We're integrating with a company in Germany that is confused by our request for their public key (so we can encrypt the account numbers on capture for their eyes only). As it turns out, in Germany it's common to share your account number on your web site so that your customers can more easily pay you. They have an authentication step that is separate from the account number.
This of course makes our system look pretty silly. We give account numbers to everybody we write a cheque to, but then treat them like private keys in other contexts.
Maybe this is to be expected, as ACH and SEPA (which is the equivalent-ish system in the EU) are separate systems after all, but further research shows that there are other regional differences within the SEPA network re: whether the account number is a secret.
If we had a competitor trying to do the same thing with a system where authentication and addressing were both separate and part of the protocol (e.g. any cryptocurrency), they'd be done by now and making money. We've been at this for more than a year and we're getting nowhere.
The moral of this story is that cheques may not be obsolete yet, but the protocol that backs them will probably soon be. It has fundamental flaws that open the door for fraud and incur other overhead costs as well. Once there is a viable competitor it doesn't stand a chance.
Things are improving with chips and online verification via BankID here in Sweden, but everyone still doesn't use it.
This is an industry that I am sure will 'eventually' eliminate mainframes from its tech stack.
My guess is that ACH systems will be maintained for a few decades as a legacy payment rail with countless promises of phasing it 'inn the next five years'.
Limited teaching required to understand their use.
Can take a beating.
Work well in disaster scenarios because its network is far less fragile than the cellular network’s.
They don’t leak your location.
Their signal penetrates extremely well.
They make sure the person on-call doesn’t go too far from where they’re supposed to be on-call when they’re required to be within x km of base.
Worse, it is trivial to tamper with this and insert forged pager messages. A lot of harm could be done with this, possibly even leading to death of patients.
Extending the model beyond "Call this extension" starts to go awry. There are ways of maintaining privacy: just don't connect the personal info with an identity. Yes, I know stuff like this can be deanonymized, but you need a lot of data to do so. "Consult requested for patient 432432434" or "Check results for 34334343" or "Consult required in 4W-34"
> The data being broadcast includes the patients name, age, gender marker, diagnosis, their attending doctor and room number. Other broadcasts regarding medical tests such as x-rays are often associated with a patients last name or medical number, exposing their progression through hospital departments.
If it's the organization's in-house medical number, that should be okay. It's literally a random identifier number. Or better yet, use a visit number, test number or result number to avoid linking them together.
The Federal Reserve conducts a triennial payments study to track the number and value of non-cash payments made by U.S. consumers and businesses. The 2017 annual supplement reports that checks account for approximately 17.9 billion payments worth an estimated $29 trillion dollars, give or take a few million. Unsurprisingly, these numbers are trending down over time; however, according to a 2016 survey published by the Association for Financial Professionals , 51% of B2B payments are still made with checks.
 (fee login required) https://www.afponline.org/publications-data-tools/reports/gu...
Doing the same transfer of money via electronic means should be significantly cheaper to execute. And it should be cheaper for all participants. No paper to print, transfer, read, process, send to the bank (physically!).
Honest question, why do Banks in the US do not replace this process with something cheaper?
Banks are trying to replace checks. Zelle, which sits atop ACH, is an effort to simplify P2P transfers. Real time payments (RTP) are on the way, and will have some invoicing functionality (e.g. line items). The challenge is to get enough banks, covering enough of the population, to make the system feasible. Zelle or RTP don't succeed if I have to fall back to using a check or cash because my friend's small bank/credit union does not support the service. Also, this all requires an investment of time and money to upgrade backend systems. That investment is easier for some institutions than others.
Integrating with some ERP or payment system is a pain in the ass, especially for a one time or infrequent payment.
Since the 90, this can be done electronically, so you don’t need anything physical.
This is now further harmonized by SEPA all across Europe. Where apparently something similar existed in most countries.
I find it difficult to see the benefit of checks over the above process.
