Can You Do Your Banking & Pay Bills Without Paper Checks?

Learn the pros and cons of checking accounts without paper checks. Find banks that offer online bill-paying services and more ways to go paper-free.
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Written by Rob Sabo
Financial Expert
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Managing Editor
Our methodology is designed to provide consumers with unbiased and comprehensive evaluations of various banking products. Visit our Editorial Policy page for more information.

While not very common anymore, every once in a while, shoppers get stuck in line behind someone writing out a paper check to pay for their groceries or purchases.

Most consumers have embraced the conveniences of the digital age, which includes using debit and credit cards or digital wallets on smartphones to pay for everyday goods and services. However, according to online bank Sofi, 55% of Americans still used paper checks in 2022.

Why Do Some People Still Use Checks?

Checks are most commonly used in business transactions, such as paying vendors or suppliers.

For the rest of us, a debit card with a well-worn magnetic stripe, or better yet, an RFID-enabled chip, usually works fine.

But that’s just the start — there are many ways you can better manage your money and navigate financial transactions without having to use paper checks.

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How to Manage Your Money Without Using Paper Checks

Some prefer writing checks and keeping track of their money in a checkbook ledger. Others prefer the convenience of digital banking.

If you fall into the latter group, there is one easy-to-use tool that comes free with most checking accounts, and it can help you stay on top of your bills and pay almost any expense without using paper checks.

The convenience of online bill pay cannot be overstated. Here are six ways online bill pay simplifies banking and paying bills.

Saves Time

People without checking accounts often have to drive to a local convenience store and use a service such as Western Union to pay bills or send money to an individual. Depending on where you live, that round trip and setting up the payment could take as much as an hour or more.

With online bill pay, you can set up multiple payees from your checking account and have routine bills such as utilities, water, city sewer fees, credit card payments, and more automatically debited from your checking account.

Debits don’t have to be automatic, either. You can self-manage the time of month you pay bills through online banking, so you never risk overdrawing your checking account.

Mortgage payments are a good example of when self-pay is essential since it’s typically the most significant recurring expense, and you may need a paycheck to hit your account before paying your mortgage.

Lastly, you will only have to spend time balancing a checkbook ledger if that’s the kind of thing you enjoy.

You can track your expenses and deposits and let your bank do the monotonous math of balancing your account.

So long as you recognize all posted charges to your checking account, you won’t have to break out the calculator or track your spending in a ledger unless you want to.

Simplification

Online bill pay also simplifies the process of paying for recurring expenses.

Sure, you can visit each payee’s website and establish online payments through recurring ACH debits, but by using online bill pay through your bank or credit union, you can aggregate all your payees in one place. Using your bank’s mobile app through your smartphone lets you pay a bill anywhere, anytime.

If you need help navigating the online bill pay process, a banker (or tech-savvy friend or relative) should be able to help you set it up and show you how to find payees through your bank’s website or mobile app.

Saves Money

Consider the example above of the well-known money transfer service. Fees for transferring $300 typically exceed $25. If you use the service to pay multiple bills, you throw away hundreds of dollars yearly in unnecessary fees. Most online banking services are free, so you typically won’t incur any convenience charges to pay your power or credit card bills through online bill pay. Some banks may require you to have paperless statements or something similar to waive any monthly fees for using online bill pay.

Increased Financial Management and Oversight

The best way to save money is to know exactly how much you have and how much is going out when you pay bills and other expenses.

Online bill pay allows you to dictate when money is moved out of your account and assures that your bills will be paid when they come due. You can even cancel or delay automatic payments if you need to wait for more money to land in your checking account.

Regularly logging in to your checking account also puts you in the driver’s seat for increased financial management. Routinely checking your balance and determining your cash outlay helps with budgeting and avoiding accidental overdrafts. You can keep your finger on the pulse of your finances and better strategize against frivolous or unnecessary spending.

Reduced Junk Mail

Technically, paper bill statements received via the U.S. Postal Service aren’t junk mail. However, if you elect to receive paperless statements sent to your email address, you can reduce the amount of unnecessary mail in your mailbox.

Security

Banks use various security measures to safeguard digital information and online banking transactions. These include multi-factor authentication at login and text alerts for potential fraud activity. Sending checks through the mail leaves you at the mercy of mail theft.

There could be additional ways digital banking proves helpful in your unique banking needs. If you never write checks, a checkless checking account is your best option. 

Checkless Checking Accounts

Those of us who wholly embrace the digital age likely haven’t written a paper check in years. Bills, mortgage, utilities, card payments, and the like are all self-managed through online payments or automatic debits to checking accounts.

A checkless checking account is your best option if you do not need a paper check. Here’s what it is and how it works.

You Can Still “Write” Checks

Traditional checking accounts allow you to write checks against the account. Checkless checking accounts do not, which reduces your ability to overspend and potentially overdraw your checking account. You still can have direct deposits from employers and checks written by others credited to this type of banking account.

May Be the Only Option for Some Banking Customers

Checkless checking accounts are often the only option for younger people who haven’t established credit history or a strong banking relationship, as well as for people who are denied traditional checking accounts due to adverse banking history, such as overdrawing an account and never settling the negative balance.

Credit unions and banks often use checking account reporting companies to determine if consumers have an adverse banking history.

However, checkless checking accounts pose less risk of overdraft, so they may be a viable option if you are denied other standard banking products due to your age or past banking history.

Convenience

Your money isn’t locked away with a checkless checking account. Many come with the benefit of a debit card that allows you to make point-of-sale purchases.

This card can be added to a digital wallet, allowing you to purchase using your smartphone. Minors, however, may have to use a prepaid debit card to limit spending. You can also take out cash at ATMs or visit a teller to withdraw funds.

Pros and Cons of Checkless Banking

Checkless checking is nearly identical to traditional checking accounts, with a few differences designed to protect consumers from overspending and safeguard financial institutions from having customers with negative account balances they can’t square up.

Here’s a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of checkless checking accounts.

Pros

  • Often requires low or no minimum deposit to open
  • Helps control spending and reduces the potential for overdrawing checking account
  • Available to minors and people with a negative banking history

Cons

  • May have more stringent requirements to waive monthly maintenance fee
  • No overdraft protection, so purchases over the account balance are automatically declined
  • May not be the best option for people who can open traditional checking accounts

Putting It All Together

Checkless checking accounts are a good option for people who never write checks, minors, and those who have black marks on their banking history due to overdrawn accounts that were never settled.

Like all accounts and banking products FDIC-insured financial institutions offer, checkless checking accounts are guaranteed up to $250,000. They allow you to make point-of-sale purchases using a debit card or digital wallet and pay bills using online bill pay either through the bank’s website or mobile banking app.

If you’ve struggled to open a traditional checking account or want to eliminate the potential to overdraw your account by writing checks above your account balance, a checkless checking account may be right for you. If you have a strong sense of financial management and can open a traditional checking account, there may be better options than checkless checking.

About Author
Rob Sabo
Rob Sabo has been a Nevada-based business reporter for nearly two decades and full time freelance writer since 2017. He writes on a wide range of financial topics, including investing, taxation, personal finance and retirement planning.