your smartphone – or through a personal wallet app – so instead of pulling out your cards and inserting or swiping them into readers, you hold your smartphone near the card reader and complete the transaction on your phone’s screen. This works at many major retailers, grocery stores and gas stations.

  4. You can pay your taxes online. If you owe money to the IRS at the end of the year, writing a check used to be the norm. Thanks to the rise of online tax services, it’s now easier to file and pay your taxes online. You have the option to pay with your credit card for a small transaction fee or link your bank account for a direct payment with zero fees. You can also set up direct deposits for tax returns so your refund goes straight into your bank account with no wait period. Just make sure all of your transactions go through official IRS websites and channels.

  5. You can use credit cards for down payments. Writing a check when buying or leasing a car also used to be routine. Today, it’s completely normal and acceptable at most major dealerships to make your down payment on a credit or debit card. Many dealers appreciate the instant payment that cards provide as checks can sometimes take days to clear. Plus, as long as you can square the down payment before your due date, this can be a valuable way to use your rewards card to rack up some points or cash back.

Sometimes You Really Do Need a Check


Of course, there are times when you may actually need to use a check, such as running a small business with a personal checking account or paying a contractor for a home improvement project.


The bottom line is that keeping and using a checkbook is perfectly fine, but online payments really are much more manageable, fast and efficient.


Looking for more financial options suited to your lifestyle and needs? Find out more about USAA Bank checking accounts, credit cards, auto loans and home mortgages.


Jonathan Cannon is digital product manager for the DXD Bank Services team at USAA.



Credit cards issued by USAA Savings Bank, other bank products by USAA Federal Savings Bank, both Member FDIC.








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