The new year may bring the long-predicted "cashless society" closer to reality as several large grocery chains test no-checks policies.

Whole Foods Market Inc., for one, is testing the policy at certain stores in Arizona and California. Another chain, the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market unit of the British retailer Tesco PLC, dispensed with the pilot test and declared it would simply stop accepting checks.

James Neckopulos, the manager of the financial services industry group at Hitachi Consulting, said that paper checks will no longer be used, if not within five years certainly within 10, as they are replaced by debit cards and other payment types.

An analyst at the American Bankers Association said he expects other retailers to monitor the Whole Foods test, and follow suit if it appears successful.

Data from the National Retail Federation for the 2008 holiday season showed paper checks used for 4.3% of payments at store registers, a decline from 5.5% in 2007 and 6.2% in 2006.