No More Cheques in the Mail (or elsewhere)

Ever had the experience of a service provider sending you an email with the message, “Our records show your invoice payment is overdue – please disregard this if payment has been made or make immediate arrangements for settling the account.” Maybe the wording varies slightly, but we received three with the same theme in as many weeks, and my response has been, “We have sent you a cheque” which a mind given to suspicion would hear as that old cliche, “Your cheque is in the mail.”

That may be a time-honoured way of delaying a debt payment, but in our case it was true and in each example we received a receipt within a matter of days.

But that’s all about to end, courtesy of the Albanese government, as I found out recently when we were down to the last form in our cheque book. I remembered receiving a message from our bank stating that cheque books would no longer be issued automatically and we would have to contact them or visit a branch to order a new one.

So I get on the phone to our local branch only to hear a recorded message, “We are unable to take your call so please leave a brief message stating the nature of your enquiry and we will get back to you.”  I tell them we want to order a new cheque book and leave a contact number.

No need to state which bank – suffice to say it recently reported a huge multi-billion dollar profit and a multi-million salary for their CEO for helping them achieve that by passing on to mortgagees the numerous interest rate rises since Labor took office.

Obviously they can’t afford enough staff to answer phone calls, but several hours later I receive a call from a woman who told me our joint account was no longer eligible for another cheque book. Some were, such as business accounts, but not ours.

What the #@!*? We have been loyal customers for many years, buying and selling various homes, including investment properties, never missing a loan repayment and now enjoying a mortgage-free retirement. But as a small cog in a giant financial machine, none of that counts when I tell her we may have to look at changing banks.

“Well, OK,” she says non-plussed.

I looked up terms and conditions of several other major banks whose websites seemed to indicate they still handled cheque accounts. The first two calls also were answered by recorded messages asking me to press buttons and tell an AI bot the reason for my call. When I finally got through to a woman (with the standard-issue foreign accent), she had difficulty understanding my inquiry and kept asking, “Do you have a cheque account?”

“Yes, but with another bank.” That finally got through: “Oh, well we can’t issue you with a new cheque account.”

Thanks, but no thanks. Finally, one of the smaller banks on my list answered my call immediately and the helpful young woman confirmed that yes, I could open a new cheque account now, but that option would end and no further cheque books would be issued later in the year.

She continued, “That’s because of the Labor government policy announced recently that cheques would be phased out.”

So that explains it. I must have missed that one when I was listening to Treasurer Jim Chalmers spruiking  his “Wellbeing Budget” and how it is making life so much easier for 25 million Australians — this boast even as the cost of living skyrockets, led by power-price hikes, mortgage and rent increases, food, fuel and all the rest. An official statement from Dr. Jim confirmed the banks’ advice was correct:

The cheque system in Australia will wind down no later than 2030.

As part of the Strategic Plan for Australia’s Payments System released today, the Government has announced it will remove legislative and other requirements that entrench payment by cheques. We will also phase out government usage of cheques by the end of 2028.

As the use of cheques plummets and many banks and financial institutions stop issuing cheque books to new customers, it is important to manage this transition in an orderly and planned way.

The Government will work with industry to minimise adverse impacts to consumers and businesses and ensure vulnerable Australians have the assistance they need to switch to other payment methods…

In other words, the Labor Government wants us all to switch to online banking, direct debits or any other emerging digital banking format, and the banks are already hell-bent on forcing the changes on customers whether we like it or not.

Well I don’t. Millions of  Australians  have been notified some of their personal details have been accessed by hacks on Medibank Private, Optus and Latitude Financial. Bank scams are rife, so why make life easier for low life ripoff artists? According to accounting firm LDB,The latest ‘targeting scams’ report by the ACCC has revealed  Australians lost a record $3.1 billion to scams in 2022, with investment scams the highest loss category. The report compiled data from a number of government agencies and marked an 80 per cent increase in losses from 2021. 