The same goes for my real estate taxes, which have a 2.2% convenience fee, as well as a transaction fee. That's four checks a year.
Medical billing is also a big one. Most practices will also let you write down your credit card number on a piece of paper, but at that point a check is nicer.
Charity. A check means your whole contribution goes to the organization, instead of having Visa take a cut.
(If you count the checks my bank writes and mails for me, then I'm certainly up in the 7 or 8 a month range.)
I find it a bit silly and wish there were other options. My co-workers in other countries find it very backwards, too.
The last one-off check I wrote was to a plumber who charged 3% fee for credit card.
I own a small business and have worked for small businesses, and it's my experience that checks make the world go around in the woodworking field.
All of the shops I've worked for have paid me by check - nobody wants to screw around setting up direct deposit for one or two employees.
Several of them pay suppliers by check; suppliers don't want to take the hit on credit card fees.
And all of them take checks for payment from customers regularly (and I do to), for the same reason, among others.
The only downsides I see to cheques is that they're insecure and that there might be insufficient funds. If you're dealing with a trusted party (or at least somebody you reasonably believe to be acting in good faith), those are basically non-issues.
The upsides are pretty extensive:
1) They don't require carrying around large amounts of cash
2) They don't require third party cooperation (at least to write)
3) They don't require internet access
4) They don't require any sort of set-up, which reduces the friction for one-time or infrequent transfers.
5) There's basically no fee for the volume we use them in  except for buying the cheques.
6) If a payer does bounce a check (unintentionally) the payee can insist on a more guaranteed form of payment in the future. The friction is added to the party that screwed up in the first place.
Edited for formatting and to add:
All of this requires an informal web of trust. I've definitely used cash for one-time large transactions with people I don't have in my network. I've sold a car for cash to a random private person and bought a bicycle with cash from a different random private person, for instance.
 My business checking allows enough free transactions a month that I should be covered for a while; if I start exceeding that, I probably won't be super-worried about the cost of the fees)
 A buddy worked at a cabinet shop whose plywood supplier wouldn't take their checks. They switched to counter checks or money orders, or something else that guaranteed sufficient funds at the time of issuance. Hypothetically they could have gone to another supplier. In practice, finding a good supplier is a lot of effort, there aren't many in the first place, and word gets around fast if you make a habit of burning people without making it right.
In Hungary it depends on whether the businesses are trying to evade taxes or not. If yes, cash is king. If no, then just transfer money to a bank account (I guess this is the same as "direct deposit"). All banks have online banking for this purpose.
> [...] setting up direct deposit [...]
There is nothing to set up for a one-off transaction. You log in to the online banking site or use the bank's app. Fill in the recipient's name, account number and amount, confirm with SMS code and it's done.
But it's equally easy to set up a recurring transaction online for every week/month/whatever.
Just send via SMS/email from your banking app. The other person gets a link that will open in their banking app and allow deposit.
Then it's obviously too difficult to set up in America. Other countries do direct deposit, exclusively.
A company trying to pay in any other way would look very shady over here.
It is, and most places that set it up typically require a voided check. I was working as a contractor for a large legacy big data company a couple summers ago and getting paid through their contracting agency. Said contracting agency sent me a check image (of my own check) by email TWICE .
I was pissed, had to close that account and re-set-up a bunch of banking stuff, and told them they were going to pay me by check because they clearly hadn't the faintest idea how to handle an account number securely.
Having a system where you can do this yourself online or with an app without sending check images around is so obviously superior it's laughable that we still do it this way in the US.
Lacking a superior system, it's preferable to use a system that doesn't involve trusting a bank account number in an electronic form to a (possibly incompetent) third party.
 I'd faxed it to them originally along with my I-9 docs. They couldn't read my passport, so they emailed me the image that also included the check. Nevermind that I'd told them that I would not, under any circumstances, be emailing them that data. Sigh.
