France - Why So Many Cheques?

According to a study completed last year (2016 - click here for source link) - France has one of the highest usage of cheques on the planet!

As far as the EU goes - the average number of cheques issued per capita per year is 8.5 whereas the average per capita in France is a massive 43!

The use of cheques is an incredibly costly and time consuming exercise so why are they so popular in France? Job creation scheme? Lack of trust in or awareness of technology? Resistance to change? Education ?..

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Although cheques are slowly going out of fashion I beleive the main reason for hanging on to the antiquated paper system is that French banks make a charge for having a debit card but no charge for cheques although, obviously, they cost the bank more to administer…

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I really can’t remember when I last saw someone writing a cheque in a supermarket, things are changing in real time. I think the ‘cost’ of having a debit card and the facts that cheques are as good as cash in France have probably kept them popular. In Germany we didn’t have the choice, chequebooks were removed a long time ago. The UK banks also tried to do away with cheques several years ago but were forced into doing a u-turn by public pressure. There’s plenty of technology around, I can’t think of anywhere where I can’t use my card for payment in my regular activities, right down to the smallest family run restaurants, cards or online payments are the norm. I pay all my utility bills and taxes online and the sites are very clear, easy to use and efficient. I’m going to write a cheque this morning, the first for months, as I need to send off a bulletin d’inscription to a very small association, it is very easy to understand why cheques suit them.

There is a limit on how much you can spend per month on a Carte Bleue. If you make a couple of large payments using it, towards the end of the month your card will not work if you have reached the limit. Of course you can have greater limits but you would be silly to do so. Not many people have credit cards.

There is also a limit on how much you can spend in cash. So cheques are required.

Elderly prefer cheques. And why not. It helps them budgeting.

If you think about it, it reduces fraud and all the associated costs with that. So it may be (sit down for this) a better and more a cost effective system.

I am interested to know why you ask such a question.

a few valid points, especially that you can no longer pay more than 1000€ in cash. CB cost money while cheques are free but, as a buraliste/commerçant, I refuse payment by cheque as they do bounce here in France (an often held and false myth that they’re as good as cash!) and it’s hard to get your cash once the cheque has bounced. I’ve called round at people’s houses, marched one to the bank, it’s a real pain in the proverbial!
Interesting one - no cheques in Germany, they got rid of them years ago and everything works fine, why not France…?!


Nowadays… our local Supermarkets print the details on the cheque and hand it to customer for signature… Although they often ask for identitifcation over a certain sum.

I remember, a while ago, being gobsmacked to see someone writing a cheque for something as low as around 2 euro…but it was quite happily accepted… this may have changed now of course.

We accept cheques for entrance fees to local events, dinners, concerts etc…:grinning:

Germany used to be way behind France when it came to using cards. They were not even accepted at all petrol stations until relatively recently but once they caught on cheques disappeared quickly. Mind you using a card in Germany could be expensive, until not do long ago I had so many card uses per month included in my allowance but any use after that cost 43c a time. That fee must have disappeared when cheques did.
I just looked in my cheque book this morning to see when I’d ‘had’ to use them; in addition to today’s cheque, I used one in the last year when the prefecture needed payment by cheque because they were not processing imported cars there and then and I used one in a cycle shop after the bike I’d ordered arrived and my card decided not to work.

To better understand why on earth cheques are so popular in France when they are becoming relics elsewhere.


Do you lie awake at night worrying about it Simon ?

Just because they have become relics elsewhere does not mean they should become relics in France.

I like the cheque. If it is not broken, why fix it ?

A question. You employ an artisan, how do you pay ?

I have maybe 20 or 30 clients all over France, mostly in Paris, some in northern France and quite a lot in the Grand Ouest and just a handful in the south. Nearly all of the ones in the south insist on paying by cheque, and all the rest without exception pay by virement. I can’t explain this but I find it quaint.

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Direct transfer into his / her bank account - like most of the developed world.

So the whole of the world does that apart from France ?

You sure ?

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I don’t, because I want to be able to file an invoice with “paid” written on it.
I might pay by card. But I wouldn’t pay by bank transfer because I want to know that he knows that I’ve settled up.
(It’s reminding me of that song, "Little does she know that I know that she knows that I know she’s cheating on me

I bank with HSBC France Anna and they give me a full receipt and confirmation for every online transfer. Other than that I use Paypal invoicing - simple and immediate.

Just a turn of phrase Mark but… even so, I’ve edited my original post to reflect a more accurate position and respect any ‘sensibilities’. I hope that helps :slight_smile: yawn…

Hey - and welcome to SFN - I see you just joined us a couple of days ago - you’ll find it a great sorce of information and fun! Maybe you know that already though :wink:

Yes I suppose I’m a bit stuck in the past. But I kind of feel that if the artisan or whoever was to come back and say ‘this bill is still outstanding’, and I can show him his own stamp and signature confirming the date when it was paid, then he’ll go away happy and that’ll be the end of it. Without that it would be a case of him going away and checking his own bank records to confirm it was received, and what if he says he can’t find any trace of the payment. I agree that as a rule the system works and it’s unlikely to have gone astray but it’s not the bank I don’t have total confidence in, it’s the artisans themselves and how on top of their paperwork they are ! Goodness knows it takes them long enough to send the invoices sometimes, and if they come back and query it 10 months later that’s a lot of paperwork under the bridge.

You know me Simon, I love a debate about France.

Should we liven things up a bit ? :innocent:

Just thinking about this…and had a look in my cheque book.

So far this year: 4 visits to Doctor; 3 Subscriptions for Car Clubs; Old Folk’s Party; Heating Oil

= 9 cheques…

and I’m about to write a 10th cheque… to send off stapled to an accepted-devis…:innocent:

probably quieten down a bit now though…

Anything I pay for school is supposed to be by cheque for two reasons, 1) they are more traceable esp when you have x times 3.75€ for a trip, for example and 2) because children taking and handing in a cheque shows them that they are actually paying for things and contributing (or rather their parents are) and if they lose it it isn’t as lost as it might be were it cash. That said you can pay for the canteen by card at lycée but that’s it, the rest is by cheque.

+1 to that. I hate cheques as they inevitably get left a few days before I get to the bank to pay them in (although that is not at all difficult, but I do seem to write an essay in order to do so).
I’ve found that clients are very keen to tell me they’ve arranged a virement & get concerned if I don’t tell them the instant I see it in my account. Equally, I always check the bank before asking them if they’ve paid yet…
Don’t even start me about the ones who think I’d like cash, in Sterling!