Investment scams comprised $1.5 billion of the total losses and there were more than 9,360 reports to Scamwatch regarding investment scams. ….Scammers are now much more sophisticated and more difficult to identify. Impersonating official phone numbers, email addresses and websites of legitimate organisations are common tactics, as well as scam texts that can appear in the same conversation thread as genuine messages. This means that now more than ever, anyone can fall victim to a scam…

However, there is some good news for British residents. The UK government has introduced a world-first law to compel banks to compensate scam victims starting from next year, and our  Finance Services Minister Stephen Jones is reportedly looking at similar legislation here. Naturally, our banks are strongly opposed to such a move, but as a determined Jones told the ABC, “ We’re definitely going to lift the bar and we’re definitely going to ensure the banks are accountable for much, much more.”

I’m sure I’m not the only one shaking my head and wondering where we are headed. Consider this techno talk from BankingToday.com explaining an initiative introduced by the Morrison government in 2019:

The government will provide A$26.9 million in 2023/24 for the Department of Finance and the Digital Transformation Agency to “design the policy and legislative foundations to transition to an economy-wide digital ID ecosystem.”

In September last year, the big banks agreed to work on a ConnectID trial, acting as identity providers. ConnectID will act as a digital identity exchange, connecting merchants with identity providers. In trial applications, the digital identification will replace the 100-point check and other ID requirements…

So what’s it all about, really all about?  Are we steadily  falling in step with pronouncements from powerful international agencies such as the World Health Organisation, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, which some see as seeking a new far-reaching framework of state supervison of our lives, even of domination.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently announced a partnership with the EU to establish a Digital Health  Certification Network “to deliver better health for all”.  I think he omitted the word “control”. The WEF’s Dr Klaus Schwab says the COVID panicdemic provided the perfect opportunity to ‘build back better’, but some of us don’t want a New World Order and prefer things the way they are or, soon, were. We don’t want to see a dystopian future where, according to a recently removed post on its website, “You will own nothing and you will be happy.” That post, by the way, can still be read in full via the Wayback Machine internet archive.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has quit ruining nice suits by wading into the sea to convince us we’ll all be submerged by melting ice, now telling  us “it’s an era of  global boiling.”  Right, better get our  global digital ID’s to mark down our social credits if we don’t stop using fossil fuels while we continue to eat meat rather than crickets and grasshoppers.

But back to the banks. My wife visited our bank the other day and withdrew a sum of cash. The teller asked, “What do you plan to do with it”. (Yes, they have limits and conditions).

“Spend it,” she replied, thinking as those words passed her lips ‘while I’m still allowed’.

John Mikkelsen is a former editor of three Queensland regional newspapers, columnist,  freelance writer and author of the Amazon Books memoir, Don’t Call Me Nev


14 thoughts on “No More Cheques in the Mail (or elsewhere)

  • padraic says:

    Fully agree with you, John. I still have a cheque book and it is rarely used, preferring using cash if possible. They are closing down branches and the service is appalling, as you pointed out. We are being controlled by tech-heads whose websites defy rational and logical thinking. My main concern about the cheque situation is what are we to do if one wants to buy a new car? In the past you arranged the price in advance with the dealer and then went and had a bank cheque made out for the amount and then gave the cheque to the dealer and then drove off with your new vehicle. Transferring large amounts over the Internet for such purchases is not a good idea.

  • Jessie says:

    In pre-2003-2004 or so WESTPAC, which I believe to be the main receiver of ALL ATSI grants and welfare $, had within <6 months converted every ATSI recipient around the country from cheque/cash to online banking. Even those places without internet received in their weekly mailbags addressed envelopes with plastic cards. A remarkable nation-wide monetary feat. On the back of Networking-the-Nation and so forth hoo-ra. NTN eventually gave every remote community internet, mobile coverage etc etc and so 'The GAP' widened even further due to huge increase in individual costs of mobiles/subscriptions. But socially 'The GAP' closed. Thankfully TELSTRA didn't have to spend millions researching axe-proof hard-ware or repairing destroyed coin or card pay-phones under their USO repair within 3 days charter.
    Think of the educational opportunities with internet. And for the pastoralists- I am not certain. School of the Air was awesome seeing class kids faces/voices across 1000kms2. https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id:%22media/pressrel/5IMH6%22

