American consumers rank checks as the most convenient method to pay for groceries, monthly bills, and various retail items, according to a recently released consumer survey.

The survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization for the Financial Stationers Association. found that consumers reported using checks for retail purchases 48% of the time.

In addition. 83% of consumers cited checks as the most convenient method for paying monthly bills.

The news. while not entirely surprising, highlights a quandary facing many financial institutions: As check volumes continue to grow. more and more institutions are tempted to partake of new check processing technologies. such as imaging.

Yet the fact that debit card usage and automated bill payment services are expected to soon begin eroding check usage causes those same institutions to question investment in new check processing technologies.

Experts expect this situation to be a boon for third-party check processing providers. as institutions that cannot choose between investing or standing pat farm out their check processing.

Those institutions that choose to retain their processing might look to grocery stores for clues about the future of check volumes.

The study of 1,000 adults. held in October, found consumers overwhelmingly favor using checks or cash to pay for groceries: 47% said checks are most convenient, 45% would choose cash.

However, debit and credit cards are expected to become more popular among supermarket shoppers and merchants in the coming years. The study indicates that 3% of consumers prefer to use debit cards for groceries, and 4% prefer credit cards for the same purpose.

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