Crucially, if you give one person a check, you're giving that information to one person (and their bank). If you email it, you're giving it to (potentially) all the people. And I'd hazard that the sorts of people who actually try to intercept emails are precisely the sorts of people who wouldn't have qualms about misusing said information.
In the US, at least, your doctor's office won't send you anything of substance by email for this reason (probably actually because HIPAA won't allow them to by law for that reason). If email isn't considered secure enough for medical information, it certainly isn't secure enough for bank information.
I'm not actually interested in investigating what security has been added to email in the several decades since it's been invented. If banks and the government don't trust it, I'm not about to either.
 Mine was aghast that anybody would be so foolish as to send a check image by email. They got the wheels moving to close the account and start rejiggering stuff with surprising alacrity, like "this is what you need to do, and Alice the manager will assist you right now."
Well, them, and every other person you've ever written a check to or who has processed direct deposit paperwork, etc.
Sending check images by email isn't a good practice of course, but it's really not exposing especially sensitive information given the way checks work in the US.
It has cut down a lot on paper usage and made communicating way more efficient.
What's there to set up? You just ask for the account number and transfer it.
* No checksum or other checking possible. If you get a single digit wrong the money will end up in someone else's account and be impossible to recover. If it's a repeat payment then this is somewhat mitigated because your bank will remember the details from last time, and you cannot transfer money to closed or non-existent accounts. Usually for large amounts people transfer a token sum first and ask the receiver to verify it got through. The banks have been asked to set up a system where you get to see the receiver's surname before doing the transfer, but have so far failed to implement it (for years). Not coincidentally, the banks are not liable if you screw up a payment by getting the digits wrong.
* There's a certain amount of fraud associated with it. A common one is the receiver's email account is compromised and you get an email saying to send the money to another account instead (which is the fraudster's account).
Even though the latter part of the number is simply the sort code and account, the early part of the 'number' (text + digits) includes a checksum over the whole lot.
When I was freelance consulting in the UK I would put my bank sort code (routing number) and account number on the invoice so the customer could pay me. Same for settling up among friends, quick and easy with internet banking. Payments normally show up in your account instantaneously.
The thing I miss most from UK banking is the standing order. I believe it was introduced in the 1960's or 1970's and you could set up a regular scheduled payment through your bank to pay your rent. Closest in the US is bill pay which ends up sending a paper cheque to my landlord and is delayed in the post a couple of times a year.
Consumer and small business banking in the UK was completely free so long as you didn't go overdrawn. Free cash machine withdrawals at all bank cash machines too. (The small machines you see in convenience stores have a surcharge.)
As I understand, most US bill pay systems will do electronic transfers if the recipient is willing to provide the relevant information, and use checks as a fallback.
The payee issues filled out form (it contains name, bank account number and reference) number to whoever needs to pay. The payer then can then go to a kiosk, post office, bank, or mobile bank to scan the form and pay the requested amount. He also gets a receipt automatically.
This is effectively just a normal bank transfer just with a bit more paper trail.
This is pretty much how you pay most of the things - rent, operator bills, expensive item purchases, etc.
For context, I'm from Denmark.
First of there's absolutely nothing secret about our account numbers. All they can be used for is for transferring money _to us_.
No one carries cash around. Ever. Anywhere. I have not paid anything by cash in at least... I don't know, 10 years? 15? It's mostly used as gifts. Taken out of the bank, handed over, then carried back to the bank.
Basically all banking can be done online or via app. The only time I visited my bank was in regards to my mortgage, and even most of that was handled by email. If I want to do a direct deposit / bank transfer, I can just log into my app and do it. Takes maybe 1 minute.
However these days, most private transactions are done using an app called Mobilepay. Nowadays every single person has it. It's completely free to transfer money for regular people. You can also set up a business account, which I believe may carry a fee but it's minimal (just checked, 10 cents pr transaction in the priciest tier - roughly 4 for the cheapest).