    So ATSI grannies that used to keep bits of paper cash hidden about bosoms and handbags from marauding abusive kith n kin were made to hand over their plastic cards with the PIN. Drug dealers, local taxi companies travelling max 600km, you name it, were home and hosed. They could be seen in regional towns at 0400 or so at the ATM when Centrelink funds were electronically transferred into accounts. These types were organised, busy to be removing funds 'owed' (called book-up) with as many keycards and PIN numbers as they had managed to 'collect' and hold on to. Imagine local people's "surprise' when they found "no funds available" the next day or week in their accounts. And could not buy a simple cooked meal from the local store.
    Suffice to say, the abuse increased towards family members and towards service providers, the anger, the methods of 'gaining alternative ways to obtain food/$/fuel/clothing/blankets' and all the trickery. Service provider's time also increased, as of course no-one was going to want to deal with the phone-calls as you describe.
    One would have expected a Crime Commission analysis and report on the apparent withdrawals or complaints of same, the massive drug sales and habits from the e-records, but no.
    Interestingly at the time, within weeks, savvy remote ATSI purportedly illiterate, had worked out the online banking system and were transferring $$ left, right and centre. Into others accounts.

    This does not help you or your wife John. Perhaps another story of the banking fraternity's power over their customers. And the assistance they provide to other fraudulent online activities.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Try reporting an attempted scam to a bank. You’ll find the wait time is about an hour or more.
    Valuable time on warning others or tracking scammers is obviously being lost. No wonder scams continue to rise and are now so common – costing customers billions of dollars a year.
    Is there anyone effectively regulating this sort of stuff or the advertising of banks and other financial institutions like insurance companies?
    The answer is people are probably being paid big salaries to do that but things seem to be getting worse fast.

  • Macspee says:

    The banks should be required to provide secure mobile phones to their customers along with training for us ‘oldies’ who find these systems opaque, insecure, problematic, and pathetic.

  • vic of gero says:

    I switched most of my banking years ago to the local Bendigo Bank and never regretted it. The service is, well like the service all banks used to provide, face to face and friendly. The fees and charges are much the same and I paid off a mortgage with them and they were always very helpful, on one occasion calling me in to advise they could restructure the loan so I paid less interest. My local Bendigo also puts money, and quite a lot of it back into my little city. You might think $5000 isn’t a lot for a sporting or community group but it goes a long way and my local Bendigo supports many such groups.

    Here’s a thought, have you noticed how all the ads for the big banks are ‘feel good’ productions. There never anything about cheaper rates or rewarding long term customers, it always how the people at that bank really care about you. Call us and see! Sure, no worries. I gave up on the big bank I was with because it was too hard to call them and when I did get through, I’d be talking to someone 4000kms away in Melbourne.


    • Rebekah Meredith says:

      August 18, 2023
      I switched from ANZ to Bendigo not quite three years ago. The service is still better than ANZ, but it is not as good as it was; the branch has moved, and now has fewer tellers. Liking the emphasis on giving back to the community, and the returns that a couple in my church had from another branch, I bought stock in my local branch. Last year, I decided to attend the AGM. That was where I learned that the bank sponsored Pride in Peel (my local region). The response to my letter-of-objection was polite, but left me with no doubt that my concerns were of no concern to the board, and that if I remain a shareholder I am tacitly consenting to this sponsorship of perversion–right here in my own town. I could not in good conscience do that by remaining part-owner of the branch, but I have continued to bank with Bendigo since I am sure that any other bank in town would support perversion in principle, too.
      A few weeks ago, however, I received a letter that Bendigo is fazing out cheques. I hope to get a couple more cheque books before then; but, if the Treasurer has his way, I may never use them. I write few cheques in a year, but I like the independence of having the option for mail orders (or Quadrant subscriptions!); and the idea of any bank or government banning a form of payment I choose to use, that has been in place for centuries, is utterly repugnant.

