Target Stops Accepting Personal Checks: A Swipe Towards Modernized Shopping Experience

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Within the always-evolving realm of commerce, Target has officially announced it will discontinue accepting personal checks from shoppers at all of its stores, commencing on July 15. This shift away from a once-ubiquitous payment form marks another milestone as checks join the ranks of bypassed objects like the now-antique floppy disks and the long-obsolete Rolodex.

No stranger to innovation and modernization, the Minneapolis-based discount store giant, Target, ratified this significant shift in a public statement earlier this week. The company pointed towards the “extremely low volumes” of customers who opted to write checks as the primary reason guiding this decision. As the world gallops towards digitalization, Target reaffirmed its commitment to crafting a seamless and efficient checkout experience that leverages the speed and security of credit and debit card transactions, the convenience of “buy now, pay later” services, and the rewarding aspects of its own Target Circle membership scheme, which doles out deals automatically upon checkout.

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The company stated that it had taken exhaustive measures to inform its customers ahead of time about including checks under the umbrella of forbidden tender.

Target’s shift leaves retail heavyweights like Walmart, Macy’s and Kohl’s holding the torch as the few remaining retailers willing to accept personal checks at their brick-and-mortar stores. Already, Whole Foods Market and the Aldi supermarket chain have been pioneers down this path, having previously halted the acceptance of personal checks from their customer base.

The affinity for personal checks as a favored mode of payment has been on the downslope since the mid-1990s. With the advent of cash-dispensing ATMs, debit cards, and the digital cosmos of online banking, and not to mention the swift surge of mobile payment systems like Venmo and Apple Pay, many millennials and younger adults may never encounter the act of written checks as a means of monetary transaction.

A glaring testament to this downward trend can be seen in the way check usage plummeted over the decades. Americans wrote approximately 3.4 billion checks in 2022, a stark contrast to the nearly 19 billion checks written in 1990 as indicated by Federal Reserve data. Interestingly though, the average amount per check written by Americans over this 32-year period, calculated after adjusting for inflation, has witnessed a considerable jump from $1,602 in 1990 to $2,652.

Parallel to this declining trend, the Federal Reserve significantly scaled down its national check processing infrastructure. Once boasting 45 check-processing locations scattered across the nation in 2003, the Reserve since 2010 has trimmed down its operations to a single location.

Topping off the reasons for the dwindling love towards check writing are rising reports of check fraud. Spurred by organized crime cartels and scamsters, this menace is causing individuals and small businesses alike to take extra precautions or altogether abandon the practice of sending checks via post.