For something like a woodworking business, the way to handle business-to-business transactions, you would probably go with something like an invoice. That's usually completely automatically handled by (free )software, and would only really require the other persons email to get started. The other person receives an invoice with (for example) a direct deposit address and an amount. The transfer is free and require no setup from the payer.
Internet access is everywhere and incredibly cheap. As en example, 6 GB and 6 hours is $10 a month, unlimited data and hours is roughly $20 a month.
Check bouncing is not a thing. You can verify the payment before you deliver the service. Mobilepay payments are instant - I get a notification on my phone that I have received the money as soon as the other party finishes their transaction.
FYI a money order is basically equal to a check and you can buy one for 88 cents at Walmart.
> How do people in the UK (or other cheque-less places) deal with the transfer of large amounts of money between private or nearly private parties?
Bank transfers. If someone wants to give you money you give them your account number and they can then either transfer money directly to your account from the banks website or if that's too modern you can fill in a slip of paper and mail that to the bank though I don't know how common that even is these days.
Do note that an account number is enough for transfering money in, it's not enough for transfering money out. That generally requires at the very least a username/password/one-time-code combination.
> All of the shops I've worked for have paid me by check - nobody wants to screw around setting up direct deposit for one or two employees.
There's nothing to set up. You ask for an account to deposit the money and that's it. Presumably banks don't feel like receiving money is a security risk.
> Several of them pay suppliers by check; suppliers don't want to take the hit on credit card fees.
Normal transactions cost €0.20 at most, if a supplier feels that that's too much they probably have other things to worry about. Some companies charge the customer this fee, but still it's not a large amount.
I'm not entirely sure on what the costs are of taking money using chip&pin but I'm assuming the costs are roughly in the same ballpark.
I've got some nits to pick on the upsides you mention for checks as well:
1) Banking with chip&pin or transfers doesn't require carrying any cash either. I can't recall the last time I had actual money on me and not just a debit card.
2) Fair enough.
3) If a company wants your money they can instruct your bank to send an "acceptgiro" by mail. You fill it in and return it by mail to your bank. The bank from there on out processes the transfer the same way as online transfers. To be fair this does cost €0.50 since it involves all this
kerfuffle with scanning in handwritten digits and whatnot.
4) Unless you count getting a business account or collecting account numbers as set-up, neither do bank transfers here.
5) Unless you deal exclusively in transactions that are less than one euro it's generally free to a rounding error here as well.
6) Transfers, once confirmed -- which takes seconds, are definitive. No take backsies. If money needs to go back then that's a separate transaction. It's not the banks job to check if transactions are fair, or if breach of contract has happened.
I hope that answers some questions, If not feel free to follow up.
My employer reports that 99% of the emails it gets are blocked. And many employers are tightening up further to prevent malware attacks.
If I need to send a purchase order, it’s nice to know it was received and have an automatic copy of it without having to think to print a confirmation.
Not necessarily. I faxed information for a hotel reservation last year, showed up around 9pm on Friday to check in, they apparently hadn't received any of the info, despite having confirmed the reservation and emailing me a confirmation. It ended up being a big hassle. In the end it was because the person working that day hadn't bothered checking the fax machine and it had been thrown away. They were pretty rude about it in the end and never stopped acting like it was our fault. Even after everything was figured out. We finally got into our room at around 11pm after some tense waiting around not being sure where we were going to stay that night.
It was a good enough deterrent for decades, until the recent age of spoofed caller ID. Also, it would be more effective if the claim could be made against the benefactor, not just the sender.
Also to be clear, it's not a fine, but a type of civil claim made through the FTC instead of a court. With the main difference being: you receive the spam fax, then you get the $200.
On the other hand, the image quality is terrible. I'm in a three month long process to recover a check lost due to a fax image quality issue, presumably between two document management systems - a "5" was transmuted to a "6" in a postal address. The receiver of the fax has said it is a clear "6" - I'm not sure if this is due to that well-known glyph-based compression bug in one of the document management systems or something else.
