Magazine

R.I.P. Cheque guarantee cards

  • 29 June 2011
  • From the section Magazine
Cheque guarantee logo
Image caption Parting is such sweet sorrow

Cheque guarantee cards, those symbols of a simpler time when the written word was mightier than the Pin number, have checked out. They have been bounced into the after-life because not enough people used them in this life.

The cheque guarantee card had been unwell for some time and the writing was, not on the back of a cheque, but on the wall.

The date of its departure, Thursday 30 June, will be particularly felt by students who once relied on the old faithful to buy pizzas from less-than-impressed delivery drivers or portions of fries from nonplussed guardians of McDonald's.

Unlike a debit card, a cheque book and guarantee card never let them down and never revealed their dirty little secret - that their bank account was actually empty.

The first guaranteed cheque was written in 1965. Before plastic became king, paying for goods often involved whipping out the cheque book in its faux leather holster and flashing the guarantee card.

A cashier would then conscientiously jot down the card number, the expiry date and the guarantee limit on the back of the cheque.

The cheque and its guarantee card were the Darby and Joan of personal finances. They went everywhere together and enjoyed a happy life until they were cast aside with one electronic swipe.

Their number had been up for so long, most people won't even realise they still have one. A quick look at the back of a debit card will, in most cases, reveal a hologram or logo of the Bard and a cheque guarantee limit.

The Bard has been its symbol since 1990, chosen merely for his recognisability, not any reference to the Merchant of Venice. One can only speculate on how much he would have relished a cheque guarantee card when he was a struggling writer unable to buy enough ink for his quills.

Though now the card is no more, one of his famous lines from Hamlet might need a little reworking: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for tis the end of the cheque card guarantee."

Friends of cheque guarantee cards, many of whom it has to be said are in their golden years, still rely on them for paying tradesmen, such as plumbers, carpenters and window cleaners.

The cheque is facing the guillotine itself in 2018 and its broken heart over the loss of its partner will no doubt hasten its demise.

No flowers.