My Journey out of Debt

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I Still Need to Carry a Check-Book

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I Still Need to Carry a Check-BookWe've all seen them. The signs that seem to be popping up in businesses everywhere these days that say, "We no longer accept checks.  Sorry for any inconvenience." 

No problem; I'm a big proponent of paying for things with cash. So are a lot of people who are trying to stick to a budget. If I have amounts budgeted for expenses, and I carry and pay for things with cash, then I'm less likely to overspend. I can see how much money is in my wallet, and that's how much I have to spend.

Of course, I always have my debit card handy for those special circumstances: 

  1. When I haven't withdrawn cash from my account
  2. When I encounter an unexpected expense
  3. When I don't want to carry a large amount of cash

I never carry a checkbook anymore-it's just not convenient. A wallet is bad enough to have stuck in the back pocket of my pants, adding a checkbook is just uncomfortable. Plus, with the modern conveniences of debit cards and online bill pay, my checkbook is commonly left to collect dust in the kitchen drawer.

However, apparently there still is a use for the old 6x3 folder. 

I recently ran across two instances where a checkbook may not have just been convenient, but even necessary.

Recently, my wife and I were invited to join some people for dinner at a restaurant in a very small town about 40 minutes from where we live. The invitation came with little notice. But we discussed what this meant to our budget, and decided we could do it. We settled on an amount as the max we wanted to spend, hopped in the car and headed out of town. Time was of the essence, so we didn't have time to stop at an ATM from our bank.

No problem, we'll just use our debit card, right?

As we walked into the restaurant, taped to the door was a yellow piece of paper with black lettering:  "This establishment does not accept credit or debit cards." 


I didn't have cash, and as mentioned, I don't carry a checkbook. How exactly was I going to pay for our meal? Luckily there was also a sign that indicated there was an ATM on the premises . . . that charged me $3 to withdraw my own money.

My car license tags were due in February, so the first day of March (of course I procrastinated until the very end), I drove to the license bureau. I entered and walked up to the counter, on which sat a sign that read: Cash and checks only. 

That's right; the entity that is in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the great state of Minnesota doesn't have the technology to accept my debit card as a method of payment for vehicle license tags.

Seriously, help a guy out and get with the times.

Do you still carry a checkbook? Have you run across any instances lately where you needed to have one?

Related Links:

Balancing My Checkbook Sucks

What Does Living Paycheck To Paycheck Mean?

I'm on a Debt Management Plan, Why Can't I Use My Credit Cards?

Travis Pizel CareOne Debt Relief Services Customer BloggerTravis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis very candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also follow along with Travis on his personal blog, Our Journey to Zero. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

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  • So funny you wrote about this today! I had just this experience last night. My son brought home a form for the purchase of a poetry book that the teacher is having made with a poem from each of the kids in the class, cute right? I thought so and was suckered into purchasing one for $9.95. The catch, you could only pay by check. Yikes did I even have any left? I never write checks except for things like this and other school related activities and sports it seems they always prefer a check....

  • You're making me homesick! I remember the kinds of places in small town MN that don't take cards. Comforting and cozy and a good meal.

    The no cards accepted signs might actually become more common as merchants are charged more and more to use card payment systems. They'll either have to raise their prices and pass the extra costs onto buyers, or they'll go back to accepting checks. My local food co-op prefers checks since more money stays in the co-op rather than going to the card company for fees.  

    As far as car tabs go, can you pay for them online and use a card? I know in ND if I go to the branch, I have to use check or cash AND it costs a teeny bit more, if I remember right. Online is quicker than going to the office and you can print out a receipt you can show if an officer stops you.

    I always seem to need checks for synagogue things. Can't really swipe my debit card for dues or special dinners like seders and such.

  • The schools in my district also seem to prefer checks as well, CoachSuzanne. Things that are sent home that are contracted out (like school pictures) will take debit card payments, but things directly from the school district do not.  Although things seem to be changing....we can now put money into their "lunch account" online via debit card (so no more sending lunch money with a 9 year old to school...yay!), and community sports are also switching over to online payment.

    Most of the time, either a.) it's a form coming home so I just dig the checkbook out of the drawer and blow off the dust or b.) I know it's a "need a checkbook" activity and bring it with.  

    It's these surprise scenarios that throw me for a loop!

  • LOL, Jen - small town MN is EXACTLY where I was at!  I live in Rochester and traveled over to my wife's home town of Blooming Prairie (Home of the Awesome Blossoms!  I never get tired of that mascot).  