I've also had occurrences of businesses accepting faxes, only to have the person actually doing the work request a higher resolution scan be emailed. Some businesses have moved to plainly announcing the acceptance of scanned documents by email, but really everyone should.
I've worked in places where incoming faxes were automatically converted to pdf and sent as email attachments.
All faxes pile up in copy room in huge disorganized piles (page 4 of this mixed in with page 2 of that) which no one can disentangle so they are eventually all ignored / thrown away.
The inter-bank services like Zelle and Popmoney might be a little better, though I've never used them and don't know if they're really catching on. Can you send money via Zelle to an account at a non-Zelle bank? I know it's all ACH under the hood (even most checks get turned into ACH these days) but I don't really know how the permissions around that work.
As for the unbanked, there's always cash.
I live in Europe. I haven’t seen a single place accept checks for at least 3 decades.
But hey, we have working banking systems. Maybe that helps explain it?
Also, America has a lot more banks per capita than the rest of the world. Until the 1990s banks weren't allowed to operate in more than one state, and although there's been a big wave of consolidation since then there are still a bunch of tiny banks in out-of-the-way small towns that are very set in their ways and don't want to spend money on newfangled technology. In the rest of the world, you get the major commercial banks on board, and maybe the dominant network of savings funds/cooperative banks/credit unions, and that covers just about everybody.
I've pleaded with my housekeeper to accept CashApp or Venmo, but he refuses. He wants a check. He's, perhaps rightfully, distrusting of new payment tech.
Babysitters are 50/50 on Venmo.
Looks like I was right unless there's some sort of separate business account
>Venmo may NOT otherwise be used to receive business, commercial or merchant transactions, meaning you CANNOT use Venmo to accept payment from (or send payment to) another user for a good or service.
I'm guessing they have that in there to try and get around some KYC or due diligence requirements? Or is this another Paypal-style tactic so they can shutdown people's accounts for ToS violations and confiscate their monies? Yes, that's probably it.
There's also a debit card linked to the balance, like Square's Cash App and card. So you can spend the balance that way, too (assuming the merchant takes cards).
If I save $40 by writing a check, I'll write a check.
Really? I just got a box online from Walmart for about $12. That's a few year supply for me. (I usually write several a month for my housekeeper, money I owe my neighbor, random service people, etc.) My bank also writes some for me but I'm not counting those.
I certainly don't write as many checks as I used to but they're not really rare. [This is US.]
Well, the routing number tells you the bank so it's really on the check even if the name isn't.
You're right about name and address being optional--although historically people might have refused to accept checks that didn't have this information printed on them.
However recently I've seen Bank T&Cs require that one use the banks own preprinted cheques, yet not provide them - essentially removing the cheque facility.
Whenever I needed cheques (some 10 years ago on my "developing country" bank) I would just go to an ATM and it would print me cheques on the spot, just pick how many you want. No extra fees. (Of course they became obsolete with time and direct transfers between accounts, also for a very cheap fee)
I’m actually interested in getting one, it would be cool to get push notifications for things I normally get on my phone. I wish there was a watch that had pager service.
If they stuck with messaging software (BBM), they could have been WhatsApp. Which was sold for 6x what they’re worth now.
They only made it platform-independent way too late.
They did offer their messaging software for other phones for a while in the early days, Microsofts CE offering with blackberry connect (iirc the name). It worked, yet didn't traction that well as anybody who really needed it, would be better of buying an older RIM phone and using that and many did stick with the older phones come the rise of the colour screen and onwards.
What they did do well was effecient comms over 2G, once 3G became palatable for chipsets and more so, cost of use, that along with the rise in alternatives from the likes of Apple and Google, helped Blackberry push themselves into an also ran for trying to compete instead of focusing upon the real bread and butter - the Business customers.
But life is always full of what-if's. But all companies have their retrospective if we knew then what we know now moments.