  • ianl says:

    >”The teller asked, “What do you plan to do with it (cash withdrawal)”< [quote from the essay]

    I'm sure most people have noticed that when one goes online into your bank account (especially the CBA) to transfer some amount of money (even a very small amount) to someone else's account with another bank, one of the blank fields to be filled out requires a reason for the transfer. If this field is left blank, the transfer is refused.

    My response has been "No Comment" and so far I've not been debanked, although I do wonder if that train is about to run me down.

    I'm also well aware that the Big Four (and again especially the CBA) have been compiling individual lists of spending – easy enough for them to do with AI algorithms. That is, your spending habits are categorised.

    • lbloveday says:

      I received a letter from the CBA informing me:
      “In addition to any other limit which may apply, we may in our discretion limit the amount each user may transfer or pay from all accounts to accounts and/or merchants which we reasonably believe may be owned or controlled by a cryptocurrency or digital asset exchange or being used to purchase cryptocurrency or digital assets to no more than AUD$10,000 in a calendar month.
      How is it any concern of the CBA how much of my money, as distinct from borrowing from them, I spend on buying Bitcoin et al?

  • young bill says:

    I recently received an email from what I suspect is the same bank that John uses – I was asked to log in to my account to verify my identity. The email stated that failure to comply could result in closure of access to online banking, somewhat inconvenient, particularly in view of the subject of this article.

    I logged in as requested. The first page was OK but the second page asked two questions: what what my main source of income and what was the source of my wealth. My reaction was ‘none of your damn business’. I emailed the bank’s complaints department and received a standard reply referencing the Anti-Money Laundering Act (2006) and the AUSTRAC Know Your Customer (KYC) guidelines. I took the trouble to read this stuff and discovered that there is no requirement for banks to acquire this information unless they suspect their customer is a ‘high risk’ individual or a politically exposed person (PEP).

    Believing I am neither, I moved progressively up the complaints chain until I was finally given a telephone number to call. I was then able prove my identity (driving licence etc) without further ado.

    I should add that the original email indicated that the provided information would be shared with, amongst others, the banks’s Direct Marketing department! Perhaps that was the real reason for those invasive questions.

  • Sindri says:

    I’m not aware of the detail of the supposed plan to make British banks compensate for scams, but, with obvious exceptions, the idea sounds deplorable.. First, it is itself a gigantic invitation to fraud. “Fake scams”, followed by claims for compensation, will become a major industry. Secondly, it will exacerbate the very intrusiveness that John complains about, and understandably. If banks are going to have to pay for the mistakes of their customers, why should they not make it harder for those customers to be ripped off? Thirdly, whatever happened to personal responsibility, and why, in any event, should the bank be generally responsible?
    Like I said, I don’t know the detail, but I hope it’s not as absolute as simply making the bank pay if you’re scammed.

  • padraic says:

    I have noticed that the more what used to be simple business transactions move online the more complicated, inefficient and subject to abuse that they become – not just banking. Have you ever been in a supermarket with a trolley load of goods at the checkout when the “computer goes down”? They can’t handle the situation, even if you have the exact cash. We are gradually being programmed by computers, instead of using our own individual brains and the flexibility of common sense.

  • phicul19 says:

    As an experiment, my brother has been signing cheques with a slightly different signature each time for the last 5 years plus without any problems from the bank.

  • vickisanderson says:

    And where are all the social justice warriors in the ALP???

    I live a greater part of my life in a rural area. Most banks have closed branches in all the local towns. It has been heartbreaking to see the faces of older residents as they arrive to find the branches closed. We had to negotiate the processing of a bank cheque in the sale of a tractor recently & it was a nightmare.

    We dutifully changed to internet banking some time ago but again had a nightmare experience when there was an attempted hack in our account. Contacting the interstate head office of our bank took hours . Fortunately it was all OK but those experiences through internet banking will increase. Our nearest bank branch is 3 hours away.

    I have absolutely no idea how elderly residents will cope with the digital transition. They can pay some bills at the post office but how long will that continue? The situation is outrageous. But no one seems to care in government..

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