Customers choose plastic over paper
The Franklin County Worthless Check Unit reported the fewest number of bad check cases in 11 years last year, but the main reason is the way money is being spent.
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said the check unit had 1,145 new cases turned in during 2008. That's down from the number turned in during 2007.
"We had 1,766 cases turned in during 2007," Rushing said. "We haven't had case numbers this low since 1998."
Rushing said he believes the change in check cases are directly tied to the fact that businesses don't take checks anymore, and the rising popularity of debit cards.
CB&S Bank Branch Manager Jennifer Swinney said she has seen a decrease in customer's interest in checks and an increase of interest in debit cards.
"People are moving toward the debit card," Swinney said.
"For our customers, once you swipe it, it comes out of the account then."
Swinney said since the money comes out at the point of sale, the store has their money and the transaction is complete.
"I have also noticed that nobody takes checks anymore," Swinney said.
Swinney said CB&S and a lot of other banks offer online bill pay so there are less reasons to reach for the checkbook.
Rushing said the larger businesses, like Wal-Mart, have hired private collections to collect on bad checks.
"The larger businesses are taking bad checks through private collections, which is taking the civil court route instead of holding the check writer criminally responsible," Rushing said. "They definitely have the option to do that."
Rushing said with the changing times, he can see checks becoming obsolete within the next 10 years or so.
"People are already not writing as many checks," Rushing said. "With businesses not taking them, customers will go for the plastic instead of the checkbook."
Rushing said the lower numbers are good for the businesses who take checks, but not for his department.
"Part of our income here at this District Attorney's Office comes from collection fees on bad checks," Rushing said. "With the checks being lower, I feel the state legislature needs to give us other opportunities for funding our office since we have to come up with part of our budget locally."