So I have my Kaiser doctor, who can easily send e-prescriptions to any pharmacy I choose, instead write me paper prescriptions just so I can find out the Kaiser price, and then decide if I want to fill it there or take somewhere else and use a GoodRx coupon or pay cash.
punch-down patch pannels
"call for quote"
There are many cases where this is by design.
I was recently in the market for a new couch. I walked into a neighborhood furniture store, and I began looking around the showroom confused why there were no price tags on any of the furniture ("ask for the price").
A minute later, the sales person approached me and said "Welcome! [...] Our prices start at $4500 for a lovely sectional. Our store never has sale prices and we don't negotiate price. Our couches are custom order and are delivered 8-12 weeks from the time of purchase. May I take you around the showroom?"
Since I was looking for something delivered next week (at a lower price), I walked out of the store happy that the sales person was so upfront.
Some businesses do not want you as a customer, and use techniques like "Call us for a quote" to weed out customers they know won't buy. Also, some products are inherently difficult to give upfront pricing for before understanding more parameters of the purchase.
Edit: This is especially true of B2B SaaS. A significant number of leads we receive request custom integrations between our internal systems and the customer's internal systems as part of their purchase. In these cases, it's literally impossible to give a quote without multiple calls understanding the complexity and set up cost.
That couch business wasted both your time AND the sales rep's time. Who does it help to not post prices?
For B2B, sure, you can't give an exact quote until you figure out the custom logic, but the customer can at least ballpark what long term operation costs will be based on any published pricing you have. I've never talked to a SaaS vendor without some idea of ongoing price, even if we're going to need upfront work that will be priced separately.
Because there isn't a price to show.
The missing detail I left out in the original comment is that the sale rep also said "We have hundreds of fabric and color options available, and we can accomodate any configuration."
Sure, I guess they could post prices for the models sitting on the floor, but that price would only be for that exact configuration. The point is, the sale person wants to spend 1-2 hours working with the customer to determine their fabric preferences, then color preferences, then configuration / shape of the couch. The store does not cater to people who want the ability to walk in, point to something and say "I want that, how much?" - those people are not their customers.
> For B2B, sure, you can't give an exact quote until you figure out the custom logic
In the couch example, it's the same, exact "custom logic" is instead fabric, color, configuration, pull out vs. no pull out, ottoman vs no ottoman, etc.
(For the record, I hate non-transparent pricing as much as anyone. Heap is an example that has been on my mind lately since we're looking at analytics solutions at our company: https://heap.io/pricing - it's impossible to infer the "contact us" pricing, since the only other plan they have is "Free" -- we're on their "Startup" plan for $499/mo, and I have no idea if we're being ripped off, or if that's what everyone else is paying too...)
(Ans use a person I trust in the US, but without a social network it's beauracratically impossible)
is not entirely universally true: at least here in Germany, especially business accounts might be able to write cheques, because businesses sometimes have to deal with companies in places were cheques are normal. Do you really need to send it in the same letter as the documents? That makes it harder, since many banks will have a partner bank in the US directly send it instead of handing it to you, but the latter also is possible with some banks. So it could be worth researching if you can use such a banks services, e.g. through someone trusted locally. Bit of a long shot, but ...
That's how I learned, red faced, to make sure my answers are something I'm comfortable reading over the phone.
If it's a written instruction, they do need to authenticate it, but they could call you to do so. Or they might charge a big fee for it.
Or they might drag their heels by claiming you have to perform the transaction online because of some policy they have that you don't care about.
But they definitely can't ignore a letter you send them.
Also surprised they didn't mention the use of tapes by the police: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20556330
WIth that, I worked at the BBC in the early 2k period on a project to replace the last bastions of tapes in radio towards a complete digital system. Remarkably one of the drivers of this move was that the tapes used had stopped being manufactured. Ironically though like many things tech that from a user perspective - just work, parts of that system are still in use today.
But then like many things - if it works, why change it does seem to play out more often than not.