The Rise And Fall of Paper Checks

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Imagine billions of dollars literally in the air at one time. It’s crazy to think about, right? Almost a decade ago, having 6 billion dollars in checks flying to a destination on any given day was considered absolutely normal. Then came September 11th, 2001 when the FAA grounded planes, putting 47 billion dollars in checks in an uncertain limbo.

47 billion dollars.

To put it into perspective — the length of 1 billion 1 dollar bills laid end-to-end measures 96,900 miles. This would extend around the earth almost 4 times.

Now multiply that by 47.

That’s 4,554,300 miles, extending around the earth almost 188 times.

This grounding of such a significant level of commerce created a legislative need to fix the archaic paper check system. A system where physical pieces of paper needed to circulate through the system, and across the country, before actual money could be deposited where it’s needed. The result was the Check 21 Act, which allowed banks to use electronic images of checks instead of paper. It was a runaway success and the beginning of the death of the paper check.