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Not your grandparents' chequing account

Written by Cait Flanders

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

It could be fair to say that every Canadian who earns money probably has a chequing account. Chequing accounts allow you to perform all of your daily banking needs, including: depositing money, buying things, paying bills and keeping liquid cash. But the way we use chequing accounts today is very different from the way they were used in the past.

Back in the day

When my grandmother opened her first chequing account, it served most of the same purposes. She deposited money into it, used the money to pay for goods and services, and pulled out cash when needed. It was the bank account that saw the most transactions on a monthly basis, the same way it is today. However, the process to perform each of those transactions was much slower than what we're used to now.

In order to deposit her paycheques, she'd have to stand in line at the bank, with her cheque in hand, and get the teller to help her. If she wanted to withdraw cash from her account, she had to stand in line again. And if she wanted to pay for goods or services, she could either pay with cash on the spot or write a cheque — and then she had to track each transaction by hand in a ledger.

The rise of the ABM

The transaction times were reduced significantly when bank cards and automated banking machines (ABMs) were brought to Canada in the 1970s. Bank cards and ABMs gave people the option to do their daily banking at a machine, rather than waiting in line to get help from a teller — but the transactions you could perform at the machine were still limited, and often the money deposited at an ABM was held for several days.

But cheques didn't just disappear. I remember watching my mom open her wallet (which also always held a pen) and writing a cheque to pay for our groceries when I was a kid in the 1980s; my dad writing cheques for home renovation materials delivered to our home; and my grandma teaching me how to update the ledger at the back of a chequebook. I've never had to do any of those things myself.

Banking as we know it today

It took the invention of online and mobile banking to truly change the way we could all manage our chequing accounts and perform our daily banking needs. Today, all you need is an internet connection or smartphone to complete most transactions. And aside from still using a bank card to pay for things and take cash out from an ABM, you can send money through email money transfers, deposit cheques using smartphones and more.

I can't remember the last time I stood in line at a bank and I'm grateful for that. But I'm also grateful that my grandmother showed me how banking was done before, so I can appreciate how lucky we are to have the conveniences of today. Not only can we perform transactions faster than ever, but technology has truly given us more control of our finances. What we do with the tools in our hands is up to us.

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