April 12, 2008

A History of Bank Checks

Posted in finance tagged at 10:49 pm by Jon Symons

Though it has evolved much over the years, the banking system’s personal bank checks have always been a part of the system. Bank checks have been used as promissory notes here in the present and even as far back as the ancient Roman Empire and the practice of ordering the checks still goes on today.

First Known Bank Checks

The Ancient Romans used the earliest form of bank checks although it was much simpler than the method used today. There is recorded evidence that they used what were called praescriptiones as early as 100B.C. After about four hundred years, bankers in the Persian Empire started using a similar system of credit.

In The Medieval Period

During the middle ages, Europeans also made use of their own bank check system. To prevent theft, the Knights Templar was developed. This banking system would keep a person’s money for them while that person traveled cross-country. The person was responsible for holding a proof of claim draft, which would allow them to retrieve their money. This proof of claim draft was the earliest known form of a paper check, similar to that of today. It is believed that this was inspired from the Muslims that had utilized this method a few hundred years before.

Bill of Exchange System

The roots of the current check system come from what was known as a “bill of exchange” by early bankers. Using this system, early banks would allow people to pay necessary bills using bank mandated orders. This made commerce much easier, as people could participate in trade without the need for a large exchange of gold or currency. Overall, this was a necessary development, as carrying around large amounts of coin was both difficult and dangerous for traveling merchants.

Bank checks in the United States

In the United States, European individuals brought bank checks to existence during the Colonial time. In the early 1700’s, the system was so extremely popular in Europe that the colonists also adopted it. Bank security procedures have become far more complicated over the past decades. The changes made to bank checks are there to protect you, the consumer.