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A Brief History of Bank Checks

Apr 6, 2008
Through all of time, no matter how many times the bank system makes changes, the bank checks remain constant. Today, just as the Romans of the ancient empire, we depend on bank checks as promissory notes.

Earliest use of bank checks

Ancient Romans are thought to have been the first to use a form of bank checks, though the system was not nearly as complicated or regulated as it is today. Records indicate that they used what were known as praescriptiones as early as 100 BC. Nearly four hundred years later, bankers in the Persian Empire utilized a similar system of credit.

In The Medieval Period

Another variation of the modern day bank check system developed in Europe around the middle ages. During that time, the banking center known as the Knights Templar used a check system to hold money for people who took trips across Europe. These people would deposit their money at one station, and then claim it from another by proof of a claim draft. This was one of the earliest uses of a paper check system for claiming funds. It is thought that the Knights picked up this idea from Muslims, who had been using it for a few hundred years prior.

Bill of exchange

The foundations of the modern checking system have derived from what was once referred to as a "bill of exchange" from early bankers. By the use of this system, early banks would allow the customers to pay necessary bills through the use of bank's mandatory orders. This, of course, made distance commerce much easier, given how people were able to engage in trade practices without the requirement of having a great deal of gold or other hard currency on hand. This was, overall, a deeply necessary change, since carrying around significant amounts of coin was both burdensome and potentially disastrous for traveling merchants.

Bank checks in the U.S.A.

Bank checks made their way to the United States by the Europeans during the Colonial period. Since the Europeans had already been dependent on the system since the early 1700s, it didn't take long for the Americans to adopt the system. Of course, the bank systems continue to evolve, especially in the past century, thus more control and security exists in present time. Bank checks pose as a form of protection to the consumer.
About the Author
William A. Gordon is a contributing author for many check designer websites and has an extensive background in ordering checks online and check writing safety issues.
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