Phasing out of cheques concerns seniors

  • 19 April 2021

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Age Concern Canterbury is ramping up educational classes to help the elderly navigate a cheque-free society as banks phase out the payment method, amid criticism.

The advocacy group for the city’s senior citizens has dealt with an influx of concerned callers once the Bank of New Zealand, ANZ, Westpac and ASB announced plans to abandon accepting cheques.

“There’s a lot of concern, we’d be getting people contacting us every single week concerned about ‘What am I going to do? What is my neighbour going to do?’” said Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton.

“It’s a disappointing decision that does cut out a group of the population, generally older people.

“We see it in our own membership, we have well over a thousand members and 80 per cent of them up to now have paid by cheque.”

Christchurch City Council is the latest local authority to announce it will no longer accept cheques – from April 30 – in response to the banking sector’s decision.

“This one sits squarely with the banks, the city council has no option,” said Templeton, who urged affected customers to contact their banks for assistance.

“What I’m suggesting people do is actually push back on their banks.

“I’m suggesting they go: ‘Well you’ve seen my pattern of use over the last however many years and you know I use cheques, you know I post these things so you know I don’t have a computer. You let me know how you are going to fix my situation’.

“They (banks) must know who they are, they shouldn’t wait for the call (from customers). They should reach out and come up with a solution.”

Templeton acknowledged banks had put measures in place to mitigate the disruption and confusion, extensive information on alternative modes of payment were available online and staff were on call for assistance.

Family members could also ease the transition for the older generation while Age Concern Canterbury is on the verge of partnering with Digital Inclusion Aotearoa Alliance, which instructs older New Zealanders about a range of digital services.

Age Concern Canterbury provided DIAA courses through a third party last year but they are now dealing direct with the Wellington-based organisation. 

“We’re looking to deliver it ourselves because it’s such a big need,” Templeton said.

“We’re hoping to start running those classes quite soon.”

DIAA covers 16 topics including digital safety and security, which hopefully offer peace of mind.

“With a cheque they had the time to wave it under someone’s nose and check they’d got it alright,” Templeton said.

“People are concerned once they push the numbers into a computer and push go. They go: ‘Gosh, did I get that right?’.”

Templeton said the classes were free – technology was provided – and invited the elderly to phone 366-0903 to register.

Meanwhile, the city council’s acting general manager resources Diane Brandish said payments could be made via internet banking, telephone banking, automatic payment, credit card or in person with cash.

Rates could also be paid by monthly or quarterly direct debit with forms able to be arranged by phoning 941 8999 or 0800 800 169. They could also be picked up at the civic offices in Hereford St or at other council service centres.

Kiwibank stopped accepting cheques in February last year with Inland Revenue and ACC doing the same in March.

The ANZ will no longer accept cheques from May 31 followed by Westpac (June 25) and the BNZ (July 1).

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