Increasing use of electronic banking services and direct debit will have killed off paper cheques within the next 20 years, according to research from the UK's Halifax bank.
According to the research, cheque usage has hit an all-time low and, based on the current rate of decline, personal cheques could be virtually extinct within the next 20 years.
The number of payments made by cheque has dropped to its lowest level for 15 years, falling from a peak of 3.7 billion in 1990 to 2.1 billion in 2004.
Business cheque use has also fallen every year since 1997, with companies switching to direct credits for salary and trade payments. The research shows that debit cards and other e-payment methods have become the preferred way to pay, with 90% of salaried adults now paid by direct credit to their bank account and 40% of state benefits paid in the same manner.
Halifax says based on the current growth rates of debit card usage, there are likely to over 20 billion debit card transactions each year by 2025.
Peter Jackson, head of banking at the Halifax, comments: "The use of personal cheques dropped last year for the tenth year running and customers now prefer quicker and easier payment methods.
"It is very clear that the cheque is no longer the main payment method and based on the current rate of decline they are likely to virtually disappear within the next 20 years. Cash and debit cards are clearly the preferred method of payment in the UK today."
According to stats from the Association of Payment Clearing Services (Apacs) there were over 3.7 billion debit card transactions in 2004, compared to just 522 million debit card transactions in 1990.