    I do believe I could have paid for my car tabs online....but then I couldn't have procrastinated until the very last day possible.  :)

  • I grew up in a tiny town in North Dakota - but there was never a problem using cards haha take that MN!!! :)

    I moved away from the Peace Garden State almost one year ago, but before I left I noticed MANY of the small cities and towns are no longer accepting checks. Fargo (on the ND/MN border) did not accept checks ANYWHERE, I think it was a town ordinance that banned checks. I used to not have a debit card and never carried cash so it became super difficult to go anywhere since I only used checks. I now have a debit card and rarely use checks. I still never carry cash because I spend cash way too quickly.

    I have noticed that some places accept checks but they are processed like a debit card transaction, I kind of think that should be made more available because some people hate using plastic.

  • Ooohh, those are fightin' words, saracarr....are you trying to start a border war between ND and MN?  LOL.  The thing I like most about using cash, or a debit card, is that I don't have to pay for checks.  The price of purchasing a box of checks continues to rise (as I expect the price to make them increases, as well as banks trying to discourage the use of them), so I don't like having to pay for them.  When a business forces me to use one, it's the equivalent of an ATM fee to access my money in my eyes.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • I can't remember the last time I wrote a check :).  The address on my checks is not even correct.  I do my tabs and drivers license on line so I am not sure about the Department of Licensing if they accept debit cards or not here in WA.  Oh and just a heads up not sure if it is the same in MN but in WA our tabs expire on a certain day of the month.  A lot of people believe it is the end of the month the tab shows but they actually expire on the date that shows on your registration.  Working for a police agency, I see so many people driving with expired tabs :-).

  • That's a good point, mdavis1964, my goal (for when the tabs on our car expire in May) is to pay online on the FIRST day of the month they're due so that I don't have to worry about if they're expired, or if I need a check.

  • Yes, the DMV doesn't take debit here in AZ or in NH... at least the last time I was there which was a long time ago so maybe it's changed now.  When I was registering my car in NH for the first time they couldn't even tell me how much it was going to be until it was time to pay!  I'm like "Um... how am I supposed to know how much cash to bring if you can't tell me at least an approximated amount!"  They wouldn't even take checks... cash or cashier's check only.  

    Of course the DMV was run out of the front room of this lady's house because that's what you get in a TINY NH town.  lol.  You can't really expect top of the line service when the DMV doesn't even have a building.

  • I still carry mine around everywhere I go, but usually leave it in the car.  It's rarely needed.  You would think the DMV in Minnesota would take cards to cut down on administrative time.  But hey, that's the government for you.  

    I've never seen a restaurant that doesn't take cards.  I bet they get a cut of that $3 fee.  Therefore instead of getting charged 3% transaction fee, the restaurant now actually makes money on each ATM transaction.  That might be a smart move as long as it doesn't scare patrons away.

  • I'll at least take some comfort in knowing that MN isn't the only state where the government offices refuse to get with the times.  NH couldn't even tell you how much it was going to be & it was in someone's house?  Wow, that IS small town!  :)  thanks for sharing your experiences, Ashley!

  • I would guess you're right, Jason...the restaurant probably gets paid to have the ATM in their business.    For the residents of the small community where it resides  I'm sure they could decide just to run home and get some money...but I was 40 miles away.   Food wasn't that good's definitely on my "don't visit again" list!

  • The Secretary of State in Michigan (MI equivalent to the BMV/DMV) was only able to take checks, cash, or Discover cards. I thought it was odd, because most of the time Discover (or AmEx) is the only card NOT accepted.

    When I asked why Discover and no one else, they said that Discover was the only card company that would allow the SoS to share information with customers about the fees charged by swiping the card.  Apparently there's something in the statutes for the SoS that require that transparency, so they couldn't accept any other kind of plastic.  Perhaps the MN license bureau has a similar restriction?

  • Too Funny. I have a checkbook, that is lost in the abyss of my house somewhere. Now with online banking, e-bill pay, and email, there are two things you won't find in my house, checkbook or stamps, there is no need for them. My dad dropped by and almost went into convulsions when he brought his stack of nicley enveloped bills and asked me for stamps, I told him no one mails bills anymore, and he asked what kind of person doesn't have stamps. I know he just turned 60, but come on get with it. However in light of this revelation that people don't take debit everywhere, I think I might just find that checkbook and throw it in the glove box.

  • That is interesting, Megan, that they were able to take only Discover.  My experience has been the same - normally Discover is accepted at LESS locations.  It may be worth asking some questions at my DMV to see if they have any plans to accept debit/credit cards, and/or why they don't right now.   You would think they would want to make it as easy as possible for people to pay their bill, wouldn't you?

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